If you thanked 96-year-old World War II veteran Arthur Bonne for his service, he would say, “Don’t thank me, thank the guys who never got to come home.” Nevertheless, residents celebrated Bonne on Nov. 12 when the West Hempstead Public Library hosted a pictorial presentation of his life in the U.S. Army.
Bonne, a lifelong resident of West Hempstead, was drafted in 1942 at the age of 21. Assigned to work as a control tower radio operator at airfields in India from 1944 to 1946, he avoided combat. “When I was drafted, I thought it was wonderful,” Bonne said. “I went to the best places, I never had a weapon, and I had a great experience.”
He said that his childhood hobbies, which included communicating through ham radios, likely kept him from the combat fields. “I taught myself how to use Morse code,” Bonne said. “Working with radios was always one of my favorite hobbies.”
He was also a cartoonist who drew illustrations of life in India. He would send letters with his illustrations to his wife, Anna. “He developed hobbies that created an outlet for him,” said his daughter Suzanne, who organized the presentation. “He’s stuck to these hobbies ever since.”
Bonne’s time in the Army was disturbed on April 14, 1944, by the Bombay bombing, which killed about 1,300 people. He was just a few hundred feet away from the blasts. Although he didn’t discuss that moment, people who watched his presentation were in awe of his experience.
“I’m grateful and I’m in full admiration of Arthur’s experiences,” said Eddie Rosenblum, a veteran who also served in World War II. “Between Arthur and myself, I think we did a fairly good job in protecting and supporting our country.”
“The fact that he was a kid at the time and that he went thousands of miles away not knowing anybody, not knowing what was going to happen and just the sheer mystery of it all, I think it was pretty commendable,” said another daughter, Barbara.
Gerry Manginelli, president of the Calverton National Cemetery committee also attended the presentation to thank Bonne for his service. “It’s just really terrific that the community would get behind and support people who meant so much to us, because without them, we’d probably be in a very different place right now,” Manginelli said. “To see the community come out and to see them support the Bonne family is really inspirational, and it shows that they appreciate the service of our veterans.”
“It’s wonderful that they documented this piece of history for all of us,” said Roseanne Dorfman, program coordinator at the library. “I was very moved by the whole presentation and I’m glad that he celebrated his years of service with us.”
Shortly after he completed his military service in 1946, Bonne worked as a telephone engineer for several decades. Today, he still draws and fixes radios. Last year, his name was added to the Walls of Honor, a memorial for veterans at Eisenhower Park. He has also been a longtime member of West Hempstead’s American Legion Robert Van Cott Post 1139.
He said he was surprised to see so many residents commending him, but he wanted to remind people that he’s still got much to give.
“I’m pretty old but I still get around,” Bonne said.