The Reitmeyer Family Service Record
From World War II to the present-day War on Terror

John P. Reitmeyer - Shipfitter 2nd Class - USS Juneau
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal - November 13, 1942

Shipfitter John P. Reitmeyer

John Paul Reitmeyer was born on July 18, 1909, the fourth of ten children of Rose and August Reitmeyer. He had six brothers, Harry, Frederick, Vincent, Leo, Gilbert and Ralph, and three sisters, Frances, Rita and Jean. The Reitmeyer family lived at 1829 Woodward Avenue, then moved to 516 Bellaire Avenue in 1930.

John attended Resurrection Elementary and graduated from South Hills High School in 1927. He took a job working with his grandfather at Moorehead-Reitmeyer Electric Motor Repair Shop in Oakdale, where he was employed for two years.

In December 1929, John enlisted in the United States Navy. During his four year tour of duty, he took flying lessons, but never qualified as a Navy pilot. After his enlistment ended in 1933, John returned to Pittsburgh and the family's new home on Bellaire Avenue.

He went back to work with his grandfather for a short time, then moved on to the sheet metal trade. John became an ironworker, employed at the Dravo Corporation's shipbuilding yard on Neville Island. He also spent time with the Heyl-Patterson Construction Company, doing metal work at facilities throughout the state.

Dravo shipbuilding yard on Neville Island.
The Dravo Corporation shipbuilding yard on Neville Island.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, John re-enlisted in the Navy on January 6, 1942 and was rated as a Shipfitter 2nd Class, assigned to the USS Juneau (CL-52), a new ship moored at the Brooklyn Naval Yard.

A naval Shipfitter's duties include fabricating, assembling and erecting all structural parts of a ship. They were the skilled mechanics who kept a ship at sea structurally sound. In battle, they were called upon to perform whatever tasks necessary to keep their ship seaworthy.

Shipfitter 2nd Class

Before leaving for the war, John commented to family members that it was his duty to go back to sea on this recently commissioned ship because so many of the sailors were so young, and had never before been on a ship, let alone out to sea. He felt strongly that his experience was needed on the USS Juneau.

The USS Juneau was a light cruiser commissioned in February 1942. After a quick shakedown cruise and blockade duty near Martinique, the ship docked in New York to make alterations. John was able to return home on leave to visit with the Reitmeyer family in Brookline. His youngest brother Ralph recalls, "That was in July of 1942."

John Reitmeyer

Once his leave was up, Ralph remembers taking his brother to the Pennsylvania Railroad Station on Grant Street, in downtown Pittsburgh, for the trip back to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Ralph had only recently earned his driver's license.

"John was always kidding me about my poor driving," Ralph says. "I was a nervous wreck."

"He boarded the train and that was the last time I saw him."

Shipfitter 2nd Class John Reitmeyer rejoined the Juneau in New York in late-July 1942. The ship was performing patrol and escort duties at the time. On August 22, the Juneau departed for the South Pacific. There, the ship would support United States operations at Guadalcanal, seeing action in two of the major naval engagements that contributed to the American victory at Guadalcanal, which halted Japanese expansion towards Australia and turned the tide of battle in favor of the Allies.

USS Juneau - 1942
Shipfitter 2nd Class John Reitmeyer (back right) and shipmates on the USS Juneau.

After stopping briefly at the Tonga Islands and New Caledonia, she rendezvoused on September 10 with Task Force 18 under the command of Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes, flying his flag on the aircraft carrier Wasp.

The following day, Task Force 17, which included the carrier Hornet, combined with Admiral Noyes' unit to form Task Force 61, whose mission was to ferry fighter aircraft to Guadalcanal. On September 15, Wasp took three torpedo hits from the Japanese submarine I-19. With fires raging out of control, the carrier was sunk. The Juneau and screen destroyers rescued 1,910 survivors of Wasp and returned them to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, on September 16. The next day, the Juneau rejoined Task Force 17.

In October 1942, operating with the Hornet group, Task Force 17 and the USS Juneau participated in the Buin-Faisi-Tonolai Raid and in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Then, in November, the ship was present at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

USS Juneau - 1942
The Light Cruiser USS Juneau (CL-52) in 1942.

On November 13, 1942, a Japanese task force, including several warships escorting a troop convoy, approached Guadalcanal. This was a major attempt by the Japanese to reinforce their island garrison and launch an offensive operation to clear the island of the Americans.

As the Japanese ships neared Guadalcanal, they were met by Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan's relatively small Landing Support Group, which included the USS Juneau. At 01:48 the two forces met and began to exchange fire. A fierce battle ensued.

Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
A painting that depicts the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal from the viewpoint of the American soldiers on the island.

The USS Juneau was hit by a torpedo and began to list. The ship was forced to withdraw. By morning, the Japanese force had been beaten back, and their reinforcement effort halted. This was a major turning point in the battle of Guadalcanal.

Listing severely, the USS Juneau, along with two other damaged cruisers, began the journey to Australia for repairs. At 11:00 on the morning of November 13, the USS Juneau was hit by two torpedoes from the Japanese submarine, I-26. The ship broke in two and sunk in a mere twenty seconds.

John Reitmeyer was below decks and did not survive the sinking. In a sad irony, another Brookliner, Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Robert F. McCann was also aboard the Juneau when it sunk and was among those that perished on the fateful day.

Over 100 sailors escaped the doomed ship, only to languish for days in the water. News of the sinking was not reported due to the tenuous situation at that time during the Battle of Guadalcanal. The admiralty did not want to risk allowing the Japanese to know the extent of the damages to the fleet. When rescue aircraft arrived, eight days later, only ten survivors remained. In all, 687 young men perished as a result of the sinking of the USS Juneau, including the five Sullivan Brothers.

The Pittsburgh Press, on January 24, 1943, reported that John P. Reitmeyer was listed as Missing in Action. Any hopes of John's survival were dashed when news came back from of the ten survivors. Also, Ralph Reitmeyer, an Electrician's Mate on the USS Picking, heard from eyewitnesses of his brother's sudden and tragic fate. One of the four Blue Service Stars on the window of the Reitmeyer home on Bellaire Avenue was replaced by a Gold Star.

Manila American Memorial and Cemetery

Shipfitter 2nd Class John P. Reitmeyer, along with Gunners Mate 2nd Class Robert F. McCann, of Brookline are both memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, located in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, Metro Manila. They were the first two local casualties of the World War that would eventually claim forty-one sons from the neighborhood. Two other fallen Brookliners, both lost at sea, Frank P. Dornetto and Clarence R. Copeland, are also listed on the Tablets of the Missing in Manila.

USS Juneau Memorial

In 1987, a memorial to the USS Juneau was erected near the docks in Juneau, Alaska. The bronze tablets were later moved to the USS Juneau Memorial Center, located in Kearny, New Jersey, and rededicated on November 14, 2013. The Memorial Center is in the old Federal Shipbuilding Company, the same building that laid the keel for the ship back in 1940.

USS Juneau Memorial

On March 20, 2018, explorers located the wreck of the USS Juneau 2.6 miles below the ocean surface off the Soloman Islands. Click here to view video footage of the discovery.

Electrian's Mate Ralph W. Reitmeyer - United States Navy
USS Picking (DD-685) - 1943/1945

Ralph William Reitmeyer was born on September 26, 1924, the youngest of ten children of Rose and August Reitmeyer. He had six brothers, Harry, Frederick, Vincent, John, Leo and Gilbert, and three sisters, Frances, Rita and Jean. The Reitmeyer family lived at 1829 Woodward Avenue, then moved to 516 Bellaire Avenue in 1930.

Ralph graduated from Resurrection Elementary and South Hills High School. Following in the footsteps of his older brothers John and Leo, he joined the Navy on June 18, 1943 and was assigned to the recently commissioned Fletcher-class destroyer USS Picking (DD-685), as an electrical repairman.

On board ship, Ralph's duty station was below decks in the Engine Room. He worked the Fire Room Board Watch. An Electricians Mate was responsible for maintaining proper steam pressure from the two Fire Rooms in order keep the ship's generator in proper working condition. The generator provided power for all of the electrical systems and the turbines.

The USS Picking's first assignment was with the North Pacific Fleet, stationed at Dutch Harbor. The Picking was part of Destroyer Squadron 49, made up of eight destroyers and three light cruisers, that patrolled the waters off the Alaskan Aleutian Islands. This tour of duty in the northern Pacific lasted from December 1943 through July 1944.

USS Picking (DD-685)
The United States Navy Destroyer USS Picking (DD-685).

The Picking then steamed to San Franciso, California for a refit and overhaul. In September, the ship sailed for Pearl Harbor, then off to the war in the South Pacific. On October 25, 1944, while performing escort duties for the 7th Fleet near the Philippine Islands, the ship received news of the Battle off Samar Island, and rushed to provide protection for the Leyte beachhead, the target of the Japanese attack.

The USS Picking was heading into one of the largest naval battles in history, the centermost action of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, also known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Off Samar Island, a powerful Japanese force, including the Battleship Yamato, engaged a much smaller American force made up mostly of escort carriers and "tin cans", the lightly armored Fletcher-class destroyers. This outgunned and underarmored group of American ships was all that stood between the Japanese and the exposed and unprotected landing forces on Leyte.

The USS Picking joined the battle on the periphery of the main engagement. During the battle, the ship's guns engaged several Japanese warplanes, and splashed two in the process, before the Japanese attackers were compelled to withdraw.

At the time of the Battle off Samar, Ralph's battle station was on the search light platform, located midway up the Number One Stack. He would climb up the stack to the platform, turn the lights on and operate the shudders. During a daylight call to stations, there was nothing much to do but stand on the platform and watch.

Ralph remembers that day. "I was up on the platform, watching an occasional Japanese plane attacking one of the nearby ships. Our gunners were firing and the japs were firing. They were good flyers, but lucky for us they weren't great shots."

"Our boys were better, and got two of them with the 40mm guns."

A Japanese plane goes down during
the Battle off Samar Island.
A Japanese warplane shot down at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

"We took some hits when one plane passed by on a strafing run, and the ship suffered one casualty. It was a friend of mine who was manning the radar tower on top of the flying bridge. From our perches high atop the main deck, we were within yelling distance of each other."

"One of the bullets hit him in the leg. He was taken down to the main bridge for first aid."

Captain Semmes, our commanding officer, came out to see him. He looked across the way and saw me standing all by myself on the search light platform on the stack."

"What are you doing out there?" the Captain yelled at me.

"This is my battle station, Sir." Ralph replied.

"Well get down off there," the Captain ordered. "We don't need any more casualties!"

That was the last time Ralph manned the search lights. His battle station was switched to Damage Control. "From that point on, my job was to stand on the deck waiting for any sort of problem that needed addressed."

After the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Picking returned to escort duties. In January 1945 the ship provided anti-aircraft protection for the beachhead at Lingayen Gulf and screened the landings at San Antonio. She provided fire support and protection as troops went ashore on Mariveles, February 15, and on Corregidor, February 16. The destroyer also provided convoy escort to ships bringing reinforcements and supplies to the invasion forces.

There were several occasions when the Picking participated in search and destroy missions, tracking Japanese submarines with sonar. Although they dropped many depth charges in pursuit of the enemy subs, the Picking never claimed a sinking.

The crew of the USS Picking (DD-685) - 1945
The crew of the Destroyer USS Picking in 1945.

After the Philippine Island campaign. The USS Picking provided fire support during the first month of the Battle of Okinawa. The battle lasted eighty-two days, from early April until mid-June 1945. The battle has been referred to as the "Typhoon of Steel" due to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island.

The Picking traveled up and down the coast, assisting the ground forces by bombing Japanese strongholds and bunkers dug deep into the hillsides.

On May 18, 1945, the destoyers USS Picking and USS Longshaw were off the Okinawan coast, near the city of Naha, bombing the airfield and hillside bunkers, when several unexpected developments led to one of the Picking's most memorable and, in some ways, most forgettable, moments of the war.

As Ralph relates:

"We were in a cove and the tide went out quickly. The Longshaw became grounded and efforts to get the ship off the coral reef were unsuccessful. She was a sitting duck. The Japanese on the coast began firing at the Longshaw and the ship was taking severe damage and casualties were mounting. The Captain of the Longshaw ordered the ship to be abandoned."

"We moved in close, firing at the coast. We managed to recover all of the surviving crewmen from the ship and then moved quickly out of harm's way, beyond the range of the Jap guns."

"At this point it was decided to destroy the Longshaw so that the Japanese could not board her and retreive anything of value."

Captain Semmes ordered that torpedoes be fired at the ship, rendering her useless. We lined up for the shots and that's when things went from bad to worse, in quite an unexpected way."

The USS Longshaw (DD-559) - May 18, 1945
The USS Longshaw, grounded on a coral reef, was severely damaged
by Japanese guns along the Okinawan coastline on May 18, 1945.

"Our torpedoes were propelled with alcohol, like the gasoline in a car. Sometimes life on a ship can get boring, and some of the torpedo crewman would dip into the torpedo alcohol at night for a little enjoyment."

"The torpedo alcohol was toxic, but every ship had a few mates skilled in the process of separating the poisonous additives from the alcohol. The result was termed 'Torpedo Juice,' and it had quite a kick. It was a bit risky, but the war was full of risks, and every day could be your last."

"In the morning, the alcohol would be replaced. It was business as usual for the men. Well, the night before they weren't thinking that we'd be firing torpedos the next day!"

"Now, the guys didn't drink it all, but they consumed enough of the alcohol that none of our torpedos had enough propellant to reach the target."

"Obviously, Captain Semmes was unaware of the situation. We fired ten torpedoes at the Longshaw, and one after another, their wakes fizzled out before impact. After a while he became a bit suspicious."

"We had to call in one of the light cruisers to put a few shots into the Longshaw. Later, when the tide came back in, the disabled ship was towed out to sea and sunk."

"Captain Semmes ranted on and on that if he could prove what happened to the alcohol, he would have had the entire torpedo crew hung from the yardarm."

"Well, I guess that was just one of those things. You never know with war. Anything can happen. We have joked many times about that day at our reunions."

After their fire support role at Okinawa was completed, ship went on picket duty, screening the offshore invasion fleet. They remained at this assignment until June 23, when they sailed for the U.S. base on the island of Saipan.

Electrians Mate 3rd Class Ralph Reitmeyer and the USS Picking were stationed at Saipan when the war came to an end in August 1945.

USS Picking World War II Medals
Medals earned by the USS Picking during service in World War II.

Regarding his brother, John P. Reitmeyer, who was lost in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Ralph remembers him coming home for leave in July 1942.

"Once his leave was up," Ralph says, "I drove John and his girlfriend to the Pennsylvania Railroad Station on Grant Street, in downtown Pittsburgh, for the trip back to Brooklyn Navy Yard. I had only recently earned my driver's license."

"John was always kidding me about my poor driving and I was a nervous wreck."

"He boarded the train and that was the last time I saw him."

Shortly after his assignment to the USS Picking, in 1943, Ralph came across a sailor that was present when the USS Juneau was sunk.

The sailor told Ralph that as their small convoy of damaged ships withdrew from Guadalcanal towards Australia, they were below deck, lining up for breakfast. The Juneau was under way on their port side. While they ate breakfast there was a huge explosion. By the time they made it upstairs to the deck, they were shocked to see that the Juneau was gone. "The ship went down very quickly," the sailor said.

Ralph left the Navy on April 10, 1946, and worked at J&L Steel, then Moorehead-Reitmeyer Electric Motor Repair Shop, before settling into a career as a Motor Repairman for Pennsylvania Electric Coil Company. He married Dolores Yochum in September 1950. The couple had nine children: Ralph Jr., John, Charles, Gerard, Warren, Kenneth, Ray, Roy and Arthur.

In May 1951, Ralph and Dolores purchased a home in Brentwood, a southern suburb near Brookline. In July 1966, The USS Picking held a reunion. Ralph was chosen as Master of Ceremonies. He had a great time meeting his fellow shipmates, including Captain Semmes. Ralph and his Captain reminisced over their wartime experiences, and were reminded about some of the lighter moments that stood out in their mind, like Ralph's days at his battle station manning the search lights, and the day the torpedoes unexpectedly fell short of their target.

USS Picking (DD-685) - 1941
USS Picking reunion, July 1966. Ralph Reitmeyer is seated front row, second from the right.
Captain Semmes is seated next to Ralph, third from the right.

Ralph and Dolores Reitmeyer lived and prospered in Brentwood until 2000, when they purchased their retirement home in Clairton.

Today, at ninety-four years of age, Ralph still lives at his home in Clairton. Dolores passed away in 2001. Since then, Ralph spends most his time relaxing, working on crossword puzzles, reminiscing about the old days and doing all he can to enjoy his twilight years.

Shipfitter Leo J. Reitmeyer - United States Navy
USS Medusa (AR-1) - 1941/1945

Leo John Reitmeyer was born on September 7, 1913, the sixth of ten children of Rose and August Reitmeyer. He had six brothers, Harry, Frederick, John, Vincent, Gilbert and Ralph, and three sisters, Frances, Rita and Jean. The Reitmeyer family lived at 1829 Woodward Avenue, then moved to 516 Bellaire Avenue in 1930.

Leo was a graduate of Resurrection Elementary and South Hills High School. Like his brothers John and Ralph, Leo also served in the United States Navy during World War II. He left home to join the Navy on May 2, 1938 and was stationed aboard the USS Medusa, a repair ship that was moored at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Leo Reitmeyer

Skilled in metal-working like his older brother John, Leo was assigned as a shipfitter. A naval Shipfitter's duties include fabricating, assembling and erecting all structural parts of a ship. They were the skilled mechanics who kept a ship at sea structurally sound. In battle, they were called upon to perform whatever tasks necessary to keep their ship seaworthy.

Shipfitter Leo Reitmeyer was aboard the USS Medusa on that fateful December morning, the day that will live in infamy, and witnessed first-hand the Japanese attack that prompted America's entry into the war.

USS Medusa (AR-1) - 1942
The Repair Ship USS Medusa (AR-1) at Pearl Harbor in February 1942.

The USS Medusa (AR-1) was one of the ships that fired some of America's first shots of World War II. While already responding to enemy aircraft, they also engaged one of the Japanese mini-submarines sent to infiltrate Pearl Harbor ahead of the carrier-based air attacks. The Medusa fired upon, then tracked, the enemy intruder until the destroyer USS Monaghan arrived to put the submarine out of action.

During the air attacks, anti-aircraft and machine gunners from the Medusa brought down two Japanese Aichi D3A1 dive bombers.

After the attack, the ship and her crew went to work in her primary role as a repair ship, providing equipment, ammunition, food, beverages and fuel to many of the ships and units in and around the harbor. The ship also assisted in efforts to rescue men trapped in the hull of the capsized anti-aircraft training ship Utah.

USS Curtiss and USS Medusa at
Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941.
The damaged USS Curtiss (AV-4), left, and USS Medusa (AR-1), at their
moorings soon after the Japanese raid on December 7, 1941.

The USS Medusa remained in Pearl Harbor for over a year, assigned to the Service Force, to aid in the clean-up efforts around the port.

In April 1943 the ship headed for the combat area in the South Pacific. The ship was involved in repair work at several of the fleet service ports, with duty at Havannah Harbor, Milne Bay, Guadalcanal, Manus Island and San Pedro Bay in the Philippines. When the war ended, the Medusa continued fleet repair work until returning to the United States on October 31, 1945.

Leo Reitmeyer
Shipfitter 1st Class Leo Reitmeyer (second from left) and shipmates in Pearl Harbor.

From February 22 to September 27, 1944, Leo was assigned to a duty station in San Diego. Here he met and married his wife Helen Torisky, on November 4, 1944, in Saint James Cathedral. The ceremony was performed by the Most Reverend Charles F. Buddy, Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego.

Shipfitter Leo Reitmeyer continued his service in the Navy for another two years, retiring as a ten-year veteran on February 27, 1948.

Leo Reitmeyer
Back home with family at 530 Bellaire Avenue.

After his days in the Navy, Leo and Helen returned to Pittsburgh, where he began a career as a Postal Service employee. First they lived in Penn Hills, then moved to Brookline where the couple purchased a home on Midland Avenue.

Helen and Leo had three kids: Leo Jr., Francis and Kathy. World War II veteran and long-time Brookline resident Leo Reitmeyer, a Pearl Harbor survivor, passed away on June 28, 2000. He is buried in Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery.

USS Medusa five cent token        USS Medusa five cent token

USS Medusa (AR-1) - Pearl Harbor Addendum

The following is an excerpt from the report of the Commanding Officer of the USS Medusa, Lt. Commander John Miller, on the actions of the ship and crew during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor:

"About 0755 I heard a loud explosion, and looking out the port of my room, saw what appeared to be the hanger on the south end of Ford Island in flames and a large column of smoke reaching into the air.

The General Alarm was sounded immediately and all hands went to General Quarters. On my way to the bridge I gave the magazine keys to the Gunner's Mate on duty with orders to open the forward magazine, then the after magazine.

Enemy planes appeared to make a simultaneous attack – the bombers attacking Ford Island coming from the Southwest, and the torpedo planes coming from the Southeast.

On reaching the bridge orders were given to the engine room to get ready to get underway immediately. I then proceeded to the Signal Bridge where Mr. Foley was in charge of Fire Control. He was mounting two .30 caliber machine guns, one on each end of the Signal Bridge.

The attack on Pearl Harbor

At approximately 0805 the first shot was fired by the Medusa from #5 3" A.A. gun. From this period on I have no estimate of time but both A.A. guns and both machine guns kept up a continuous fire during the attacks. The majority of planes attacking the Medusa-Curtiss sector were flying at an altitude of not over 400 feet; a few were not over 100 feet.

During the attack it was reported that a submarine periscope was sighted about 1000 yards on our starboard quarter or about 500 yards astern of the Curtiss. I gave orders to open fire on the periscope – shortly afterward the Curtiss opened fire. The submarine fired a torpedo at a small dock astern of Curtiss. The submarine then broached to the surface with conning tower in plain sight. Many shots could plainly be seen hitting the conning tower from both the Medusa and Curtiss. While being shelled, the submarine appeared by be backing toward the Curtiss.

About this time the Monaghan (DD354) was seen standing down the channel west of Ford Island. She headed directly for the submarine at about fifteen knots. The order cease firing was given when Monaghan was abeam of the Curtiss. She appeared to pass immediately over the submarine and dropped two depth charges. The first charge appeared to drop right on top of the submarine as the volume of water shooting into the air was heavily colored with a black substance. The second charge did not have the black coloring.

Pearl Harbor under attack Dec 7, 1941.    Pearl Harbor under attack Dec 7, 1941.
The Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II.

The Commanding Officer of the Monaghan should be commended for the promptness with which he made the attack, and the excellent seamanship displayed in very restricted waters.

I definitely saw four planes shot down. One fell on the boat deck of the Curtiss and burst into flames; one dropped a bomb close to the stern of the Medusa and immediately thereafter disintegrated as the result of a shell hit which I believe was made by Medusa #6 A.A. Gun.

One flew over the bow of the Medusa about 200 feet in the air and was met by a barrage from our .30 caliber machine guns and a strong barrage from Destroyer Mine Division Three. This plane fell in the water about 1500 yards on our port beam and was picked up next day by a lighter.

One fell on the bank astern of the Medusa where the engine and a part of the wing appear to be imbedded in the bank.

The courage and conduct shown by the officers and men who came under my personal supervision was of the highest order especially when one considers the surprise element which entered into the attack. Each man aboard performed deeds which in ordinary times would single him out for the highest commendation.

War is Declared!
Newspapers across the country carried the news of the Japanese sneak attack.
President Roosevelt asked for, and received, a Declaration of War.

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In keeping with the Reitmeyer family tradition of military service, Leo J. Reitmeyer's grandson, Nathan Reitmeyer, spent five years on active duty as a United States Marine, serving as a rifleman in the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. Nathan also served on Embassy Duty as a Marine Security Guard in Vladivostok, Russia, and in Geneva, Switzerland. He retired from the Marine Corps with the rank of Sergeant.

Nathan Reitmeyer        Nathan Reitmeyer

Nathan then worked for almost a decade throughout the country of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, employed by the Government as a contractor with Dyncorp, conducting High-Threat PSD (Protection Security Detail) for government officials and diplomats, including the President and Vice-President of the United States. Nathan Reitmeyer is currently working as a police officer and sheriff's deputy with the Allegheny County Sheriff’s office.

Nathan Reitmeyer
Sergeant Nathan Reitmeyer and fellow Marines with President William Jefferson Clinton.
Nathan is directly to the left of the President.

Sgt. Vincent J. Reitmeyer - United States Army Cook
North Africa, Sicily and Italy - 1942/1945

Vincent J. Reitmeyer was born on May 26, 1911, the fifth of ten children of Rose and August Reitmeyer. He had six brothers, Harry, Frederick, John, Leo, Gilbert and Ralph, and three sisters, Frances, Rita and Jean. The Reitmeyer family lived at 1829 Woodward Avenue, then moved to 516 Bellaire Avenue in 1930.

Vince was a graduate of Resurrection Elementary and left South Hills High School at age sixteen to work as a meat cutter for a local grocer. After a few years working alongside a professional butcher, Vince had mastered the trade and had achieved quite a reputation at carving a side of beef.

At age thirty, on March 13, 1942, Vince was drafted into the United States Army. The master butcher was, without much debate, rated as a cook. From the beginning, Vince's prowess with the clever earned him a reputation as a man skilled in the art of preparing meat. He achieved the rank of Sergeant before sailing for Italy on January 12, 1944.

A typical front-line mess kitchen, Italy 1944
A Tank destroyer crew show their enthusiasm at the arrival of the rations
truck with their Christmas turkey. 5th Army, Bisomo Area, Italy.

For almost two years stationed here in the United States, Vince fed the trainees passing through the early stages of the American War Machine. Then, during his twenty month tour of duty on the Italian boot, Vince traveled along with his unit, keeping the chow lines moving and his troops well fed.

Vince Reitmeyer was serving in Northern Italy when the War in Europe came to an end on May 7, 1945. He was discharged from the service five months later, on October 24.

After the war, Vince and his wife Helen purchased a home in Brookline, where they lived with their son Hugh David. Vince worked as a butcher for several of the local grocery chains. He passed away on July 7, 1983 and is buried at Saint John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery.

Saint John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery

United States Joint Service Color Guard
on parade at Fort Myer, Virginia.
United States Joint Service Color Guard on parade at Fort Myer, Virginia.

The Reitmeyer Family - A Strong Military Tradition

The Reitmeyer family of Brookline has a strong military tradition. In addition to the contributions and sacrifice of the four family brothers, John, Leo, Vince and Ralph, during World War II, future generations of the family have also gone on to distinguished military careers. A Reitmeyer son has served in all five branches of the Armed Forces: Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Following in their father's footsteps, Ralph Reitmeyer's first and second born, Ralph Jr. and John, both served in the Air Force. Harry Reitmeyer, brother of John, Leo, Vince and Ralph, had seven children of his own: Harry Jr. Bob, Sue, David, Annys, and twins Tim and Tom.

Of Harry Reitmeyer's seven children, four went on to serve in the United States Armed Forces. Harry Jr. served in the Army during the 1950s. Bob was a Navy Pilot in the early 1960s. David was an Army Helicopter Pilot who completed two tours of duty in Vietnam. Harry's youngest son, Tom, spent twenty years as a Naval Aviator, reaching the rank of Commander.

In keeping with the tradition, and taking it to the next level, Tom Reitmeyer's son Peter is a twenty-six year Marine Corps aviator who served during the War on Terror and was a member of the Presidential Command Pilot. Peter retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in February 2018. Tom's youngest son, Joseph, is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Coast Guard. Finally, Leo Reitmeyer's grandson Nathan served five years in the Marine Corps and spent nearly ten years in Iraq as a military contractor for Dyncorp.

Commander Tom Reitmeyer - United States Navy
F14 Tomcat - Radio Intercept Officer

Tom Reitmeyer was born October 15, 1951. He attended Resurrection Elementary and graduated from South Hills Catholic High School in 1970. Four years later he had earned a degree in Urban Management from the University of Pittsburgh. After an unsuccessful run for State Legislator, Tom applied for a Navy Commission in 1977. He was following in the footsteps of his older brother Bob, a former Navy Pilot.

F14 Tomcat Fighter-Interceptor
F14 Tomcat Fighter-Interceptor.

After spending four-plus years in Naval Intelligence, he switched to duty on an F14 Tomcat fighter-interceptor. Tom was a flight officer, or Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), responsible for the fighter's weapons and radar systems.

Radar Intercept Officer Tom Reitmeyer
Radar Intercept Officer Tom Reitmeyer, March 1989.

On April 15, 1986, Tom flew a mission in support of the United State's bombing of Libya. On that mission, his carrier-based F14 flew along as fighter escort for the raid. The attack was in reprisal for a series of terrorist bombings by extremist groups with ties to the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Tom's Navy career continued for another decade until his retirement in 1997. After twenty years of distinguished service, he had reached the rank of Commander.

Tom Reitmeyer

In addition to his undergraduate degree in management, Tom Reitmeyer also earned a Master's Degree in administration. He spent time as an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where he taught "Leadership and Ethics." With over fifteen years experience in private industry, Tom is the founder of Decision Now, a leadership, consulting and coaching firm.

Tom currently lives in Virginia Beach. He and his ex-wife Kim Kearns Reitmeyer (Elizabeth-Seton High School '73) have raised four children: Peter, Maggie, Molly and Joey. Kim now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, near their two daughters and their two grandchildren.

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Continuing the Reitmeyer family military heritage, Commander Tom Reitmeyer's oldest son, Peter, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps who served as a naval aviator. Tom's youngest son, Joseph, is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Coast Guard, currently serving in Alaska. Both Joseph and Peter saw duty in the Middle Eastern Theatre during the present-day War on Terror.

Major Peter Reitmeyer         Lt. Cmdr Joseph Reitmeyer

Peter's Marine Corps career began in December 1991. After basic training, he was a assigned as a Rifleman in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment from September 1992 through July 1996. First a basic rifleman, he was promoted first to Fire Team Leader and then to Squad Leader. During this time he earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Pittsburgh.

From March 1997 through December 1999, he attended Officer Training School as a Student Naval Aviator. He was then assigned as Intelligence Officer and UN-1N Iroqois pilot with HMLA-269 from May 2000 through January 2002. His next assignment was as a Pilot Training Officer with HMM-263 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, managing pilot training for the Light Attack Detachment and flying Combat Operations as a UH-1N pilot.

Beginning in July 2003, his next year was spent as a Forward Air Controller with the 2nd Tank Battalion, coordinating and controlling the operations of tactical aircraft in the terminal phase of Close Air Support missions. The following year was spent as an Intelligence Officer with HMLA-267, this time managing the Squadron's Intelligence Department and serving as a UH-1N Instructor Pilot.

In October 2005 Peter was transfered to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit to manage the Squadron's Flightline Division and fly combat operations. After eleven months he attended the Marine Corps University, where he earned a Masters Degree in Military Operational Art and Science. He then served as a faculty member from June 2007 through August 2008.

UHN1 Iroqois Helicopter

In January 2009 he became a Future Operations Officer with the 2nd Marine Air Wing, where he practiced the skills to conduct planning and coordination of all USMC aviation assets in theater. He also flew additional combat operations. Then, from September 2009 through August 2011, Peter served as Operations Officer in HMLA-467.

During this time he was deployed with the 2nd Marine Air Wing to Operation Iraqi Freedom (1/2009-9/2009) and to Haiti for Operation Unified Response, providing earthquake relief (1/2010-4/2010). By this time Officer Reitmeyer had achieved the rank of Major.

Major Peter Reitmeyer

Major Peter Reitmeyer's next assignment was with the prestigious Marine Helicopter Squadron-One as Presidential Command Pilot and Aviation Maintenance Officer. This assignment began in August 2011 and lasted nearly four years. During this time, his duties were numerous.

He supervised the maintenance department consisting of 500 personnel, nineteen Executive aircraft, sixteen Cargo helicopters and twelve Tilt-rotar aircraft along with the associated ground and test equipment. He also directed helicopter operations and coordinated with the President's Emergency Operations Center to ensure seamless support to the President of the United States. In addition, Peter oversaw the retirement of the CH-46 Chinook helicopter from the presidential support mission and the integration of the MV-22 Osprey.

Major Peter Reitmeyer    Marine One of the Presidential Helicopter Squadron.
Major Peter Reitmeyer stands next to the Presidential helocopter (left)
and Marine One taking off from the White House lawn.

Peter Reitmeyer also served as VH-3D Sea King/VH-60N White Hawk White House Helicopter Command Pilot, planning and flying worldwide missions in support of the President, Vice President and White House. He also served as a Marine One instructor pilot.

When Marine One lifted off from the White House lawn carrying the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, we could all rest assured that President Barack Obama and his family were in the capable hands of a decorated veteran pilot, born in Brookline, with a long and storied family history of dedicated military service to our country, and strong neighborhood roots.

The President and First Lady on their way to Marine One
The President and First Lady on their way towards boarding Marine One. It was Major Reitmeyer's first lift.

In June 2015, Marine Naval Aviator Peter Reitmeyer left the Presidential Transport Squadron and was assigned to the United States Naval Academy as Marine Detachment Chief of Staff. By now promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, he served as the Chief Operating Officer for all Marine Corps activities at the Academy.

On February 2, 2018, after a storied career spanning twenty-six years and two months, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Reitmeyer retired from the United States Marine Corps. He is currently working as a commercial pilot and a Marine Corps Historian. He is currently involved in researching the Battles of Pelleliu and Iwo Jima.

A Man of Community Service and Dedication
Tim Reitmeyer

Tim Reitmeyer

Tim Reitmeyer is the twin brother of Commander Tom Reitmeyer (retired). Tim is a lifelong Brookline resident, and he helped considerably with this documentation of his family's military tradition. It began with a photo of his Uncle John Reitmeyer, a U.S. sailor who was lost in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, and has grown into quite a chronicle of a Brookline family whose military tradition began in 1929 and continues through to the present day.

This history of the Reitmeyer's who served in the Armed Forces is not only an important part of Tim's family heritage, but a vital piece of Brookline history as well. So many of our community's young men and women have answered the call to duty over the years. Their courage, dedication and sacrifice should be remembered, and celebrated each year on Memorial and Veteran's Day.

Tim is one of the Reitmeyer clan who did not enter the service. There was a moment, after graduation from college, when he met with a Marine Corps recruiter and discussed his options. Aviation looked like an interesting possibility, but after failing the eye test, his options became limited. As a result, Tim opted to stay home in Brookline and pursue his interest in the real estate business.

Tim Reitmeyer - Howard Hanna

Along with his daily travels as an agent for Howard Hanna Realty Service, Tim has always found time to volunteer his time for the benefit of the community. For twenty years he was a coach in the Brookline Little League, like his father Harry before him. He is also a member of several civic organizations, including the Brookline Chamber of Commerce and the South Pittsburgh Development Corporation. Tim has made community service his call to arms.

Having known Tim for several years, I've seen him wearing many hats around town. The one that always sticks out in my mind is the baseball cap he donned for so many years at the Community Center. In his twenty-one years as a manager, Tim's Little League teams won five BLLA championships (1992, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2006).

His 1998-1999 Poremski Plumbing teams won a record thirty-one games in a row. Tim's assistant coach during those two memorable title seasons was his son Kevin. As a manager, Kevin added his own championship to the league ledger in 2005 with his Conditioned Air team.

Poremski coaches George Nassif,
Rich Munizza, Tim Reitmeyer and
Kevin Reitmeyer after clinching
second title in July 1999.
Coaches George Nassif, Rich Munizza, Tim and Kevin Reitmeyer
after Little League championship victory in 1999.

Tim and Kevin Reitmeyer's record seasons broke the previous undefeated mark set by Brookline's 1955 Pony League team, whose winning streak reached twenty-eight. That 1955 team was coached by his father, Harry Reitmeyer.

Tim may have hung up his cap and cleats, but you can still see him around town at the various social and civic gatherings, or maybe just cruising by in his Howard Hanna SUV. He is a man of service and dedication, and a good friend as well to generations of Brookliners.

* Thanks to Tim Reitmeyer for all his help with this webpage, and for so much more over the years. *
Written by Clint Burton - May 28, 2012; Updated December 8, 2018

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