THOMAS, W.Va. - Before being drafted into World War II, Tony Lambruno's biggest trips from his Douglas home were to not-so-exotic places such as Pierce, Kempton and Davis. The U.S. Army changed that quickly, with stops at several U.S. destinations before Lambruno headed to Australia and New Guinea.
Before he knew it, the fresh-faced Tucker County native found himself watching a movie in the basement of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's compound just outside Manila in the Philippines.
"We got to Manila before our equipment," said Lambruno, whose regular job was lighting runways for military planes to land. "We served as guards until it got there, and that's where I met MacArthur. We were sent to guard his office, where he met with generals from other countries."
Lambruno said the general's wife, Jean, and son, Arthur, lived nearby and he sometimes protected their home, including a goat that was the son's beloved pet.
"When they left Australia, someone gave his son a goat," recalled Lambruno, now 95 years old and living at Cortland Acres in Thomas. "We guarded it, too. We couldn't be mean to it or touch it. You didn't dare hurt that goat."
Jean MacArthur would sometimes ask soldiers to join her in the home.
"She was just a common lady, very nice," Lambruno said. "We ate dinner with her a couple times, and she'd ask the men to come to the house and watch a movie in the basement."
Once the equipment arrived, it was back to Manila and living in tents, a life that was even less glamorous than it sounds. And although Australia and New Guinea rank high on the list of places some would like to visit today, it was much different during 1940s wartime.
"There were mosquitoes everywhere," said Lambruno, who contracted malaria that affected him well after he returned home to Tucker County. "They had snakes big enough to swallow a boar. We were out in the jungle, in the thick woods. We went out to set up camp in 7-foot high grass, and the snakes were big enough to look over it. We stopped, turned around and ran back. We were scared, I'll tell you that."
Although Lambruno's unit never experienced a direct attack, the chance was always there.
"We were a target at night," he said. "We'd light up the airports with a 60-inch mirror light so the airplanes could land. All we had to fight with was rifles."
Despite experiencing so much of the country - Texas, Florida and California - and the world, Lambruno knew he wanted to come home to Tucker County as soon as he was discharged.