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Pete Viselli

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1915 Ansonia, CT
Date and Place of Death:    December 12, 1941 Lamon Bay, The Philippines
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Shortstop
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Military Unit: 28th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group USAAF
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

Armando J. “Pete” Viselli was born in Ansonia, on the Naugatuck River in Connecticut.

He entered military service in the 1930s, and while stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, in 1937, he played for the nearby Ayer Town Team in the Village League, helping them clinch the league title for the first time. In 1938, Viselli was at Randolph Field, Texas, where he was the shortstop and lead-off hitter with the Squadron 53 Bears and the Randolph Field Ramblers. In August of that year, he helped the Ramblers clinch their sixth successive Army League championship, defeating the 9th Infantry Manchus in a two-game playoff.

Viselli left military service in 1939, and tried his hand at Organized Baseball. At the start of the season, he joined the Palestine Pals of the Class C East Texas League. He was batting just .206 over 12 games but was called up to the Lima Pandas of the Class D Ohio State League on May 12, because they needed a shortstop. Viselli lasted just a week with the Pandas; after going hitless in six at-bats he received his release on May 18. He spent the remainder of the season with the Landis Senators of the Class D North Carolina State League, where he batted .198 over 24 games.

Viselli did not return to professional baseball after 1939, but returned, instead, to military service. With the Army Air Corps he was deployed to Clark Field at Luzon in the Philippine Islands, as aircrew with the 28th Bomb Squadron. Operating with the Martin B-10 and the Douglas B-18 Bolo, obsolete twin-engine bombers of the tight military budgets of the 1930s, the squadron functioned as the long-range strike arm of the Far East Air Force. Viselli was soon playing shortstop for the Clark Field team in the Manila Bay League, and played in the league championships at Rizal Stadium.

On December 7, 1941, Clark Field was caught off-guard as Japanese bombers roared overhead, showering high explosives on the grounded bombers, destroying many and wrecking hangars and runways. In their wake came fighter planes, which made low-level attacks on ground forces and anti-aircraft batteries. They left behind a burning mass of wreckage and, though some aircraft were saved, the main strength of the Far East Air Force in the Philippines was gone. Nevertheless, two days later, the remnants of the group attacked and destroyed a troop transport and severely damaged another off the Philippine coast, making it the first American air unit to strike back at the Japanese.

On December 12, 1941, Staff Sergeant Viselli boarded a B-18 at Clark Field. First Lieutenant Ted Fisch was taking the bomber up on a reconnaissance flight to locate the exact position of the Japanese fleet that was rapidly approaching the Philippines. To get a good view and at the same time avoid danger, Fisch intended to fly as high and as fast as he could. Viselli was the crew chief, responsible for overall maintenance of the plane, while Technical Sergeant Joseph Acton was the radio operator manning the rear-gun position. The plane roared down the runway at Clark Field and was never seen again. Whether the plane succumbed to enemy action or mechanical failure is not known.

Many servicemen of the 28th Bomb Squadron, particularly the ground echelon, were later captured by Japanese forces and some died in prisoner of war camps.

The crew of the December 12 flight, along with Staff Sergeant Viselli, is memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery at Fort Bonifacio in the Philippines.

 

Team

League

Class

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

1939 Palestine East Texas C 12 34 4 7 0 0 0 3 .206
1939 Lima Ohio State D 2 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
1939 Landis N. Carolina State D 24 96 18 19 1 0 0 3 .198

 

Clark Field

The Clark Field baseball team. Pete Viselli is middle row, second from right.

Douglas B-18 Bolo

The Douglas B-18 Bolo

Date Added May 15, 2012 Updated June 11, 2014

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