Oral History : Joe Ruggiero. 2016

Joe Ruggiero, aka “Joey Chips” since he always showed up at a party with a bag of chips, was a WWII vet who was still driving in 2016 at the time of this interview. He passed in early 2024.  He was the embodiment of the Greatest Generation.

He served as a Bosun Mate on the Navy vessel THURSTON and participated in 6 D-Days in 4 years including Normandy, Casablanca, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. 

To hear his interview tap here, or scroll down towards the bottom of the page. 

Joe Ruggiero was born in 1925 and moved to Red Hook, Brooklyn when he was 6 years old. He remembers South Brooklyn during the depression when the docks were bustling but the living was hard.

He joined the Navy at age 17 in 1941 six months after Pearl Harbor and served aboard the USS Thurston for the duration of the war. The USS Thurston, a troop transport ship which served at many of the war’s major invasion sites — North Africa, Sicily, Normandy and Iwo Jima.

The USS Thurston was outfitted in Atlantic Basin from cargo ship to troop carrier in 1941. The USS Thurston returned to Todd Shipyard dry docks (where the Ikea is presently) throughout the war years.

After returning to Brooklyn, Ruggiero held a variety of factory jobs — as a cutter and then mechanic at the Exquisite Form brassiere factory, among others- before landing a job as a deckhand on the Staten Island Ferry.

Ruggiero worked for 25 years on the Staten Island Ferry and then 13 years on the Governor’s Island Ferry before retiring at 73 years old.

He was married for 58 years at the time of this interview and had 2 daughters and several grandchildren. He lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn and enjoyed visiting the Red Hook VFW Post 5195 where he was a regular. 

He passed in 2024: January 16, 1925 ~ February 23, 2024 (age 99).


USS Thurston (AP-77)

USS Thurston (AP-77)

Source: Photo No. 80-G-311362 Source: U.S. National Archives, RG-80-G. This print is from RG-19-LCM, mis-filed in the folder for APA-77. Accessed at http://www.shipscribe.com/usnaux/AP/AP77-p.html View File Details Page


Joe Ruggiero at Red Hook VFW

View File Details Page



Item Relations

Item: Todd Shipyards is related to This Item


  • Joseph Ruggiero was interviewed on February 24, 2016 at the VFW Post 5195 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, by Jenny Kane for PortSide NewYork’s Red Hook Water Stories.

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