On a cold and windy December morning in 1943, 16-year-old Edmund Ogozaly packed up his meager belongings and a forged birth certificate and walked three miles in the snow from his home in Jermyn, Pennsylvania, to enlist in the service of America during World War II.
Ogozaly, 87, a resident of Endicott, New York, recalled that he chose to join the Navy because “I always liked the water.”
He spent eight weeks of basic training in different parts of the country, “marching, and jumping off really high platforms about 90 feet high to prepare abandoning ship” and then was stationed on an LST (tank landing ship). The diesel-operated LSTs were used for invading from the beaches and had “big doors that would be opened before the ship even touched the shore.” The LST he was on was used to invade half a dozen islands in the Philippines, including Leyte, and he added that it was “one of the first ships in the occupation of Japan during the war.”
Ogozaly recalled the foreboding of invasions being sweetened by culinary offerings. “The night before an invasion, the captain of the ship would say to the crew over the speaker system that there would be an excellent supper served that night and in the early morning we were fed steak and eggs for breakfast… the captain would then say “Enjoy it. This may be your last one.”
[FullSizeRender (1)] He also shared some of the lighter moments he had aboard the vessel. The Philippines were “filled with monkeys,” so for seven months he kept a monkey as a personal pet. He was forced to get rid of his pet because “the monkey continually went up to the top deck which was loaded with ammunition, and for about a week the monkey would crawl under the hood and chew the insolation off the wires, and many of the trucks would not start.”
The most dangerous moments of the war he experienced involved the kamikaze pilots or suicide planes. “They came over dozens at a time, and they were there to sink ships like ours to prevent invasions,” he said. “Thousands of ships would fire at them to prevent them from doing so, and when you see that you would not imagine how a fly could get through that, but they still did.”
Though he was able to stay in touch with his family and friends back home in Jermyn through letters, he remembered that “everything was censored. You could not say where you were or where you were going, and often times you did not write for a month or two during invasions.”
Ogozaly was not too fond of the food served on the ship. “During the war, everything you were given to eat was powdered. There were no fresh fruits, vegetables, or milk.”
He was especially not fond of the bread. “On the ship, they baked their own breads and all of the flour was old and full of roaches,” he recalled. “At the beginning of enlistment, you did not eat the bread. As time went on, you would pick the roaches out and eat the bread. After a while, you started to eat the roaches and all and it did not bother you. It looked like raisin bread.”
The only off time the sailors were given was Sundays, and that they “would play cards and shoot dice” during those days. A typical day on the ship consisted of a 16-hour work day, with rotating shifts every four weeks. “The ship was running 24 hours,” Ogozaly said.
The vessel Ogozaly spent 2 ½ years aboard was “320 feet long with a crew of 120 sailors and a couple hundred marines or army men. The ship carried 30 tanks with weapons, carriers, and trucks.” He also remembered carrying his mattress on his back. “You took everything with you. You had that mattress throughout the entire war and it was part of the equipment,” he explained. [IMG_3553]
During invasions, Ogozaly worked in the engine room, which is where he believes he lost some of his hearing. “The engine room was a very intense place to be during invasions. The ship was lightly built with no armor around it, and you could not help but visualize a torpedo going through.”
After the war was over, Ogozaly had enough points to be discharged. “They were discharging sailors all the time but it got to the point where they had too many ships in Japan and all over the Pacific and nobody to bring them back. We were frozen to the ship and could not come back until the ship came back. In the meantime, we were assigned to move the Japanese soldiers from the islands in the Pacific back to the homeland of Japan, and that took five or six trips.”
The first real meal Ogozaly had when he reached the United States after the war was his favorite meal: “a cold glass of milk and a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.” He returned to his hometown and got a job making aluminum truck bodies. Then, in 1950, the Korean War broke out.
Since he was in the reserves and his “skill was critical” because of his knowledge of engine rooms and their equipment, he was the first one to be called. “I had a choice of duty. My first choice was shore duty on the Atlantic coast in the United States, and my second was sea duty in the Atlantic because I spent all my time during World War II on the Pacific. After two weeks of serving, I was in Korea. I was not given a choice, and was just a number. You went where they needed you.”
He did not see action during the Korean War; he was stationed on a refrigeration ship that supplied ships with fresh fruit and vegetables. After serving in that war for two years, Ogozaly returned home and started a family. They moved to Endicott, New York, and he began to work his way up at IBM.
The proud veteran said that he “would not trade his experience in the war for anything, but I would not want to go through it again.”
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