Mike Pollino's Story
“It All Started With a Box”
Mike’s grandfather, Martin A. Aschenbrenner, was the last young man on his block who hadn’t already left to fight and defend his country. As a 17 year old, he soon enlisted and left a home and a family he may never see again. His grandfather was the Top Turret Gunner on a B-24 Liberator in the infamous 15th Army Air Corp, 451st Bombardment Group, 726th Squadron, credited with pummeling Nazi occupied Europe in 1944-1945. The 451st was stationed is Castelluccia Italy, he left the U.S. on April 2nd, 1944, arrived in Italy 9 days later on April 11th and flew his first mission 2 days later on April 13th, 1944. His full crew successfully completed 35 missions and a total of 50 sorties, all of the crew survived when the odds were 1 in 1000. He left Italy on July 23rd, 1944 and arrived back in the United States on August 4th, 1944. Mike’s grandfather was credited with two German (ME- 109’s) kills from the top turret position.
Mike left Buffalo soon after graduating High School and attended George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He studied American history while in school from 1993 to 1998 when he then fell into his first job as a recruiter supporting the DoD and Intelligence Community. Many years later Mike’s grandfather passed away, a few days after the memorial services a rather large box was delivered to Mike’s doorstep. It would be 8 years before Mike decided to open that box one sleepless night, what he found inside that box he credits to this day as the main reason he began to lead a different life.
Since opening that box some 4 years ago, Mike has done extensive research directly relating to his grandfather’s time served overseas. He has read a number of historical books based on the importance of the 451st and each member’s experience. He has researched old articles and artifacts over that time which he proudly displays at his home. Mike has since had the opportunity to travel to Kansas City and Dallas for the 451st Bomb Group reunion since 2015. Mike has become great friends with the courageous men who fought alongside his grandfather and remains close to them to this day. He typically will send messages through Facebook to his 94-year-old great friend and a man dear to his heart, Achilles Kozakis. Mike has also joined several groups relating to the 451st and continues to make friends across the world. His research has even been credited on websites and Mike hopes to someday write a book about the incredible journey.
Over the last 5-7 years, he has become an active participant in a number of organizations and philanthropies in support of our current and former military members. He has a true passion for this work and believes that every veteran who has so bravely served this nation deserves to be able to continue their mission. He is driven to do whatever it takes, he will make personal sacrifices in order to help and give back to the brave men and women who served this country with honor but come home to unemployment and homelessness. He looks forward to facing the challenges and obstacles head on and hopes to one day sit back and smile, because he made a difference!
Mike Pollino was born and raised in a suburb outside the city of Buffalo in Upstate New York. Mike comes from a proud family of veterans, all who served valiantly at various times when our great nation was involved in a World War or a foreign conflict.
Mike’s father, (pictured below) served in the United States Army from 1965 until 1971, a challenging time in our nation’s history. Mike’s father was an E5, SGT. at the time he separated. His mother also served, she was a Captain in the United States Air Force and served as a flight nurse on C-130’s during the first Gulf War. (also pictured below).