Veterans Table - Mario "Lee" Sirabella

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Sirabella: "I was sitting next to the co-pilot in the B-25, and I said – we were up in the air – and I said, 'What am I supposed to take pictures of?' He said – all he said was two words, 'Take pictures!' I said two words, 'Of what?'"

Robert: Mario "Lee" Sirabella, discovered his passion for photography at an early age. Born March 9, 1921, he was the son of Italian immigrants who arrived in America through Ellis Island in 1920. Spending his early years in New York City, Lee enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, following America's entrance into WWII.

Sirabella: "Well I was working in Lower Manhattan in an office supply place. And three of us were walking along and we heard on the radio somewhere there that if we didn't enlist, we'd be drafted. And if we were drafted, we would be unable to make a choice of what we wanted. So we all determined we would pick out – we would enlist – and that way I enlisted for the Air Force."

Robert: Lee served as an aerial photographer with the Air Force and was stationed in Greenland from 1942 through 1944. On one particular mission, Lee's photos played a crucial part in the discovery of an undetected German communication site.

Sirabella: "You know they always gave me missions – but they never told me the details. So we flew around, and I just said the heck with you -- you won't tell me, well details, I'll do what I do and we'll go with that. Indirectly, I found out again, that the pictures that I took had photographed a German weather station. They were sending weather information to a submarine out there. And their submarine was getting the weather information, and relaying it to Germany."

Robert: Never directly credited with the discovery of the German weather station, still -- it was always one of Lee's favorite stories to tell. Lee further served during the Korean War with the Air National Guard, and eventually retired as a Master Sergeant in 1964. During that time, Lee married his wife Stella, began his family, and opened his very own photography studio.

Sirabella: "I went back to Brewer. And I met a lady and we married. After I got out of the service, I had a studio in Brewer. And took mostly children's and adults' pictures, and all kinds of children's pictures. It was something I liked to do. So from then on, this is my career here. I enjoyed the pictures of the children.

Robert: It was most certainly a long-standing career for Lee, full of service and memories. We remember and honor Lee who recently passed away this March, at the age of ninety-nine. Lee is remembered for his 22-years of service within the armed forces and capturing over 60-years worth of memories and photographs at his studio, for local-area families to cherish for a lifetime.

Robert Grimm, News Source 8.

[Interview:
--Mario "Lee" Sirabella, WWII & Korean War, Army Air Corps/Air National Guard Veteran | Bangor, ME]

Aired: May 6, 2020