Fort Myer, VA Memories
Featuring South Post c1940-1970
Fort Myer South Post - John P. Rotondo
Fort Belvoir


     John Rotondo was stationed at Fort Myer South Post from February 1952 through September 1953. John's wife, Jewel, said that John loved his duty there and looked forward to our postings on this site, which both looked at together. So, upon John's death on Veteran's Day 2010, she found a few photos that John had not sent us yet, and forwarded them to post along with the following information about him. John was a lifelong resident of Newark, NJ, and a graduate of Rutgers in Newark. He then received his M.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson in Teaneck, then graduated from the McAllister School of Mortuary Science in New York. After serving in the National Guard during the Korean Conflict, he went on active duty and was assigned to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff of the Army, G3, at The Pentagon. Upon leaving the service he owned and operated the family business- the Rotondo Home for Funerals in Newark. In 1987 he became the CEO of the William C. Doyle Veteran's Cemetery in Arnytown, NJ, retiring from that in 1999. He was also a Deacon for St. John's Church in Newark, where he administered programs for feeding the homeless.  He was also in the choir at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and performed with the Orotorio Society of Montclair (NJ). He was an avid photographer, traveler and writer- his travel memoirs were published in the Italian Tribune. By his passing on Veteran's Day he once again has shown his love for all veterans (and note, he was married to Jewel on Memorial Day in 1966!!). He was buried in New Jersey, but had it been at Arlington National Cemetery, he would for sure have been in a gravesite on the former grounds of the army post he loved so much- Fort Myer South Post. He is survived by his loving wife Jewel Mazziotti, many nieces and nephews and many beloved friends. He will be missed by all who knew and loved him. Jewel sent us John's memoir of Fort Myer, and this follows, word for word:
       "My duty station was an assignment to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff of the Army, G3, Operations and Training at The Pentagon, and my barracks were at Fort Myer South Post, Virginia, just across the highway from The Pentagon. On the other side of the post was Arlington National Cemetery. I was quartered at Headquarters Company, U.S. Army- no Battalion, no Regiment and no Division, simply U.S. Army.
      Our office had a direct link to Staff Communications who would decode messages and send them through The Pentagon to the offices that were concerned. These were Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. I had been cleared for Top Secret but it was not until I came home on pass that I learned that Military Intelligence had been throughout my neighborhood asking shop keepers, druggists, et al, regarding my character in order to clear me.
     The South Post was created to house the personnel with duty in The Pentagon. Our post consisted of Headquarters Company, an Air Force Company, a WAC (Women Army Corps) Detachment, a theatre, swimming pool, mess halls and a commercial type lounge with a cafeteria and patio called "The Green Room". We had our own facilities and softball diamonds to boot ! Entrance to The Pentagon was through a small tunnel under the highway (Washington Boulevard) which led to a stairway to the sidewalk leading up to the Mall Entrance. The walk from my barracks to the Mall Entrance took 7 minutes. The South Post Commanding Officer was Major Milton Eddy and there was also a First Sergeant- their duty was to maintain and run Headquarters Company- schedule guard duty, kitchen police (KP) and formations.
    Since part of Fort Myer was on a hill, I could watch from a distance, the continuous pacing of the Honor Guard from North Post, 24 hours a day in rain, snow or blistering sun. On occasion I would cross the road (Arlington Ridge Road) separating South Post from the cemetery and I often walked along the endless white headstones noting the names of the historic men who fought in so many wars. One sunny afternoon I watched as the Honor Guard (know now as the Old Guard) led the white horses pulling a caisson with a flag-draped casket atop. The guard that followed the tradition riderless horse carried the red flag with two white stars; the flag of a Lieutenant General. I was later to learn it was the burial party of the famous General Jonathan Wainwright. I was also privileged to be a witness to the inauguration of General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
      Having been cleared for Top Secret, daily reports of casualties came across my desk. I continually read the statistics on the wounded and killed in action and could not help to think of my former buddies from basic training at Fort Dix who very well might be part of those numbers. During my stay at G-3 in The Pentagon, the Army Chief of Staff was General J. Lawton Collins, nicknamed 'Lightning Joe' at Guadalcanal, who commanded the VII Corps at Utah Beach at the Invasion of Normandy.
    All photos below taken by John Rotondo.

ABOVE LEFT: John Rotondo's wife, Jewel, mentioned how he loved the Green Room when he was stationed on South Post, so he would be pleased to know there is a photo of him on the computer for eternity, showing his head right in the middle of the Green Room in the background in this photo! The attractive PFC shows off her MDW (Military District of Washington) patch, and to her left is Barracks 517. Bill Jentz called #517 home 14 years later, and cant even count how many times he parked just to the left of John's right shoulder. The view is looking north towards Higgins Circle, the Recreation Center and PX.

ABOVE RIGHT: Not sure why John had a rifle on post, as those in Headquarters Company never saw any action other than that at the NCO Club or post dances in the Green Room- speaking of which, there it is again at the end of the lane. View is looking north, and John's head is blocking Barracks 517, with 515 right next to him.

BELOW: A closeup of the beloved Green Room, which was on the south end of the Recreation Center. The view is looking north and the photographer is near Barracks 519.

ABOVE LEFT: Here is a great view of John on the eastern edge of South Post, this time with The Pentagon shown behind his head. Barracks 522 is to his left, and 523 is behind 522. It is very difficult to see, but the steep steps that lead to the top of the small ridge, then leading to the post pool, can be seen to the right of 523. The area where he is kneeling was the former marching grounds, then later turned into two softball fields. The view is looking south.

ABOVE RIGHT: And, speaking of the parade grounds, here is a view taken 8 years earlier right where John is kneeling in the other photo. The photo angle is just off a bit, so Barracks 522 is just off the picture to the right.
ABOVE PHOTOS: The barracks shown appear to be in 'Zone 3' of South Post (Barracks 301, 302, etc), which were demolished by the later 1950s. Zone 3 is in the very southwest corner of South Post, at the intersection of Columbia Pike and Arlington Ridge Road. After the Civil War slaves were freed, but many did not have a place to live, so the government constructed 'Freedmen's Villages' to provide shelter, food, health care, etc. One of those was in the exact location of this part of South Post and extending westward along the current path of Columbia Pike, on the north side of the Pike.
ABOVE FOUR PHOTOS: John is shown in and around the barracks in Zone 3.
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