War years / The Soldiers

jbendick

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Mar 5, 2007
Messages
74
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    With almost a 60 year relationship with the fire service, I have seen a lot. I began first going to fires with the Civil Defense in Yonkers, and then spent 37 years with the FDNY and  in some of the best companies ( E 96, Sq. 2, E 75, Bn 19, E 75, Lt E 68 and Capt. E 23) on the job. During those years I have worked with some of the best firemen in the world.  There were numerous medal winners among them. But getting a medal is not the only way to be known as a good firemen  A good fireman is a person who can overcome a natural human fear and get the job done. After evaluating a situation, weight the negative and positive  you must be recognized as a team player, know your job, and strive to do better. These firemen also are the mentors to the younger members and should pass their knowledge on. When the job gets tough he is the one you want with you. It is very difficult to say who was the best fireman . Ever department has individuals who have these qualities to get the job done.

  If I had to pick one out, it would be Lt. James McClay  ( The Sgt Major} of Squad 2. He was a tall impressive  man with a handlebar mustache. He looked  like a British Sgt. Major. IN MY OPINION HE WAS THE TOUGHEST MAN I HAVE EVER KNOWN ON OR OFF THE JOB. Like Tough Tim he was into contact sports. I heard he was playing semi-pro football into his fifties. He was also a Marine.  He was a fireman in the squad before being promoted. This was very unusual as they frowned on a promoted firemen returning to their company. However, being a very persuasive individual, it happened. I believe he was a founding member of the Emerald Society Band and a friend of John T O'Hagan. Most of my knowledge of Lt.  McClay came from the kitchen. Therefore please correct me if I am wrong.

    My first tour (6 pm to 9 am) with him we were riding out of the Tin House, as the first section of E 85. At that time the squad was doing a round robin, riding as first sections of E73, E82 and E85. During the Adopt Response times we would ride as an engine from 3 pm till 1 am and then revert to a Squad . Our first run was for rubbish in a playground , While we were operating one of the brothers got in a verbal spat with a local.  Upon returning to the Tin House, the Lt. called us to the rear of the apparatus floor. As I looked around I realized I was the only one who had not worked with him. The first thing he did is remind everyone he was the boss. If there was any exchange with the locals, he would be the one to handle the situation. Lastly, the part I liked best he told us if you did not want to go to fires get the f--king out of his group. He did not believe in R&R. When he got on the rig we better be ready for the next job. This is what I transferred in for.

 

nfd2004

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Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
5,799
Thank you Capt Bendick, aka "jbendick", for telling us a story from those FDNY War Years and one of the Soldiers (Lt McClay) who were among it.

I didn't know Capt Bendick or Lt McClay at the time. But no doubt, I watched them work so many times together.

Today of course, Retired FDNY Captain John Bendick and myself are very good friends, along with so many others on here.

Over the years that we've known each other, there's never been a shortage of FDNY stories to listen to. I hope that Capt Bendick will tell us more of them. Add in a few more threads like "Glory Days", "Remembrance", "FDNY Firehouses and Fire Companies", "My Younger Buff Years", etc, Plus the pictures like "mikeindabronx" has on his web site ( www.fdnysbravest.com ), and you have some of the GREATEST Stories, written by, and told by, the guys who were right in the middle of it all. 
 

*******

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Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
195
I would like to add my admiration and respect for Lt. Jim McClay. During my time in 82 myself and Jim were in the same group number,7. As I have written before to keep 82's numbers down we were on forced interchange every second night tour to either E295 or 297. The night tours in between Sq. 2, Lt. McClay and guys rode 1st due for 82 from 1900 to 0100. Over the years I got to know Jimmy very personally. He was without a doubt one of the great and respected one's during this busy time period. Unfortunately though the beating he took shortened his life time and he passed much to soon on retirement. Rest in Peace Jimmy, was always, always a pleasure to work with you and have known you.
 

68jk09

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Joined
May 6, 2010
Messages
12,587
^^^^^ Although i never actually worked with Red McClay i have heard many of his exploits during the FDNY War Years....i had the privilege of having his Nephew Gary Mc as one of my original SQ*41 Chauffeurs....an all around great guy ....Gary's career was cut short later on due to medical issues while a LT in ENG*69.
 

Iruscigno

New member
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Messages
4
MC-CLAY-jpg.jpg

With almost a 60 year relationship with the fire service, I have seen a lot. I began first going to fires with the Civil Defense in Yonkers, and then spent 37 years with the FDNY and in some of the best companies ( E 96, Sq. 2, E 75, Bn 19, E 75, Lt E 68 and Capt. E 23) on the job. During those years I have worked with some of the best firemen in the world. There were numerous medal winners among them. But getting a medal is not the only way to be known as a good firemen A good fireman is a person who can overcome a natural human fear and get the job done. After evaluating a situation, weight the negative and positive you must be recognized as a team player, know your job, and strive to do better. These firemen also are the mentors to the younger members and should pass their knowledge on. When the job gets tough he is the one you want with you. It is very difficult to say who was the best fireman . Ever department has individuals who have these qualities to get the job done.

If I had to pick one out, it would be Lt. James McClay ( The Sgt Major} of Squad 2. He was a tall impressive man with a handlebar mustache. He looked like a British Sgt. Major. IN MY OPINION HE WAS THE TOUGHEST MAN I HAVE EVER KNOWN ON OR OFF THE JOB. Like Tough Tim he was into contact sports. I heard he was playing semi-pro football into his fifties. He was also a Marine. He was a fireman in the squad before being promoted. This was very unusual as they frowned on a promoted firemen returning to their company. However, being a very persuasive individual, it happened. I believe he was a founding member of the Emerald Society Band and a friend of John T O'Hagan. Most of my knowledge of Lt. McClay came from the kitchen. Therefore please correct me if I am wrong.

My first tour (6 pm to 9 am) with him we were riding out of the Tin House, as the first section of E 85. At that time the squad was doing a round robin, riding as first sections of E73, E82 and E85. During the Adopt Response times we would ride as an engine from 3 pm till 1 am and then revert to a Squad . Our first run was for rubbish in a playground , While we were operating one of the brothers got in a verbal spat with a local. Upon returning to the Tin House, the Lt. called us to the rear of the apparatus floor. As I looked around I realized I was the only one who had not worked with him. The first thing he did is remind everyone he was the boss. If there was any exchange with the locals, he would be the one to handle the situation. Lastly, the part I liked best he told us if you did not want to go to fires get the f--king out of his group. He did not believe in R&R. When he got on the rig we better be ready for the next job. This is what I transferred in for.
 

Iruscigno

New member
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Messages
4
View attachment 5637

With almost a 60 year relationship with the fire service, I have seen a lot. I began first going to fires with the Civil Defense in Yonkers, and then spent 37 years with the FDNY and in some of the best companies ( E 96, Sq. 2, E 75, Bn 19, E 75, Lt E 68 and Capt. E 23) on the job. During those years I have worked with some of the best firemen in the world. There were numerous medal winners among them. But getting a medal is not the only way to be known as a good firemen A good fireman is a person who can overcome a natural human fear and get the job done. After evaluating a situation, weight the negative and positive you must be recognized as a team player, know your job, and strive to do better. These firemen also are the mentors to the younger members and should pass their knowledge on. When the job gets tough he is the one you want with you. It is very difficult to say who was the best fireman . Ever department has individuals who have these qualities to get the job done.

If I had to pick one out, it would be Lt. James McClay ( The Sgt Major} of Squad 2. He was a tall impressive man with a handlebar mustache. He looked like a British Sgt. Major. IN MY OPINION HE WAS THE TOUGHEST MAN I HAVE EVER KNOWN ON OR OFF THE JOB. Like Tough Tim he was into contact sports. I heard he was playing semi-pro football into his fifties. He was also a Marine. He was a fireman in the squad before being promoted. This was very unusual as they frowned on a promoted firemen returning to their company. However, being a very persuasive individual, it happened. I believe he was a founding member of the Emerald Society Band and a friend of John T O'Hagan. Most of my knowledge of Lt. McClay came from the kitchen. Therefore please correct me if I am wrong.

My first tour (6 pm to 9 am) with him we were riding out of the Tin House, as the first section of E 85. At that time the squad was doing a round robin, riding as first sections of E73, E82 and E85. During the Adopt Response times we would ride as an engine from 3 pm till 1 am and then revert to a Squad . Our first run was for rubbish in a playground , While we were operating one of the brothers got in a verbal spat with a local. Upon returning to the Tin House, the Lt. called us to the rear of the apparatus floor. As I looked around I realized I was the only one who had not worked with him. The first thing he did is remind everyone he was the boss. If there was any exchange with the locals, he would be the one to handle the situation. Lastly, the part I liked best he told us if you did not want to go to fires get the f--king out of his group. He did not believe in R&R. When he got on the rig we better be ready for the next job. This is what I transferred in for.
Lt McClay was my dad. He was truly an impressive figure to all who he came in contact with. HIs love for his nieces and nephews (Gary McClay) was unconditional. He was beloved by children who used to call for him and ask if the "Magic Man" could come out and play with them and he'd show them tricks or hide pennies all over our yard for them to find. As I mentioned, he was my dad, but more than that he was my step dad...his love for children and his desire to do the right thing by us, for us and for our children provided us an opportunity to learn ethics and cajones from the best. I use so many of his lessons in my every day life and feel blessed to have seen the inner workings of the NYFD which store only good memories of comrades who faced danger every day to save others from the demon that calls all fire fighters with a sirens song known by no others.....to those that know the devil and fight it bravely so that we may be spared. Thank you for letting me be a part of this forum...i think I will have such good memories and hope to find memorabilia and photos to share as well.
 

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nfd2004

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
5,799
Iruscigna, as "raybrag" says we welcome you aboard.

I can tell you that Retired Capt John Bendick, who is the administrator of this web site, has ALWAYS spoken to me about what a great firefighter your father was.

I chased the trucks as a buff in those days and I can remember when Engine 75 was the busiest engine co in the city. As I say to John, I'm sure I saw you guys in action at dozens of fires back then.

There are some great stories, videos and photos from back in those days when your father was on the job. Just check in the History section on this site. There's plenty to see and read about there.

It is an HONOR to have you here among us.

Willy
 

jbendick

Administrator
Joined
Mar 5, 2007
Messages
74
Iruscigno I hope that my little story brought a smile and a little pride to you. I not only had the privilege of working with your Dad but also with your cousin Gary, both exceptionable firemen. Like tough Timmy (Capt. Eng. 88) his love for the job was second to the love for his family. As I said before my knowledge of him , was limited to what I heard in the kitchen, so Iruscigno please correct any errors or omission.
I got to the Squad in Sept. 1972 and left in August 1974. Prior to going to the Sq. I was in 96 Eng. they had to reduce their roster. The lift went by seniority. I was not in the group to be transferred, but if I volunteered I could go to the company I wanted. I was approached by Teddy Scott, a great guy and on his way to becoming a outstanding fireman to put in for Sq.2. When the orders came out , we both went to the Sq. Many years later I was thanked the member of E96 who I replaced on the list .
Besides being a special unit on all hands or better, Unlike today Sq's we were primarily fire duty units doing what ever required on the fireground . Many times we would operate a line and pull our own ceilings. I believe Lt.
When not operating as a Sq. we would become the 1st section of E73, E82 and E85 during the hr's of 3pm to 1am taking in their boxes 1st due to reduce their work load. The best part was after 1 am we were living a firemans dream only going to working fires.
Unfortunately, due to vacations, medical leaves and group changes the number of tours we worked together were limited. But there were two that stuck in my mind. The first was a job on an afternoon in a multi family brownstone. The fire was on the 2nd fl. This day I had the backup position. The standard procedures after the door is open, is to let the fire and smoke vent. Then stay low and go in when the smoke lifted off the floor. But this afternoon the Lt. said we go when the door is open. It was like going into the belly of the beast. In the early 1970s it was common that the nozzle team didn't wear masks. I had been in numerous fires without a mask. But this was the most dense and toxic smoke I have ever operated in. I must say, I thought more then once about bailing out. But the senior man behind me must have read my mind. Even if I wanted to, there was no way I was getting by him. Upon getting to the end of a long hallway, we found no fire. After retracing our steps back to the door, we found fire in the first room. It was 2 tires behind a partition. I believe he was testing me to see if I had what it took to do it his way.
The second was a fire in a vacant MD on Easter night 1974. I had just returned to full duty from being on medical leave for knee burns. The fire was on the 1st Fl.in a rear room. The N.Y. building code says that a building over a certain square footage must be seperated by a brick firewall. Again the fire was at the end of a long hallway. At the time we were using the Ft-2 tip, not my favorite. Upon d the room, it seemed, to get hotter. I tried to whip line around to no avail. When it was all over I had 2nd degree burns to my knees and ears, and went back to medical leave. When I returned to qtrs. from the hospital, the Lt. explained that because of the 3 brick walls,it was like pouring water into any oven and making steam. This was my last tour with your Dad and the squad.
When I look back working with Dad (Lt. McClay) the experience and confidence I got in those two years would equal some peoples, whole career. I would also like to thank all the Officers and members of Squad 2 and Engine73 helping me to a better fireman.
 
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Iruscigno

New member
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Messages
4
Iruscigno I hope that my little story brought a smile and a little pride to you. I not only had the privilege of working with your Dad but also with your cousin Gary, both exceptionable firemen. Like tough Timmy (Capt. Eng. 88) his love for the job was second to the love for his family. As I said before my knowledge of him , was limited to what I heard in the kitchen, so Iruscigno please correct any errors or omission.
I got to the Squad in Sept. 1972 and left in August 1974. Prior to going to the Sq. I was in 96 Eng. they had to reduce their roster. The lift went by seniority. I was not in the group to be transferred, but if I volunteered I could go to the company I wanted. I was approached by Teddy Scott, a great guy and on his way to becoming a outstanding fireman to put in for Sq.2. When the orders came out , we both went to the Sq. Many years later I was thanked the member of E96 who I replaced on the list .
Besides being a special unit on all hands or better, Unlike today Sq's we were primarily fire duty units doing what ever required on the fireground . Many times we would operate a line and pull our own ceilings. I believe Lt.
When not operating as a Sq. we would become the 1st section of E73, E82 and E85 during the hr's of 3pm to 1am taking in their boxes 1st due to reduce their work load. The best part was after 1 am we were living a firemans dream only going to working fires.
Unfortunately, due to vacations, medical leaves and group changes the number of tours we worked together were limited. But there were two that stuck in my mind. The first was a job on an afternoon in a multi family brownstone. The fire was on the 2nd fl. This day I had the backup position. The standard procedures after the door is open, is to let the fire and smoke vent. Then stay low and go in when the smoke lifted off the floor. But this afternoon the Lt. said we go when the door is open. It was like going into the belly of the beast. In the early 1970s it was common that the nozzle team didn't wear masks. I had been in numerous fires without a mask. But this was the most dense and toxic smoke I have ever operated in. I must say, I thought more then once about bailing out. But the senior man behind me must have read my mind. Even if I wanted to, there was no way I was getting by him. Upon getting to the end of a long hallway, we found no fire. After retracing our steps back to the door, we found fire in the first room. It was 2 tires behind a partition. I believe he was testing me to see if I had what it took to do it his way.
The second was a fire in a vacant MD on Easter night 1974. I had just returned to full duty from being on medical leave for knee burns. The fire was on the 1st Fl.in a rear room. The N.Y. building code says that a building over a certain square footage must be seperated by a brick firewall. Again the fire was at the end of a long hallway. At the time we were using the Ft-2 tip, not my favorite. Upon d the room, it seemed, to get hotter. I tried to whip line around to no avail. When it was all over I had 2nd degree burns to my knees and ears, and went back to medical leave. When I returned to qtrs. from the hospital, the Lt. explained that because of the 3 brick walls,it was like pouring water into any oven and making steam. This was my last tour with your Dad and the squad.
When I look back working with Dad (Lt. McClay) the experience and confidence I got in those two years would equal some peoples, whole career. I would also like to thank all the Officers and members of Squad 2 and Engine73 helping me to a better fireman.
Thank you for sharing. On his deathbed my dad remembered the worst fire (the one he thinks was the most toxic and probably the cause of his early demise) was in a gum factory (they made gum with minty mouthwash that rxploded. Well to him he said those barrels filled with that stuff were exploding and he never smelled anything like it.
 

Iruscigno

New member
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Messages
4
Not wearing a mask
Iruscigno I hope that my little story brought a smile and a little pride to you. I not only had the privilege of working with your Dad but also with your cousin Gary, both exceptionable firemen. Like tough Timmy (Capt. Eng. 88) his love for the job was second to the love for his family. As I said before my knowledge of him , was limited to what I heard in the kitchen, so Iruscigno please correct any errors or omission.
I got to the Squad in Sept. 1972 and left in August 1974. Prior to going to the Sq. I was in 96 Eng. they had to reduce their roster. The lift went by seniority. I was not in the group to be transferred, but if I volunteered I could go to the company I wanted. I was approached by Teddy Scott, a great guy and on his way to becoming a outstanding fireman to put in for Sq.2. When the orders came out , we both went to the Sq. Many years later I was thanked the member of E96 who I replaced on the list .
Besides being a special unit on all hands or better, Unlike today Sq's we were primarily fire duty units doing what ever required on the fireground . Many times we would operate a line and pull our own ceilings. I believe Lt.
When not operating as a Sq. we would become the 1st section of E73, E82 and E85 during the hr's of 3pm to 1am taking in their boxes 1st due to reduce their work load. The best part was after 1 am we were living a firemans dream only going to working fires.
Unfortunately, due to vacations, medical leaves and group changes the number of tours we worked together were limited. But there were two that stuck in my mind. The first was a job on an afternoon in a multi family brownstone. The fire was on the 2nd fl. This day I had the backup position. The standard procedures after the door is open, is to let the fire and smoke vent. Then stay low and go in when the smoke lifted off the floor. But this afternoon the Lt. said we go when the door is open. It was like going into the belly of the beast. In the early 1970s it was common that the nozzle team didn't wear masks. I had been in numerous fires without a mask. But this was the most dense and toxic smoke I have ever operated in. I must say, I thought more then once about bailing out. But the senior man behind me must have read my mind. Even if I wanted to, there was no way I was getting by him. Upon getting to the end of a long hallway, we found no fire. After retracing our steps back to the door, we found fire in the first room. It was 2 tires behind a partition. I believe he was testing me to see if I had what it took to do it his way.
The second was a fire in a vacant MD on Easter night 1974. I had just returned to full duty from being on medical leave for knee burns. The fire was on the 1st Fl.in a rear room. The N.Y. building code says that a building over a certain square footage must be seperated by a brick firewall. Again the fire was at the end of a long hallway. At the time we were using the Ft-2 tip, not my favorite. Upon d the room, it seemed, to get hotter. I tried to whip line around to no avail. When it was all over I had 2nd degree burns to my knees and ears, and went back to medical leave. When I returned to qtrs. from the hospital, the Lt. explained that because of the 3 brick walls,it was like pouring water into any oven and making steam. This was my last tour with your Dad and the squad.
When I look back working with Dad (Lt. McClay) the experience and confidence I got in those two years would equal some peoples, whole career. I would also like to thank all the Officers and members of Squad 2 and Engine73 helping me to a better fireman.
Thank you for sharing. My dad always talked about not w
 

nfd2004

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
5,799
Iruscigno, let me tell you my own story.

I first met Retired Capt John Bendick right after I signed on here to become a member. He has always treated me very good.

I remember one time right after meeting him, both Capt Bendick and his wife came to visit me in a hospital some 100 miles away. I never expected that.

Much like your father, and much like so many of us here, John is "into the job". As a matter of fact, I had learned from another great guy on this site who once worked with him and calls himself "69METS", that in the firehouse, then firefighter John Bendick was nicknamed "Buffy Bendick".

Retired Capt John Bendick has ALWAYS spoken very highly of your father to me.

Iruscigno, you have EVERY RIGHT to be Very Proud of Your Father and what he did as a firefighter and fire officer during the busiest years of the FDNY.

Let me also agree with my friend here known as "manhattan". We welcome you and I'm sure you will find this place to be home to many members like your father and John Bendick. Guys I refer to as "The GREATEST GENERATION of FIREFIGHTERS in the WORLD". As well as active and retired firefighters and buffs from NYC and across the entire globe.
 
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