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History and Heritage

Living History

A look at one World War II Sailor's commitment of service to the Navy

Sailors, friends and family in Syracuse, New York, held an appreciation ceremony March 9 to honor retired Master Chief Draftsman Peter J. Soler.

At 87-years-old, Soler has lived through both World War II and the Korean War. He witnessed heavy combat action while at sea and even survived the sinking of his first ship.

Soler enlisted in the Navy Sept. 14, 1943 and was soon assigned to the destroyer USS Lansdale (DD4 26). He was part of a successful defense against German bombers off the coast of Algeria April 11-12, 1944, and survived when Lansdale was sunk eight days later by another wave of German Junker and Heinkel bombers.

Soler also survived two kamikaze attacks near Okinawa when he was aboard the destroyer minelayer USS Robert H. Smith (DM 23). The ship earned five battle stars for its service in World War II and played a key role in sweeping mines from the East China Sea following the Japanese surrender. It also was awarded a unit commendation from the president during Soler's tenure for "operating in dangerous waters protected by enemy mines and numerous suicide craft" and providing "effective cover for ... minesweeper groups against hostile attack by air, surface, submarine and shore fire," according to the citation.

Soler earned the rank of master chief petty officer in 1978 and retired from the Navy July 17, 1985, on his 60th birthday. Today, he resides in Cicero, N.Y., and mentors members of the Naval Sea Cadet Corps program, the Navy League and local Sailors.