Growing Up in Chicago
Michael Lazaro was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 28, 1922 to Mr. and Mrs. Anton Lazaro. He was raised on Artesian Avenue in a neighborhood on the near north side of Chicago that was home to many Albanian immigrants. Michael's parents, along with his older sister Anna, had immigrated from Qyteza, Albania. Michael grew up during the Great Depression. He was one of six children. Michael had little interest in schooling and there is no record to indicate that he finished grade school. He was involved in several scrapes (or, as the family liked to call it, he was a "free spirit"). When he was 19 years old, Michael registered for the draft board on June 29, 1942. He received his draft notice on January 22, 1943 and was to report to his local draft board on February 4, 1943.
Many of the Albanian-American boys that Michael grew up with would serve in World War II. His brother, Anton Jr., was an MP for the Army. His neighbor and boyhood pal, Jim Totoni, also served in the Army. Jim was wounded and captured at the Battle of the Bulge.
It is not clear how or if Michael selected his branch of service, but on February 5, 1943, he was inducted into the Marine Corps Reserve. The Marine Corps was a very selective outfit and did not accept draftees until 1943 when they were unable to meet their quotas. The draftees who were inducted in the Marines were called Selective Service Volunteers and in their records the letters "SS" were used to distinguish them.
Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD)
Michael was sent to MCRD in San Diego and joined the 1st Recruit Regiment on February 15, 1943. He was one of 222,000 Marines who trained at MCRD San Diego and embarked from there to the Pacific during World War II.
While Michael was at boot camp, he qualified as a marksman with a score of 289 on April 1, 1943. There are no records to indicate that Michael scored higher than a marksman, but in letters home he indicated that he qualified as a sharpshooter. It is possible that the records are missing, although it could also have been a young man's exaggeration.
Records do indicate that he qualified with the bayonet on April 7, 1943. He graduated on April 10, 1943. The family saved his graduation photo and the signatures on the back. If you or someone you know graduated from his class, we would love to hear from you (see contact information at the bottom of the page).