2017 Grand Marshall

Herb Patullo

The Grand Marshall of the 2017 John Basilone Memorial Parade is Herb Patullo. He is a man who personifies the “Greatest Generation” - for he has served in the Navy (1948-1952), been a successfully businessman, and has spent a lifetime volunteering in many local organizations.

Herb Patullo seemed destined for a patriotic life from the beginning. For he was born on the day that U.S. President Herbert Hoover was inaugurated. Thus his parents named him after the new President.

Herb saw Basilone at the Welcome Home Parade in 1943

The Grand Marshall of the 2017 John Basilone Memorial Parade is Herb Patullo. He is a man who personifies the “Greatest Generation” - for he has served in the Navy (1948-1952), been a successfully businessman, and has spent a lifetime volunteering in many local organizations.

Herb Patullo seemed destined for a patriotic life from the beginning.

For he was born on the day that U.S. President Herbert Hoover was inaugurated. Thus his parents named him after the new President.

Basilone's Death inspired Herb to serve his Country

Basilone would later go back to war and was killed at Iwo Jima. When word reached the home front of his death (in March 1945) it motivated Herb to join the military. Or at least try. Herb, just 16, left high school and went to the recruiting office in New Brunswick. He was able to cleverly change the 9 on his birth certificate to an 8 so that he would appear to be 17. But that would not be enough to get him into the service.

But an army officer told him if he wanted to help the military he could get a job working at the army’s supply depots. One section of that depot was off 206 in Hillsborough and another much larger section was in Belle Mead. That depot, now nearly totally forgotten, was the largest military storage depot in the country during World War II. The large facility encompassed many acres and buildings. There were railroad tracks throughout so that trains could be loaded right inside the compound. Herb’s job at the facility was loading supplies.

The Belle Mead Army Depot had an
incredible amount of supplies

Herb remembers vividly his experience at the army depot. POWs from Italy and Germany were held there. He often had some of these POWs working under him. The Italian prisoners there had volunteered to be sent to the depot from overseas POW camps. They could barely be called prisoners as they were loosely supervised and often let out for socializing.

The Italian army had been reluctantly fighting (forced by the Germans and their dictator) against us at the start of war, they later tried to switch sides – yes, war is insane.

The German prisoners had much more supervision and thus were more like real prisoners. But many of these Germans after being away from the war for a couple years and having spent time in this POW Camp that was more like a summer camp had mellowed. Herb recalls many Germans spoke English and that he got to know them as people – thinking of them by their occupation (bankers and lawyers) as opposed to their military rank and position.

The war ended in August of 1945, thus by 1948 much of the work at the Belle Mead Depot had ended. So Herb looked for his next venture. He decided to join the Navy. He would serve on a destroyer the USS Ware. Aboard the ship Herb’s job was the purification of water – turning the salty sea water into water fit for drinking and bathing.

On his tour of duty he saw how dangerous it could be at sea. One day a storm kicked up and Herb and his shipmates witnessed another boat capsize in the storm. It was very cold - the men in the water could not last five minutes before freezing to death. Tragically thirty one men out of the one hundred twenty who were on the capsized vessel perished.

USS Ware traveled all over the globe during Herb’s tenure. They first went to the Mediterranean Sea in 1948. Then in 1949 cruises took them to the Caribbean Sea and later they moved North in a large-scale Arctic operation. In 1951 their tour of duty was highlighted by operations with ships of the Royal Navy.

Herb Patullo always gave back to his community. He has been a member and sometimes leader of many business organizations such as the American Legion and Chamber of Commerce. He has helped organize many events such as Memorial Day Parades and Easter Egg Hunts.

Herb’s passion for patriotism and history can be seen in his home which is in the mountains of Martinsville. The vast picturesque view from his yard overlooks Route 22 all the way down to the Somerset Patriots Baseball Stadium. This property is known as Middlebrook Heights. It was here that George Washington’s troops once watched the movements of the British during the Revolutionary War. It is said that somewhere around Herb’s property the first “Stars and Stripes” version of the American Flag was flown. Herb has decorated his yard with a flag pole and (recreated) cannons from the Revolutionary War era.

Herb's Patriotic and Picturesque Yard

After getting out of the Navy Herb hurt his back. Because of this he found he had trouble finding work as he was deemed a bad risk. But in 1957 an opportunity arose when his family’s grocery store (that was next to his house in Bound Brook) went out of business. Herb, with the encouragement and help of a friend, decided to open a tavern in that location. He was able to put down a deposit on the store and obtain a liquor license. He named it Patullo’s Tavern.

Herb was the bartender and manager. He felt that his experience in working closely with 300 men on a Navy ship had taught him how to get along with various personalities. That skill would be essential in being a tavern owner. By the mid-sixties he expanded the business to include a restaurant and a banquet room. All three parts of the business - tavern, restaurant and banquet room - were a hit. He created a top of the line hamburger that became known as the “Herbie Burger”. Customers said that it was the best hamburger around.

Herb on Parade Weekend with
the conductor of the Marine Band

Back in 1981 while bartending he heard that Raritan was going to have a parade in honor of John Basilone. He wanted to be involved with this so he joined the parade committee and has been helping run the Basilone Parade ever since.

Herb enjoys having friends over. His biggest day for that is by no coincidence Memorial Day. His annual outdoor barbeque has become legendary among his friends.

Now 88 years old he is still active – and has decided to once again open a restaurant. Plans are underway for a new place in Bound Brook. It will be called Herbie’s. He will setup the restaurant then family members will run it while he acts as advisor. The John Basilone Parade Committee is honored to have Herb Patullo as the Grand Marshall. The public is welcome to see him ride in the parade on September 24th.

Herb's Paintings

Inside his spacious family room are four large paintings that he had specially made that depict scenes from the Revolutionary War. The scenes include the Battle of Monmouth, the Battle of Bound Brook, and a flag raising that was once held at his property.

Also found in that room are many historical artifacts including a rare “original” 13 stars version of the American Flag.

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