Newbury’s Gene Palumbo used to do a lot of damage in a tank. Now, he does it with a pen.
“I was never a writer,” said the 90-year-old author of the self-published memoir “Load Kick Fire,” which was recently named one of three finalists in the history/military category of the 2013 USA Best Book Awards.
“But I kept feeling, I want my story to get out there, so that people would understand how the war was fought,” he said. “I fought it in a tank and as reconnaissance. I wasn’t an infantry guy with a rifle, I didn’t fight that way. But I was with them all the time.”
A loader in the 756th Tank Battalion, B Company, 3rd Infantry Division, Palumbo spent 22 months directly on the front lines of World War II, from the Battle for Rome all the way to the taking of Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest complex in Germany.
“I can’t believe it,” Palumbo said of his Best Book Awards honor. “They called my son and told him the book (was a finalist.) My son thanked them very much, and they said it was a very good book.”
“I’ve heard these stories since time began,” said Palumbo’s wife of 64 years, Jeanie. “People who have read the book say it is a very easy read. It’s like he’s talking to you.”
Palumbo, a Waltham native, was a professional figure skater before the war.
“That’s what I did for a living, and I had a good life with it,” said Palumbo, who was drafted in 1942.
After boot camp, Palumbo was given the chance to be made a sergeant and serve his time skating for the USO, but he wanted to fight.
As it turned out, he liked tanks. His first mission was the Battle for Rome, where he and his battalion found themselves rolling into Cassino from the Garigliano River. It was not a friendly reception.