100-year-old New Jersey veteran says serving in WWII made him love his country more
By ADRIENNE ROMERO | NJ Advance Media Group | Published: September 15, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Like so many American men in the 1940s, Joseph Mongelli served his country in World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy.
Eight decades later, though, he’s hardly your average Joe.
Mongelli, a North Bergen resident, celebrated his 100th birthday on Sept. 8 and was honored by the township for his service and longevity. His willingness to work — he still goes to work five days a week at Alliance Bus Group in Carlstadt — was cemented early on as child of the Great Depression and sailor during World War II.
Born in 1920, Mongelli grew up in Hudson County eating beans nearly every day because food had to be rationed. He joined the Navy when he was 22 and fought in the Pacific theater — an honor he still carries today.
“I wasn’t scared of anything,” Mongelli said. “My country’s at war, I wanted to fight for my country.”
“It made me better,” he added. “It made me respect, made me honor and made me love my country more.”
Mongelli, a motor machinist mate first class, spent more than three years in the Navy aboard submarines, serving all over the Pacific, from the Sea of Japan, to Midway, to Australia.
“We are grateful for his selfless service to our nation during WWII and look to him for inspiration on how to live a long, happy and healthy life,” North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco said in a statement.
In 1945, he was injured when the USS Lapon encountered enemy fire, but his service to his country and its people didn’t end there. In the 1970s, Mongelli fought to bring the USS Ling submarine — which is docked in the Hackensack River — to New Jersey to honor fellow servicemen and those who sacrificed their lives on submarines during WWII.
“We lost 3,550 people on 52 submarines in the war, and it’s important to remember them," he said.
At 100 years old, Mongelli still works for Alliance, where he drives and picks up parts for the bus company.
“I do it for the love of my country and my family and my love of the world. I’m a giver. I love to give back.”