Charles Sullivan took it upon himself to profile every Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum who died fighting in World War II for his 2002 book "MGCCC: A History 1911-2000." When the book was published, 31 former students and teachers were heralded. Unbeknownst to Sullivan, there was one name missing: Milton Zelmanowitz.
Zelmanowitz, 27, of New York, was among the 627 men who drowned Feb. 3, 1943, when the American vessel, Dorchester, was sunk by a German U-boat. The sinking of Dorchester was the worst single loss of American personnel of any American convoy during World War II. The sinking later gained notoriety because of the story of four Army chaplains who gave their life jackets away to save others before they drowned in the north Atlantic.
Veteran's Day is a time for us to celebrate those who serve our country and those who make sacrifices to defend our freedoms, such as Zelmanowitz, Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he found the information just after Hurricane Katrina when MGCCC was inducting a friend of Zelmanowitz, Pat D'Auria, into their athletic hall of fame.
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"Pat had died just months
before the ceremony," Sullivan said. "His son came down from New York and accepted the award. He told me when he was younger, his father would tell him stories about MGCCC and a man named Zelmanowitz who died in the war."
Sullivan didn't forget the Zelmanowitz name and soon called on military researcher Mitchell Cirlot of Pascagoula to see what he could find.
"It turns out Zelmanowitz, another New Yorker named Morris Shapiro, and D'Auria came to Mississippi together from New York after a pit-stop in Alabama," he said. "D'Auria went to a college in Alabama for a football tryout, but they didn't have any spots so they sent them to a little college in Perkinston."
The three arrived to Perkinston in 1936 and D'Auria signed up for football, baseball, track, boxing and golf. After graduating from MGCCC in 1938, the three men enrolled at Southwestern, Louisiana Institute in Lafayette, before going their separate ways.
Zelmanowitz went back to New York, enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in 1942, and departed from New York Harbor on the Dorchester on Jan. 23, 1943.
"It's time for Zelmanowitz to be remembered along with the other MGCCC students who lost their lives fighting for our freedom," Sullivan said.
Zelmanowitz's name is engraved on the Tablet of the Missing in New York, and he was honored for his service with a Purple Heart.