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Nellis Air Force Base
Morgan veteran recalls Normandy invasion - - The Journal News
Serafino Ralph Visco rode in on the 13th wave of assault boats to land at bloody Omaha Beach. Turning the tide of the war, the complex D-Day attack involved a total of 10,000 assault boats, 5,000 ships, 200,000 men, and many thousands of airplanes, Visco said. Seven months of combat later, the U.S. Army rifleman sustained a serious head wound when a German JU-88 shell dispersed its deadly pellets after exploding in the trees above him during the Battle of the Bulge. Three months after that, Visco received an honorable military discharge following a series of "standard" Army electric shock rehabilitation treatments in Danville, Ky. Among the numerous commendations and medals Visco received for his World War II service from 1942 to 1945 are four Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, the French Croix De Guerre, and the Yugoslavian War Cross. "I'm no hero," the Morgan County resident insisted. "The real heroes are buried over there and all over the world," Visco said."The real heroes are the ones who died over there." Nevertheless, 60 years after D-Day, the 87-year-old veteran remembers that Omaha Beach was the bloodiest of the five French beachheads involved in the allied attack on Adolf Hitler's German war machine. "It's hard to describe because it was so unbelievable once the guns started firing," Visco said. "It's something you never forget," he said."Men drowned carrying 100-pound packs, heads and arms were flying through the air, and there were at least 2,000 dead on the beach." Before World War II, Visco had joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Barringer High School in Newark, N.J., in 1935.He served in the Marines until 1938. A 35-year resident of the Berkeley Springs area, Visco said his Marine Corps training helped him survive D-Day as an Army rifleman. Too much strict discipline worked against the Germans, however, because German soldiers "just knew one job" and did not adapt very well when they were forced to do different things in war conditions. "I lived in a foxhole like an animal from D-Day on bloody Omaha Beach to the Battle of the Bulge," Visco said in a bylined article he wrote for The Purple Heart Magazine on the 25th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. "What does a soldier think about in a foxhole when he knows he has to kill or be killed?"he asked. "I can tell you what I thought about," he wrote in his 1969 article. A life member of six different veterans organizations, Visco is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and Tomilson's Art Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. Following in the footsteps of his Italian grandfather, Visco has been creating oil paintings and other artwork since he was 13 years old, and he has achieved a national and international reputation for his work. Still, Visco has donated more than 150 of his paintings to charities for their fund-raisers in the Berkeley Springs area, he said. Once during a Las Vegas exhibit of his artwork, television personality Johnny Carson, the former host of NBC's "Tonight Show," offered to purchase two of Visco's large pastel clown portraits, but the portraits were not for sale, Visco said. Today, the portraits hang on either side of the living room entrance to Visco's art-filled home. Visco said he began working in the Las Vegas clubs in 1948, and was a card dealer at the Pioneer Club in the "Glitter Gulch" section of downtown Las Vegas. He worked as a civilian employee at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas for four years before moving to Morgan County in 1969. Florence, Visco's wife of 48 years died on Apr. 21, 2003.He married second wife, Betty, on Feb 15, 2004.