“I guess you could say I have realized the American Dream,” said 87-year-old Daniel Sant as he sat down with The Ledger at his home in Goldens Bridge last week. “When I came to this country from Malta with my family, we were the poorest of the poor, but we pulled ourselves up and everything turned out all right.”
Mr. Sant, a veteran of World War II, will be inducted into the 40th State Senate District’s third annual Veterans Hall of Fame on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m. at the Mahopac Falls Elementary School.
State Sen. Greg Ball (R,C, I-Patterson) announced Mr. Sant’s induction along with that of 22 other veterans from his district.
“I created the Veterans Hall of Fame to honor outstanding individuals who have nobly and selflessly served the United States of America,” he said. “Nominated by their communities, these heroic men and women have pursued a distinguished path in both their military and civilian lives, demonstrating admirable qualities and reaching great achievements worthy of this recognition.”
Each veteran honored at the ceremony will also be included on a traveling wall that will tour local municipalities and schools throughout the 40th District.
The immigrant experience
Mr. Sant was born on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean. His father was a seaman at the British naval base located there.
“My father, Salvatore Sant, decided to come to America for a better life for his family,” he said. “He went on ahead and on Aug. 28, 1928, our family of four departed Malta for America on a steamship, the President Wilson.”
Mr. Sant was only 22 months old on the Atlantic crossing, which was made with his mother, Marianna, and siblings, Erminia and Salvatore Jr.
“We arrived in New York on Sept. 26, 1928,” he said. “The trip from Malta took a month and we were processed through Ellis Island. The family first settled in lower Manhattan on Ludlow Street and then moved north to East Harlem. We then moved to central Harlem, where we lived until I was 14, and then to the Italian section of Harlem.”
World War II began to unfold and Mr. Sant was drafted into the Army at the age of 18 in 1945.
Mr. Sant completed his basic training at Camp Blanding in Florida and was shipped to Camp Stoneham, the U.S. Army base in Oakland, Calif. “This was all after Pearl Harbor and the Army was building up forces for the occupation of Japan,” he said. “After the bombing of Tokyo, we were sent over to begin our work.”
Mr. Sant sailed into Tokyo Bay and landed in Yokohama. “They had a gigantic camp set up with six-man tents as far as the eye could see,” he said. “Unfortunately, everything was set up in the mud. We stayed there for a while and were then set north to the island of Hokaido. I was in the 77th Division, 305th Regiment. I was assigned to S2 regimental army intelligence duty.”
The Army occupied the largest city on the northern island, and the U.S. troops set about checking all of the villages and towns in the area, searching for weapons and anti-U.S. activity. “We had to take inventory of the contents of all of the public buildings and warehouses, and map the area, noting anything of military value, such as bridges, tunnels, and highways,” he said.
Mr. Sant stayed on the island of Hokaido for four months and was awarded the Expert Infantryman’s Badge for outstanding service.
“I was then transferred back to Tokyo, where I was part of a mission of keeping order and peace along with guarding facilities, including radio stations, museums, and the Imperial Palace. I stayed in Tokyo until I was discharged in 1946 at the age of 20 with the rank of private, first class.”
In Old Goldens Bridge
Mr. Sant returned to the United States and back to New York City. “I met my beautiful wife, Frances, in 1949,” he said. “I worked as a machinist on the old New York Central railroad and Frances was a secretary. We saved our money, bought a piece of land in Goldens Bridge and built this brick house in Goldens Bridge, moving here in 1955.”
The couple adopted two children, Anna Marie and Frances.
The family enjoyed many happy years in Goldens Bridge and saw major changes over the years.
“When I-684 was built in the late 1960s it destroyed many houses and the entire business district, including three favorite local bars — the Rendezvous, Fritz’s and Fagan’s,” he said. “Thankfully our house on Old Bedford Road was spared.”
Mr. Sant and Frances were married for 64 years. “I retired from the railroad, now Metro-North, in 1992, and spent a lot of my time after that caring fo