MUSOLINO, Matthew D.
16 February 1945




 ©2007 Corregidor Historic Society - all rights reserved





Like a visit from the past

Dog tags found on Corregidor returned to soldier’s family

By Julie Cotnoir

For the Journal Inquirer





Scott Vujs from Enfield recalls going with his grandfather as a youngster to visit family members’ graves at Mount St. Benedict Cemetery in Bloomfield. The young man would place flowers at the gravesites and remembers asking his grandfather, Antonio Musolino, about one of the stones. It was Antonio’s brother, Matthew, who died in 1945. He recalls that all his grandfather would say was that his brother died during World War II while fighting the Japanese. As years went by, Vujs learned how close the siblings had been and what a tragedy it had been for all of them when Matthew died.


In recent years, Vujs, who served in the Army Reserve for 13 years, took a keen interest in this great-uncle he never knew. He went online, did research, and learned about the history surrounding Musolino’s military experiences, the circumstances surrounding his death, and the lengths his grandmother and great-aunt, Matthew’s sister Concetta “Connie” Musolino Passaretti, went to in order to bring home his great-uncle’s remains.


The story of Musolino’s life, death, and legacy is an amazing tale of patriotism, love, and what the dedication of a stranger meant to this family. Musolino began his military career in the Connecticut National Guard in 1941. After serving 14 months in the Philippines with the 43rd Division and completing his duties, the Hartford resident then volunteered for paratroop duties with the Army. While this meant a reduction in rank, to private from sergeant, the young man was eager to once again serve his country. The son of Angelino Musolino, and one of six children, he returned to the Philippines and became a member of the 503d PRCT Paratroopers.


It is unclear exactly what happened on Feb. 16, 1945. There is speculation that Matthew may have been shot by the Japanese when he and other paratroopers were jumping out of a plane onto the rocky island of Corregidor. Others have said that he may have survived and been killed by the Japanese after he successfully parachuted down. Used as headquarters for the Allies during the war, the island was later surrendered to the Japanese. Musolino was one of 161 American servicemen killed during this one mission. One month following Musolino’s death, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was able to recapture the island.


While Musolino’s mother was notified of her son’s death relatively quickly, it took more than 100 pages of correspondence between Musolino’s mother and sister and the United States Army before Musolino’s body was identified and returned to the States. Vujs says his great-grandmother spoke very little English and depended on her daughter Connie to convey her insistence that her son’s remains be identified and returned home.


“She wasn’t a woman to take no for an answer, from what I was told,” says Vujs, whose mother was just 4 years old when her uncle was killed.


Within a year of his death, his personal effects, including a bracelet ID, wristwatch, glasses, pen, pencil, and government-issued clothing, were returned to the family. But it would take four years of pressure from the Musolinos before notification would come that the skeletal remains of their son and brother would be arriving by train to the railroad station in New Haven. After having been buried and moved twice in the Philippines, the 24-year-old’s remains were identified through his dental records and knowledge of his shoe size. He was then laid to rest at the family plot in Bloomfield.


On Feb. 16, 2008, 63 years to the date after Musolino’s death, Tom Aring made a discovery that would mean the world to 89-year-old Connie, her family, and her great-nephew Scott. A member of the Peace Corps in the 1970s, Aring and his wife, originally from the Philippines and a former language instructor for the Peace Corps, made their yearly visit to Corregidor. Describing the island as a beautiful, quiet place 10 degrees cooler than Manila, Aring says he has always been fascinated with the history of World War II and did his college thesis on it. The son of a World War II pilot, Aring explains, “I have always had an affinity for World War II vets.” This year’s visit, the seventh Aring has made since 2001, was different in that he had brought with him a 48-star United States flag to fly over Corregidor. 


“I brought the flag to fly on Feb. 16, the anniversary of the landing on Corregidor of the 503rd.”


While exploring the area of Battery Wheeler, Aring stumbled on a remarkable find. In a trench that was recently cleared of brush by work crews he spotted a set of dog tags. Upon examination, Aring says there were two tags, separated by two knots, in the chain.  One small hole was present in the tag, he believes possibly a result of shrapnel, but everything else on the tag was intact, including the soldier’s name. The former Peace Corps volunteer knew he had a mission — find the family of Matthew D. Musolino.


He began by visiting:


He shared information about his find on the site, including photos of the dog tags and the location where they were found. He thinks that possibly the tags had been taken as a souvenir by a Japanese soldier, explaining why they were located in an area maybe not necessarily where Musolino died.


It was at this point that an interesting exchange of information began between Aring and men that had been on the island or had historic information surrounding the time when Musolino and four others were killed. He learned that the reason to have the knot in the chain may have been so the two tags would not clink and possibly give away a soldier’s location. After six months of work, Aring was able to obtain Musolino’s Individual Deceased Personnel File from the Army through the Freedom of Information Act.


It was in October that Vujs, while doing a Google search, came upon the Web site and saw the information pertaining to his great-uncle and how Aring had found the long-lost dog tags.


The two corresponded, with Aring sharing some touching information with Vujs: “I flew the flag that day and from that time your great-uncle’s dog tags have been in the folds of that flag — on Corregidor, on the flight back to the States, and here in my home.


“I have therefore decided to send you the flag that I flew that day. It also marks the anniversary of Matthew’s death on Corregidor. It seems only right to send him home this way.”


In an interview from Texas, Aring remarked, “Everything seemed to click to get them back to the family.”


When Vujs received the tags, he brought them and the flag to his great-aunt Connie, who was recently hospitalized for pneumonia and congestive heart failure. 


“She looked over the dog tags, grasped them in her hands, became emotional, kissed them and held them on her chest close to her heart. It was a very touching moment.”


Scott plans to have the flag and dog tags placed in a flag box with all of the paperwork that has been gathered placed behind it. The box will be displayed by his great-aunt in her Windsor home.





By Julie Cotnoir

For the Journal Inquirer


Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 11:45 PM EST



A high resolution download of the Individual deceased Personnel File (3.5MB) file is available to Members, without cost. Write to me.

 ©2007 Corregidor Historic Society - all rights reserved