Tonawanda News

Local News

August 16, 2013

Kamikaze survivor

Tonawanda News — For perhaps the last time, a member of the nation’s “Greatest Generation” will meet today with fellow World War II veterans aboard the very vessel on which they served together decades ago. 

John Kaszubski, 89, traveled with family members to New York City Thursday for the 70th anniversary of the U.S.S. Intrepid, where about 50 surviving members will gather with him on the landmark aircraft carrier.

Kaszubski was only 19 and just days away from having his first child when a draft letter arrived in August 1943 at his North Tonawanda home. 

Relatives said until his conscription, he had never left the Lumber City, though within months he went to work on the flight deck crew of the carrier in the heart of the South Pacific. 

For the next two years he battled the Japanese in a series of attacks — most notably, he said, including the enemy suicide missions flown by pilots known as kamikazes. 

“I am a kamikaze survivor,” Kaszubski said this week, seated in the city home of his youngest son, Dan Kaszubski, and his daughter-in-law Liz Kaszubski, who drove him to the reunion and will board the ship for the first time with the war hero. “I do not know how I withstood it. I was pretty lucky. My parents and everyone else in the family didn’t know if they’d see me alive.”

The elder Kaszubski spent 20 years in the Navy and another 10 as a reservist, receiving the rank of chief petty officer. Upon returning to Western New York he worked at the Niagara Falls Airbase as a aviation mechanic, then moved on to employment at Roblin Steel. He lived in Arizona for a spell, before coming home yet again to spend his later years with his four children, nine grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and a great-great grandchild. 

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