• toms river
  • Ocean
  • October 10, 1946
  • March 04, 1966
  • Marines
  • RANK:
  • LCPL
  • KIA
  • South Vietnam


Peter Gary Scavuzzo was born on October 10, 1946, to William and Ann Scavuzzo.  He was the second of four boys.  His home of record is Toms River, NJ.  His nickname was "Scooz."  

Peter attended Toms River High School and enlisted in the US Marine Corps from Toms River even before graduation.  Scavuzzo went to Boot Camp in at Parris Island, SC, after graduation.  Scavuzzo served with H Company, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division and deployed to Vietnam in August 1965.  He attained the rank of Lance Corporal (LCPL/E3).  He served as an infantryman.

On March 4, 1966, Scavuzzo was killed in action in Quang Ngai Province in South Vietnam in an attack on North Vietnamese troops on the first day of Operation Utah. 

Peter was buried on March 17, 1966, with full military honors at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Toms River.

The following is an excerpt taken from an article Vietnam Lingering Sadness that appeared in The Star Ledger on Sunday, April 2, 2000:

Anne Cullen is not a maudlin woman, but sometimes her voice catches or her eyes well up when she speaks of the things she has learned about the soldiers and their families.

"I'll tell you," she said at one such moment, "these stories can really get to you."

Peter Scavuzzo's story did.

His mother, Ann Scavuzzo, called Cullen at her home a few days after the conversation with his brother.  She said she would do whatever she could to help Cullen preserve the memory of her son.  She promised to drop a few things in the mail.

Ann Scavuzzo has a metal suitcase beneath a bed in her house where she keeps letters, photos and other reminders of her son.  He was gone 12 years before she could open it without crying.  She picked out a few things and dropped them in the mail for Cullen.

One was a photocopy of an article published three days after Scavuzzo's funeral in the Asbury Park Sunday Press.  The headline read, "How will they remember Peter Scavuzzo?"  It set forth at length the details of his short life.  It will be the source of much of the information Cullen will include in his biography.

From the article, Cullen learned that Peter was the second of four boys born to William and Ann Scavuzzo.

His nickname was Scooz.

He knew every kid, dog and cat in Indian Hill Estates.  He delivered newspapers on a bicycle with a high-rise extension seat.  He talked a lot - a lot! - but listened long enough that he always seemed to know everybody else's business.

He collected HO-gauge trains and made models of racecars and dinosaurs.  He was forever digging things up.  One day, he came home with a sack full of empty paint cans.  His mother joked that he would grow up to be a garbage man or an archeologist.

He thought he might like to be a pediatrician, though he never worked very hard at his studies.

His closest childhood friend was his next-door neighbor, Norbert Krause.

In high school, Peter bagged groceries at Shop Rite, played on the varsity soccer team and took a family friend to the junior prom.  He enjoyed dancing, and he fancied flashy sports coats.  His favorite was a black and white hounds tooth check.

His folks wanted him to go to college. He insisted on the Marine Corps.  Boot camp made college seem like a good idea to him.

He was saving for a car.

When he got his orders to go to Vietnam, Peter called home and told only his mother.  His brother was getting married the next month.  She kept the secret until after the wedding.

Peter's father, a district manager for Foodarama, read about the growing conflict in Vietnam in the newspapers and worried terribly about what might happen to his boy.  He woke from a dream one night and told his wife, "I'll never see Peter again."

"The night is a lot darker in the underbrush," Peter wrote in a chilling letter home from the jungle near Chu Lai.  "You can see about five feet directly to your front and everything closes in on you.  You feel the alonest feeling you ever felt."

He closed the letter this way:  "I think this is a war of fools."

In early March 1966, as the Scavuzzos were preparing for a vacation in Florida, Ann Scavuzzo dropped by the local police department and left the family's itinerary just in case somebody needed to contact them in an emergency.

They were in St. Petersburg when the news of Peter's death arrived.

He was buried March 17 after a military funeral at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Toms River.

In the envelope with the newspaper story, Ann Scavuzzo included two photographs she had talked about during her phone conversation with Cullen.  Cullen said those photographs - and the comments Ann Scavuzzo made about them - will be an important part of the biography she writes.

One is of Peter in uniform shortly after he joined the Marine Corps - fresh-faced, bright-eyed, smiling pleasantly, proudly.

The other shows him shortly before his death, after several months in Vietnam, clutching an M-16.

What Peter Scavuzzo's mom told Anne Cullen about those photographs was this:  A mother can tell just by the look of his eyes how that war changed her boy into a man.

Sources: Anne Cullen (volunteer), newspapers and NJVVMF.


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