In the tight-knit Oak Grove neighborhood of Monterey, California, three inseparable companions named Michael Criscuolo, Tom Trovato, and Jack Hazdovac formed an unbreakable bond. Growing up side by side, they shared countless childhood adventures and dreams of a promising future. Little did they know that their destinies would intertwine with the course of history in a profound and sacrificial way.
Monterey Union High School witnessed the formation of their unbreakable brotherhood, where they forged lasting memories and nurtured their ambitions. In the afternoons, while their peers reveled in carefree leisure, Michael, Tom, and Jack dedicated their time to honing their skills as busboys at the elegant Hotel Del Monte. Each table they cleared, every dish they meticulously served, carried with it a flicker of determination and a sense of duty that burned deep within their hearts.
As time went by, the winds of change swept through their lives. One by one, they heeded the call of duty and found themselves drawn to the embrace of the United States Navy. Fate aligned their paths, and on that fateful day of December 7, 1941, aboard the mighty U.S.S. Arizona, they stood shoulder to shoulder, ready to defend their nation against any threat that dared to challenge its freedom.
Among the brave souls who manned the decks of the U.S.S. Arizona, Michael Criscuolo shone as a beacon of resilience and unwavering dedication. Having answered the call to serve in June 1939, he had risen to the rank of yeoman and petty officer second class. Born on August 4, 1921, in the picturesque town of Monterey, he was the beloved son of Italian immigrants, Antonio Criscuolo and Lucia Pappacoda Criscuolo.
Antonio, a proud man hailing from the sun-kissed town of Amalfi, south of Naples, set his sights on a life of promise in the United States. In 1910, he embarked on a life-changing journey, leaving behind his homeland and loved ones. Antonio’s heart yearned for companionship, and he sought the hand of his childhood acquaintance, Lucia, whom he had known since she was a mere girl. Their love story crossed oceans, and in 1920, Lucia, accompanied by her sister Rosina, boarded the Giuseppe Verdi bound for the shores of opportunity.
Arriving in America, Lucia and Antonio exchanged vows and embarked on a new chapter together. Antonio’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish a humble store, where he provided his close-knit Italian neighborhood with the tastes and aromas of home—fresh pasta and other essential provisions. Rosina, too, found her happiness in the neighborhood, tying the knot with a local man.
Michael, a bright and talented young man, was known not only for his prowess on the high school golf team but also for his leadership as an officer in the student legislature. In 1939, he proudly donned his graduation cap, ready to face the world and pursue his dreams. It was during his last visit home, in the summer of 1941, that he shared a secret with his dear friend Clara Foster—a promise that they would dance together once his naval service concluded the following June.
But the wheels of fate turned mercilessly, and that heartfelt promise would forever remain unfulfilled. Clara, however, clung to a dream that unfolded in her mind’s eye for six long decades. In her reverie, Michael was on his way to their long-awaited date, while Clara, filled with anticipation, frantically searched for her dress, fearing that their plans would be thwarted.
Though reality shattered her dreams, the memory of Michael’s unwavering devotion and their unspoken connection continued to live on within Clara’s heart.
A few weeks before the catastrophic events that would forever alter the course of history, Michael poured his emotions onto paper, penning a heartfelt letter addressed to his hometown newspaper. With poignant words, he titled it “In Defense of the Uniform,” an impassioned plea to his fellow civilians to honor and respect the men and women who served far from home. Little did he know that his words would ignite a spark, a flame of gratitude that would endure long after his untimely departure.
The impact of Michael’s letter echoed through the years and left an indelible mark on the fabric of Monterey’s history. In a testament to his enduring legacy, the recreation building at the Navy’s postgraduate school in Monterey was named Criscuolo Hall. It stood proudly, a beacon of remembrance, within the very walls that once witnessed Michael and his comrades diligently tending to their duties at the Hotel Del Monte.
Meanwhile, Lucia Criscuolo, Michael’s mother, carried the weight of grief and pride as she navigated the aftermath of her beloved son’s sacrifice. Every Friday, without fail, she adorned the enlisted men’s club with vibrant bouquets of flowers, offering solace and a gentle reminder that her love for these brave souls endured. In return, the men at the postgraduate school reciprocated her affection, ensuring that roses graced her doorstep every Mother’s Day. Their connection transcended time, a poignant reminder of the son she lost and the countless sons and daughters who embodied the same bravery and selflessness.
On the eve of the 24th anniversary of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, December 1965, tears welled in Lucia’s eyes as a young sailor, a symbol of the next generation, extended a bouquet of roses to her trembling hands. With a voice choked with emotion, she uttered the words, “You are like my boy.” In that tender moment, the threads of the past and present intertwined—a testament to the enduring bond forged by shared sacrifice and unwavering devotion to a cause greater than oneself.
Y2c Michael Criscuolo, a young man who possessed an unwavering love for his country, paid the ultimate price on that fateful day in 1941. His dreams of dancing with Clara and his aspirations for a future beyond the battleship Arizona were abruptly cut short. Yet, his legacy lives on, carried by the winds of patriotism that whisper through the generations.
In the annals of history, Michael’s name is forever etched alongside the heroes who gallantly defended the United States at Pearl Harbor. His story serves as a reminder that the cost of freedom is high and that the sacrifices made by brave individuals like him should never be forgotten. As the stars and stripes unfurl in the sky, his spirit soars alongside them, a testament to the enduring spirit of patriotism that burns bright in the hearts of those who dare to dream and stand up for what they believe in.
So let us remember Y2c Michael Criscuolo, a son, a friend, and a hero, whose life was a testament to the resilience, courage, and unwavering love for his country. May his memory inspire us to cherish the liberties we hold dear and to honor the sacrifice of those who have fallen in service to the United States of America.
NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM.
Sources: Many thanks to Betty Gleason Beavers for most of this information. She is the wife of Mike Beavers, who was named in honor of his uncle, Michael Criscuolo. Mrs. Beavers interviewed Clara Foster. Other sources include the Monterey County Herald; the Monterey Peninsula; Census. This profile was rewritten by “Operation 85” from the original sourced profile written by Bobbi Jo Buel on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.
Footnote: The ship that brought Lucia Pappacoda and Rosina Criscuolo to America was sold to Japan in 1928 and renamed the Yamato Maru. A U.S. submarine torpedoed and sank it in the Philippines in 1943.