Michael Xirinachs was born in New York City on April 8, 1924, and grew up in the Bronx during the Great Depression. Immediately following America’s entry into World War II, Michael tried to enlist in the Marines, but was turned down because he didn’t make the weight requirement, and because he was only 17. Determined to serve his country, he joined the U.S Coast Guard in March 1942, and was told to report for training in April.
“I was the happiest man in New York City,” he remembers. “ And the proudest!”
After finishing boot camp, Michael was sent to Boston and assigned to the Coast Guard cutter Tampa. The ship patrolled “submarine alley” in the North Atlantic, facing frigid, demanding weather conditions in addition to the threat of German subs.
In January 1943, the Tampa escorted a convoy that came under torpedo attack, which sank the freighter, Dorchester. In the midst of sub-freezing temperatures and heavy seas, Michael and his Coast Guard comrades pulled over two hundred dead and dying men out of the North Atlantic. Altogether, over six hundred men lost their lives in the attack.
The nightmarish incident had a lifelong impact on Michael. “That night, I knew war was for keeps,” he recalls.
Following Germany’s surrender, Michael was reassigned to the Pacific Theater where his Coast Guard ship participated in the liberation of the Philippines. It is notable that his commanding officer during that time was renowned novelist, Sloan Wilson (author of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and A Summer Place among others).
After his discharge in 1945, Michael, who is fluent in Spanish and Italian, attended the Latin American Institute. He later worked for the New York City Department of Transportation, during which time he married and had seven children (four girls and three boys).
Years later, Michael moved to Boston, where he worked for a roofing company. In 1969, he met and married his current wife, Susan, with whom he had another son. After moving to New Jersey for a short time, Michael and Susan relocated to Susan’s hometown of Brewer, Maine.
In Maine, Michael worked as the area director for the American Cancer Society of Eastern Maine and later at the Bangor Mental Health Institute (now the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center) . He was an active member of the Brewer Historical Society and is a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He proudly participates with fellow VFW members in the Bangor/Brewer Veterans’ Day and Fourth of July parades.
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Maine Veterans’ Homes…Caring For Those Who Served!