Arthur “Benny” Benedetto holds the small prayer book that his sister gave him before shoving off to fight in World War II. During an interview at his home in Jay on Dec. 10, he explained that he carried it in his breast pocket throughout the war and believes it helped him survive some situations he doesn’t often talk about or want to remember to this day. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

JAY — Arthur “Benny” Benedetto carried a small prayer book with a metal cover in his pocket while he served in Europe as communications chief in the 4th Armored Division of the U.S. Army during World War II.

His sister gave him the book and told him to keep it in his pocket to keep him safe. He saw some pretty horrible sights while serving in the military, but said he has had some wonderful times throughout his life.

Over the years he has relied on his faith in God, which has grown ever stronger, to get him through.

Arthur “Benny” Benedetto during an interview at his home in Jay on Dec. 10. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Benedetto, who will turn 102 on Jan. 15, went to church with his mother on Sundays when he was a child, and he remembers the benediction.

“I thought it was quite a sight to see all of the candles lit,” he said in a phone interview. “She was like an angel. She went to church every morning. God bless her.”

He grew up saying his prayers in the morning and the evening, and continues to this day.

During the war, Benedetto, a tech sergeant, went to school to learn military signals and the Morse code to become communications chief as his unit traveled through Europe.

He has some bad memories of seeing  bodies stacked up at a concentration camp. The smell was awful, he said.

He also remembers, after the war was declared over in 1945, he was stationed in Czechoslovakia. He saw two German SS soldiers beaten to death — with 2-by-4s and rocks — after two local men were killed.

He tries not to think about the bad memories. He remembers, at one point, the Germans broke the United States’ military code and transmitted a false message, forcing the U.S. to change communication signals.

Prominently displayed in Arthur “Benny” Benedetto’s house is a photo of himself, right, and his brother, along with his dog tags from World War II. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

He remembers some happier times when his unit was in Germany. He got to dance with three actresses, including Dinah Shore, at a club. Jack Benny and other stars were there. Then, when they went to Fort Dix in New Jersey, soldiers were set up in troop trains. As a tech sergeant he was in charge of one train. He remembers it was difficult to oversee the troops and keep them out of trouble.

“They were all worked up. The war was over,” he said.

He eventually arrived at the train station in Livermore Falls. When he got off, he was the only GI. He started walking home to Jay carrying his big bag. Someone who had a car saw him and offered him a ride.

When he opened the door to the house, his mother was crying. It is hard to talk about it, he said, as his voice hesitated.

He earned the Bronze Star for meritorious service beyond the call of duty for his actions during the war.

He went back to the job at the International Paper Mill that he had before being drafted. It had been difficult to get a job when he got out of high school, he remembers, because there were no jobs in the 1930s.

He went to the Conservation Corps for a while and then learned the mill was hiring. He had to be at the mill at the start of each shift to see if they needed anyone before he finally got a job.

“From there, life went on, but God was always with me. Thank God. Thank God. Thank God,” he said.

He married his wife, Irene, who was from Winthrop, and they were blessed with two sons, Rick and Steve. Irene died in 2000 after more than 50 “wonderful” years of marriage.

Benedetto has earned many awards during his life, including for his musical talents, pool and shuffleboard.

“I miss going to church and receiving communion,” he said. “God understands. My religion is very dear to me and means a lot.”

He watches Mass every day.

Benedetto recently received bad news when his doctor told him he shouldn’t drive because of a blocked artery in his heart. It wasn’t easy to give up driving, but he did. He misses it. His sons help him get what he needs now, he said.

“I have had good times and bad times,” Benedetto said.

The bad times are when sickness comes around, he said.

“But then again you can’t thank God enough,” he said.

People have been very good to him. They check on him, bring him meals.

“Thank God for everyone,” he said. “People are so kind to me. It is incredible.

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