Peter “Pete” Bondi died on Jan. 19, 2016. He received praise for a life well lived. Pete and wife Donna once gave a fond farewell to their Main Street Palace Bowling Lounge, for more than 30 years a business with a famous wedding, New Year’s Eve parties and a Ginny Poo Poo.
It was years before Pete and what was then called the “Glancing Backward” column realized our shared experience. He always was very helpful in explaining village history, particularly about his immigrant family from the turn of the 20th century.
Pete mentioned serving in the U.S. Army from 1955 to1956 and Operation Sagebrush.
“Yes, I, too was there in the Louisiana swamps Pete.”
Both of us had been part of the huge military operation, a preparation for if the Cold War became hot.
The military operation involved 140,000 troops. (U.S. Archives) Most Americans had little realization that it was a rehearsal for a worldwide atomic-hydrogen nuclear war.
Both of us mentioned carrying out our assignments with little understanding of Sagebrush.
The Cold War was entering a dangerous time only three years after the Korean Conflict.
Peter arrived in Louisiana driving an officer from a Colorado base. Parish had recently graduated from the Fort Dix Army Communication School as a morse code specialist, soon to teletype operating from half-tracks and tanks.
A member of the First Armored Division formally the historic First Cavalry, my unit’s new home base would be Fort Polk, Louisiana. Barrack mates heard Korean conflict veterans tell of battles, bravery, beautiful Korean women and cruelty to innocent Korean civilians.
Bondi and Parish played our very small parts in a full-scale practice war. There was a large staff of war umpires at the Sagebrush headquarters, specialists in tactical details and evaluation.
1. Changing assigned locations every few day.
2. Peter carefully servicing his jeep, ready for sudden movements over rough terrain.
3. Parish in a pup tent waiting for our next orders with dampness, uniform washing, and daily boot shakes for rid of scorpions.
4. Both with shivers when Southern soldiers returned from recreation with cottonmouth snakes after a good day’s hunt.
5. Reporting to the vital statistic station for enrollment after the enemy had wiped us out. Our deaths never were explained. At least c-ration cans were our rewards.
Pete Bondi returned to his Colorado duty.
Parish qualified driving a heavy truck at Fort Polk along with communication postal duties.
Soldiers of all racial backgrounds proudly served together on Operation Sagebrush, all saluting the American flag as our privilege.
David W. Parish is historian for the town and village of Geneseo. He writes the columns “Around Geneseo” and “Glancing Backwards” for The Livingston County News. He is a Chancellor Award retiree from Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo and author of 12 reference and history books.