Master Gunnery Sergeant Henry Elpidio Bucci


Service Number: 160244

Birth and Early Life:
Henry Bucci was born on February 28, 1897; he was the oldest son of Ismaele and Anna Bucci of Providence, Rhode Island. (1) He served as a soldier in the First World War, and upon returning to Providence became a police officer. (2)

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
On August 17, 1920, Henry Bucci enlisted in the Marine Corps at Providence. Instead of being sent to boot camp, he traveled to California and immediately joined the Guard Company at Mare Island.

Service Prior to 1941:
By December 1920, Private Bucci was on the rifle range at the US Naval Station in Guam, where he qualified as a sharpshooter, and then jumped in rank to Corporal in April, 1921. He reached the second legendary overseas post of Cavite, Philippine Islands in 1922, and joined the 39th Company at the American Legation in Peiping, China. (One of his subordinates in 1922 was PFC Manny Berkman, later of the USS Astoria.)

When his overseas hitch came to an end in April, 1923, Bucci sailed back to Mare Island, California, remaining there until his enlistment expired in November. He reenlisted, was awarded 60 days furlough, and reported back for duty at the Boston Navy Yard, closer to home than he’d been for the past several years. Duty in New England was a good deal for a young man from Providence; Bucci served at various posts in Massachusetts before allowing his enlistment to expire in September, 1926.

To keep in trim, Bucci joined the Volunteer Marine Corps Reserve, but remained on inactive status while living in Providence. He relocated to Boston in April, 1928, and enlisted once again to serve as NCO in charge of the guards at the Boston Navy Yard drydock facility.

In March of 1929, Bucci exchanged the job of watching ships to manning them. He joined the Sea School program at Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia, and was soon aboard the USS Sacramento in the Canal Zone of Central America. He remained aboard her for nearly three years, attaining the rank of Sergeant in February, 1931. He reenlisted on land in 1932, but had a strong taste for sea duty, and joined the USS Fulton later that year, patrolling the seas off China.

In March, 1934, a fire broke out aboard the Fulton. The ship was a total loss, although fortunately her crew was evacuated with only three minor injuries. Sergeant Bucci was put ashore at Hong Kong, but was soon snapped up by the USS Tulsa, becoming their detachment’s Police & Property Sergeant. He sailed with the Asiatic Fleet until mid-1935, when he again returned to the East Coast. Bucci served as an instructor at his former Sea School and at the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition before joining the USS Erie as acting first sergeant. Between the Erie and his final berth on the USS Vincennes, Bucci served on several warships, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and as a recruit instructor at Parris Island. He was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant at the end of 1940.

Wartime Service:
Gunny Bucci – his last name earned him the nickname “Bucky” – joined the Vincennes in April, 1941 and was placed in charge of the ship’s ordinance. The “Vinnie Maru” was off South Africa with her sister ship, USS Quincy, when the war broke out, and her officers and men wanted badly to join their fellows on sister ship USS Astoria at Pearl Harbor.
They would get their wish after a quick refit in New York. Vincennes joined the Pacific Fleet and, after an abortive foray towards the Coral Sea, participated in the battle of Midway, where her antiaircraft gunners shot down at least one enemy bomber. Bucci was promoted to Master Gunnery Sergeant following the battle, and next saw action during the invasion of Guadalcanal in August, 1942.

Date Of Loss:
In the early morning hours of August 9, 1942, Vincennes was illuminated by searchlights from what they thought was a friendly source. An indignant message to shut the lights off was answered by a volley of shells – a Japanese force had found and surprised the Americans, and within half an hour had scored two torpedo hits and dozens of large-caliber hits on the Vincennes. The ship was a blazing inferno, and swung out of line, beyond control.

What happened to Gunny Bucci is unknown – a family account relates that he saved another crewman by shielding his shipmate with his body – but he went down with the Vincennes. His body was never recovered.

Next Of Kin:
Wife, Mrs Florence Bucci (3)

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
_____
NOTES:
(1) Somewhat confusingly, he had a younger brother whose first name was “Elpedio.”
(2) Henry’s occupation on the 1920 Census is given as “soldier” and a Private Henry E. Bucci appears on British documents as entering the country during the war years. While nothing else of his service is known, it would explain how he managed to avoid boot camp upon enlisting in 1920 and his subsequent quick rise through the ranks. It could almost be suggested that Bucci had served with the Marines in the Great War, though he does not appear on their muster rolls, leading to the belief that he was in the Army instead.
(3) Henry and Florence Eleanor McKevitt were married on January 11, 1942. She resided in Jersey City, New Jersey.

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