Nicholas J. Barbarotto

Nicholas J. Barbarotto
Photo from the WWII Memorial Registry.
Nicholas Joseph Barbarotto
San Francisco, CA
Parents, Mr & Mrs Frank Barbarotto
11/19/1942 – 1952
Iwo Jima B/1/24 1542 2nd Lieutenant WIA (2x)
Purple Heart with Gold Star
Second Lieutenant (WWII)
Captain (Retirement)

Nicholas Barbarotto was born in San Francisco, California on February 25, 1923.

In November 1942, while beginning his freshman year at the University of San Francisco, Barbarotto enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was placed on inactive status to allow him to complete part of his education, but was called up to active duty on July 1, 1943. Rather than go directly to Officer Candidate School, Barbarotto elected to try the Navy’s V-12 program and joined a training platoon at the College (now University) of the Pacific, located in Stockton. While there, he struck up a relationship with Tamara “Terry” Rusanoff – a Russian native of German extraction who had arrived in California by way of China and Japan.

The young Marine-to-be  completed an additional two semesters in the time it usually took to complete one – and it was well he did, for he received orders to report to Parris Island, South Carolina, for boot camp. Why Barbarotto wasn’t sent to the much closer recruit depot in San Diego is not known, but the Corps said Parris Island – so to Parris Island he went, successfully completing training with the 12th Recruit Platoon and earning the badge of a rifle sharpshooter. His girlfriend Tamara, not willing to let him shoulder all the responsibility, also traveled east and enlisted in the newly-formed Marine Corps Women’s Reserve – she became a clerk at Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington.

Barbarotto finally reached officer’s training in May, 1944 – he joined the Special Officer Candidate’s School in Camp Lejeune – and four months later earned his commission as a second lieutenant. No sooner had he received his gold bars then he was crossing the country once again, this time to join his first combat command. For Barbarotto, this turned out to be a platoon of Company B, First Battalion, 24th Marines. He arrived at their base, Camp Maui in the territory of Hawaii, on November 11, 1944.

The Fourth Marine Division was already gearing up for their next planned invasion, and Lieutenant Barbarotto had precious little time to meet and earn the trust of his Marines, some of whom had been in combat three times before. Scarcely two months after unloading at Camp Maui, Barbarotto was packing his gear and heading for the Pacific, where he would lead his men into action on Iwo Jima.

No stories of Nicholas Barbarotto’s exploits in the battle of Iwo Jima have yet been found, but a simple glance at a few official records tells a sobering story. Wounded and evacuated March 4, 1945. Voluntarily returned to duty March 5. Wounded more seriously March 8 and evacuated to the USS Samaritan for medical care, then to the Naval Hospital at Aiea Heights, Hawaii for further treatment. It was the end of Barbarotto’s combat career; he never returned to Baker Company.

After his release from the hospital, Lieutenant Barbarotto was granted a 30-day recuperative leave – during which he married Corporal Tamara Rusanoff, United States Marine Corps – and rode out the remainder of the war at Camp Pendleton, California. He was released to inactive status in November, 1945, with two Purple Hearts, a Presidential Unit Citation, the American Campaign Medal and the Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal decorating his dress uniform. He returned to school at the USF School of Law and was admitted to the California bar in 1949, starting his own private practice shortly thereafter.

Barbarotto was recalled to active duty in 1951, but luckily his legal skills were deemed more necessary than his combat experience. Rather than shipping out to Korea, he traveled to Rhode Island for a course in naval law, and then served at Camp Pendleton as an assistant legal officer and defense counsel for general courts-martial. He returned to civilian life for good in 1952, retiring with the rank of captain.

Nicholas Barbarotto lived out the rest of his days in south San Francisco, practicing law and raising a family. He passed away in 2006, just a few days short of his 83rd birthday, and is buried in Olivet Memorial Park, Colma, California.

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