Peter Anthony Bachulis
|HOME OF RECORD:
Mount Sinai, NY
|NEXT OF KIN:
Father, Mr. Carl Bachulis
|DATE OF BIRTH:
6/19/1944 – 8/31/1945
|DATE OF DEATH:
|LAST KNOWN RANK:
Peter Bachulis was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926. He grew up in an apartment at 98 Kent Street, occupied by his parents (Carl and Anna), his older sister (Louise), and his maternal aunt and cousins from West Virginia (the Scherry family of six). Nearly every adult member of the family was engaged in blue collar employment, and while living ten to an apartment was crowded, it kept the rent down. At some point in the 1930s, the Bachulis portion of the family moved out to Long Island to settle in Mount Sinai.
Peter received his induction notice on the heels of his eighteenth birthday, and entered the Marine Corps on June 19, 1944. After training at Parris Island, he was shipped to Camp Elliott in California, where he joined the 30th Replacement Draft in October. Private Bachulis spent three months with this transitory unit before boarding a ship bound for Iwo Jima.
Bachulis probably landed on Iwo Jima shortly after D-Day, February 19 1945. The replacement units were used as temporary stevedores and guards on the beaches as landing craft came and went with the tons of supplies needed to support the invasion. However, the primary purpose of Bachulis’ unit was to be broken up piecemeal and used to replace front-line combatants who had been killed or wounded – and on Iwo, there was a constant call for more and more men to fill the holes at the front.
Private Bachulis, along with a handful of other Marines from his draft, were ordered to collect their personal weapons and equipment on February 27. They moved a short distance to a reserve area, where they were instructed to join Company B, 24th Marines, which had just been pulled off the line after five days of fighting. Given Bachulis’ designation as “basic” Marine – MOS 521 – he may have served in any number of capacities with Baker Company, though he was most likely told to serve as an ordinary rifleman. As it was, he was barely with the company long enough to make an impression. During an attack on March 3, Bachulis was wounded and evacuated from Iwo; he would not return to combat, or to the company.
After receiving treatment at Aiea Heights naval hospital, Bachulis was transferred to a medical facility closer to his hometown. He recuperated in Newport, Rhode Island and was eventually discharged on August 31, 1945.
With his discharge papers in hand and Purple Heart pinned to his uniform, Peter Bachulis returned to Mount Sinai a bona-fide war hero. He married a woman named Rosemary, started a family, and seemed in all respects to be leading a normal, happy life. However, not everything was as it seemed.
In 1951, Peter Bachulis legally changed his name to Peter Sherry – probably taking inspiration from the cousins he had grown up with in Brooklyn. Two years later, in 1953, he obtained a death certificate from the town clerk’s office, and filled it out with his own birth name – claiming to be deceased of a heart attack. The government bought the ruse, and Mrs. Sherry – his “widow” – began collecting federal benefits. Meanwhile, Peter Sherry – who on the surface had no connection to the “deceased” Peter Bachulis – continued to work, obtaining a position with the Long Island Railroad in 1956. He and Rosemary lived openly in Mount Sinai; by 1960 they had five children and a very comfortable lifestyle.
Later that year, Peter Sherry lost his job with the railroad. He applied for unemployment benefits from Suffolk County – a move that would prove his undoing. Officials started an investigation into his claim, and uncovered the insurance scheme – which by this point had been going for eight years.
Peter and Rosemary were arrested in what district attorney Bernard Smith called “one of the most fantastic cases I have ever seen.”
The outcome of the Sherry’s trial is not known.
Peter Sherry died in 1996. He is buried in Baxter Memorial Gardens, Mountain Home, Arkansas.