By Jeff Gallatin
Electrical engineering work requires precision to get work done right, and a longtime Westlake resident did it in that job as well as serving as a target flyer for the Army Air Corps during World War II.
During the war, Marco “Mark” Vulpio was part of a two-man crew in fighter planes at March Field in Riverside, Calif., which towed targets for Army gunners to shoot at to sharpen their skills.
“They used live ammunition when they were shooting so it could get interesting at times,” Vulpio said.
Vulpio, who went to West Tech High School in Cleveland prior to being drafted, served in that capacity for three years before his service was up and he returned to civilian life where he worked as an electrical technician and draftsman for Westinghouse in Cleveland. Family and friends honored Vulpio at a special 90th birthday party Saturday at the North Olmsted Party Center.
Vulpio said he received a lot of practical experience in making sure the job was done right while he was in the plane.
“The other man was the pilot, and I was the one who got the targets out behind the plane for them to shoot at,” he said.
Vulpio recalled there were some close calls during his time in the air with the targets. He cited one instance in which a target had gotten a little too close to the plane while it was being towed. The gunners had zeroed in and were scoring hits on the target. The problem for Vulpio was that, because the target had gotten closer to the plane, it was uncomfortably close to him as well.
“When I pulled in the target, I found that if some of the shells had been just a little further over, they would have been hitting me and the plane instead of the target,” he said.
Another time, he recalled the wire from the target had ended up getting tangled with one of the aerilons (device located on a plane’s wing to help control the plane’s ability to bank and turn), and he and the pilot were concerned about the effect it would have on the plane’s ability to maneuver properly.
“When we looked at it, it turns out that if it had come down a little bit more it would have taken the aerilon off and we would have had problems,” he said.
When his three years were up, Vulpio said a recruiter tried to get him to re-enlist in the service.
“He told me that this time I would get to be the pilot and fly the plane,” Vulpio said. “But I really wasn’t interested in doing that.”
Vulpio said he enjoyed being with other members of the Army Air Corps during his time in the service, but hasn’t kept in touch with his friends from the service.
“That’s something that I wish I had been able to do a little more of,” he said.
Instead, he focused on friends, family and his work at Westinghouse. He ended up building himself a house in Westlake, in which he still resides.
“I don’t know that I would have been able to do all of that today,” he said. “But it’s a good house, and I have a lot of good memories from it and my time in the service.”