Mastroianni Won’t Forget June 6, 1944
By RICK THORP
Posted May 8, 2008
Editor’s Note— This is Part 5 of a series about
the 1946 Ohio-West Virginia All-Star Football Game and the decision
by the OVAC to honor those who played in it at Sunday’s 62nd Rudy
Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic. The 1946 game was the
first one played after a three-year break for World War II and
included many players who had just returned home after fighting in
the war. The series will run each day through Saturday leading up to
Football was the last thing on Guido Mastroianni’s mind during the
early morning hours of June 6, 1944.
A paratrooper in the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd
Airborne Division, Mastroianni was about to be thrust into the
largest airborne assault in military history — Operation Overlord —
or as it commonly known, D-Day.
‘‘I was scared to death, we all were,’’ the Wintersville resident
remembered. ‘‘We didn’t know what was coming, but we learned
With a pitch-black sky overhead, Mastroianni and his comrades
boarded hundreds of transport planes and gliders and headed toward
the coast of France, specifically Normandy, with the mission of
gaining a foothold on the continent from the Axis powers.
At at about 1 a.m., Mastroianni’s plane reached its intended
‘‘We jumped like 18 miles inland,’’ the sharp-minded Mastroianni
But when he jumped from the plane, he didn’t know what or who would
greet him when he landed.
For many of his fellow jumpers, it was a watery demise.
‘‘The Germans knew we were going to come,’’ the 1943 Steubenville
High School graduate said. ‘‘They flooded the area, and I landed
about three feet from the water.
‘‘A lot of paratroopers drowned.’’
After he landed, Mastroianni found a knife he had in his uniform and
he cut himself out of his parachute. He cut his finger in the
‘‘I got up and they told us to fix our bayonets,’’ he said. ‘‘I
fixed it like they said and I’m running and this tree branch caught
me, and I thought somebody had jumped me.
‘‘It knocked me backwards and I grabbed my gun and here comes my
sergeant and he’s like ‘Don’t shoot, it’s me.’
‘‘It was quite an experience for anybody.’’
By the time Allied forces liberated Paris, thousands of lives had
been lost. Fortunately, Mastroianni lived to fight another day.
‘‘Most of us were pretty lucky,’’ he said.
In October 1944, Mastroianni participated in Operation Market Garden
in the Netherlands. And later that winter, the 508th lent a hand in
the frigid Battle of the Bulge.
The battlefields of Europe were a far cry from the football fields
of the Ohio Valley.
As a youngster, Mastroianni was one of the key pieces of
Steubenville’s talented units of the late 1930s and early 1940s. And
he was a part of one of the finest eras in Ohio high school football
‘‘We played Bellaire, Martins Ferry, Massillon and Alliance,’’ the
former Big Red end and halfback recalled.
‘‘Football in this valley is a tough sport. It’s good, all up and
down the river.’’
Mastroianni particularly remembers Big Red’s battles against
Massillon and Canton McKinley, traditionally a pair of Buckeye State
‘‘In 1942, we lost one game and it was to Massillon,’’ he said.
‘‘But we were winning 7-6 at the half. The final score was 33-19,
but we gave them everything they could handle in the first half.’’
‘‘They were awesome. They would intimidate you a little bit. They
were all really polished ball players.’’
The Tigers program had been built by legendary coach Paul Brown.
After facing Brown’s teams during his first two years of high
school, the coach left Northeast Ohio and headed to Ohio State to
guide the Buckeyes before moving on to Cleveland to orchestrate the
Browns’ dynasty of the late 1940s and early 1950s.
‘‘They were smart and they picked us off one at a time,’’
Mastroianni continued. ‘‘(Johnny) Stojack dislocated his shoulder
and didn’t play in the second half.’’
Stojack was a seasoned veteran who was well-known for his prowess in
‘‘His type of ball player would only come along once in a great
while,’’ Mastroianni said. ‘‘When he was a freshman, he was playing
varsity football. That’s how good he was.
‘‘He had a super arm and he could run, he could kick ... he wasn’t a
fast runner, but he was a weaving runner.’’
Stojack and Mastroianni were quite the combination. Both boys wanted
to play collegiately, and it looked like they would get an
opportunity when a coach from Penn State visited Jefferson County.
But Uncle Sam soon came calling.
‘‘At the time, school or no school, you went into the service,’’
‘‘I got my diploma June 3, 1943, and two weeks later I was gone.’’
After the war ended, Mastroianni was dispatched to Frankfurt,
Germany. While there, he strapped on the pads again for the 508th
‘‘We had a good football team,’’ he said. ‘‘We had guys from Yale
and Harvard. We only lost one game.’’
Upon his return to the states in 1946, he married his wife, Dorothy,
and started working.
Still wanting to play collegiately, he decided to attend
Steubenville College and play for its fledgling grid outfit in 1947.
The season didn’t open too well for Steubenville, as it dropped a
60-6 decision to Cam Henderson’s Marshall squad.
But prior to his collegiate stint, Mastroianni got word of the
Ohio-West Virginia contest.
‘‘They advertised it pretty good,’’ Mastroianni remembered.
Mastroianni was joined on the Ohio roster by Richard Lashley,
Richard Lawrence and Stojack.
‘‘We had a ball,’’ he said. ‘‘Stojack was terrific that night.’’
Newspaper accounts of Ohio’s 26-7 triumph before a large Wheeling
Island Stadium throng show that Stojack scored three touchdowns,
with Mastroianni booting a pair of extra-point kicks.
‘‘It was nice,’’ Mastroianni said of the game. ‘‘We had a good time.
And we whipped them.’’