The University of Hartford’s Office of Alumni Relations stepped forward when Christopher Coutu M’03 asked them to support the Connecticut Honor Flight. Kandyce Aust, director of alumni relations, signed up to be a guardian. Army veteran Tony Pignone A’49, ’56 accepted our invitation to go to Washington with the University as his sponsor. The Observer tagged along.
Tony Pignone grew up in Hartford in a tightly knit Italian neighborhood during the Depression. He was 17 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States declared war. Graduating from Hartford High in 1942, Pignone was called to service in the Army the next summer. After seven days of indoctrination, he was on a train to Army finance school in Indiana.
Pignone was assigned to a transport ship, part of a supply convoy headed for Iran in late 1943. When the ship entered the Mediterranean, enemy planes dropped torpedoes, sending one clear through the ship. Fortunately, it didn’t explode, and the transport was able to limp into harbor at Algiers.
Several weeks later, Pignone was put on an English transport headed for Bombay, India. Eventually he arrived at his assignment—the finance office in Ahwaz, Iran.
Pignone was one of about 30,000 troops stationed in Iran between 1942 and 1946 who shipped 5 million tons of supplies over 700 miles to Russia, our ally in WWII. The Germans had closed off all other supply lines, and the Russians were badly in need of assistance. Using railroad cars and transport trucks, and with the help of some 50,000 Iranian workers, the Army shipped hundreds of thousands of Jeeps, airplane parts, and other supplies that helped the Russians defend Leningrad and then push the Germans back to Berlin.
Pignone returned to Connecticut six months after the war ended. He completed his associate’s degree at Hillyer College in 1949 and went to work as an accountant for a few years. He then joined Kaman Aircraft, where he worked for 14 years, the last three as treasurer of a Kaman subsidiary. He completed his bachelor’s degree, also at Hillyer, in 1956. In 1965 he co-founded Adams Industries, which supplied parts to the aerospace industry. The business started with 12 employees; eventually it employed about 75. Pignone retired in 1987 as co-owner and vice president.
“I was proud to be among the veterans on the Honor Flight and glad to represent the University of Hartford,” says Pignone.
In the 50 years since, the University has grown into a global institution whose students and faculty are changing the world.