Phillipsburg Area 
Veterans

William L. Nixon Veterans Day Tribute

The Phillipsburg Area Veterans Association is a 

New Jersey nonprofit association, 

"honoring all who served and are presently serving."


"When the wind changes,


adjust your sails."



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21 March 2021


I'm sorry.  I haven't been back at this for a while.  I don't know where to start and as I sit here for the fifth time to make this report.  As Mr. Nixon always tells me, keep it short.  Difficult.


I'll start at 15 February.  That's the day my uncle Yaz passed away.  I found out by a text from my little sister; quickly followed by a forward of his obit from my older brother (our family historian).  In the obit it is stated that my great uncle, Emanuel Joseph Yazdik, had served in the Navy during WWII aboard the Destroyer Laffey.  That he had survived kamikazi attacks and carried the memories his whole life.


I remember a family picnic (a cousin had graduated from high school) sitting across from Yaz enjoying a beer.  I guess I noticed a tatoo or something and asked him about his time in the service. Yaz reluctantly admitted to being present at Normandy on 6 June 1944 but brushed me off when I tried to press him. "Nobody wants to hear about that old stuff".  He got uncharacteristically quiet.  End of conversation.


How do I keep this short.  Normandy?  Kamikazi's?  There's a lot more than an a couple of lines in an obit here.  My brother followed up with a forwarded article on DD-459, Laffey destroyed and sunk at Guadalcanal (a story in itself and one that deserves more time).  The dates didn't line up, Yaz enlisted after the Laffey went down.  More research, and the reason this has taken so much time to document.



DD-724 Laffey (the second Laffey) was laid in 1943 and launched 8 Feb 1944.  My uncle is listed as a plank holder.  She did indeed participate in the D-Day landings and action on that coast for quite some time only to be recalled for repairs, refit, and training before escort duty to the Panama and into the Pacific.  I won't list all of the action she saw.  If this was typical of Destroyer duty, I am in awe at the sacrifice of these men and glad I was not a 'tin can' sailor.


Fast forward to 16 April 1945.  Okinawa.  While the Marines were fighting for every inch on the island, one step away from mainland Japan, the Navy put a ring of ships around it to act as an early warning system.  Radar from the ships would give the allies time to prepare to defend from air assault.  The Laffey was in position 1, 30 miles north of Okinawa and 0nly 100 miles from Japan.  The four ships that had preceded her had all been attacked and damaged by kamakazis.  Their battle began with General Quarters being called while the men were lined up for breakfast, 0800.


Here's where my research gets confused.  I apologize if my account is not complete or completely accurate.  My sources include the Laffey Association, personal accounts, and the US Navy history sites; they all conflict.


Radar indicated that 50 to 'too many to count' contacts were coming from the north.  Most accounts state that there were at least 30 planes attacking the Laffey.  The call went out for air support and four 'wildcats' were immediately dispatched.  Marine Corsairs were on the way but it would take some time.


By 0830, four VAL's (Aichi D3 fighter bombers) approached on the bow and broke into two pairs, two forward, two aft.


Now is a good time to remark about Sumner Class Destroyer armament:  2 twin mount 5" guns forward, 1 twin mount 5" aft.  Twelve 40mm guns and eleven 20mm guns.  Additionally 10 torpedo tubes that did not take part in this particular battle.  I can't begin to put into words how good these men had to be at their jobs.  Remember the ship is moving, the planes are moving at various speeds, pitching and rolling.  The first four planes were taken out by the 5" guns.  Remember you have to aim at where he will be and fire from where you think you will be.  No computers and it's happening NOW.


Attacks 5 and 6 were from Judy's (Yokosuka D4Y dive bomber) and were taken by the 40mm and 20mm guns on both port and starboard quarters.  They hit close and their exploding bombs wounded gunners and knocked out the low aircraft radar; obviously necessary equipment.


0839 Attack 7, VAL on the port bow was destroyed by 20mm fire but hit on the top of the aft 5" mount and crashed off the starboard quarter.


0843 Attack 8, Judy off the starboard beam was destroyed by the 20 and 40mm guns.  It crashed close


0845 Attack 9, Judy off the port beam was being shot by the 40 and 20mm guns but crashed into and destroyed the starboard 20mm gun mount.


At this point, the deployed 'wildcats' had knocked down at least 4 kamakizis and had run out of ammunition and fuel.  They were relieved by the Marines in Corsair F4U's.


0847 Attack 10, VAL came in low on the stern and crashed into all of the 20mm gun mounts killing 6 before hitting the starboard corner of the aft 5" gun mount.


It's here that the after action report stops giving the times but I believe the accounts are consecutive if not concurrent.

  • Attack 11, VAL drops a bomb abeam of the aft 5" mount and follows it into the mount killing 6.
  • Attack 12, a bomb from a VAL hits starboard astern which jams the rudder to port.
  • Attack 13,  VAL crashes into the port quarter, after deck house.
  • Attack 14, Judy follow the VAL into the port quarter, after deck house killing 4 damage control.

At or about this point, the Laffey is down at the stern with 10" of freeboard, little to no shipboard communication and, while engine were still working, enginemen were controlling speed by the sounds of the battle.  When it was suggested to Captain Becton that they should abandon ship, his reply, "I will never abandon ship as long as I have one gun to fire".  It's also reported that an enlisted standing nearby muttered, "and if you can find a man to shoot it".

  • Attacks 15 through 21 reports are very confused.  
  • Judy came in on the starboard quarter and shot down by the 20's and 40'
  • An Oscar (Nakajima Ki-43) attacked the starboard beam destroyed by a forward 5"
  • VAL came in on the starboard bow and was knocked down by a forward 5"
  • The ship was hit by a third bomb on the fantail aft of the aft 5" mount.
  • A fourth bomb struck starboard forward below the bridge near the forward 20mm mount. 

This is by no means a comprehensive accounting of the battle and falls short in that the Marine Corsairs and the Wildcats played in important role as well as two Navy LSC(L)'s  that were on station with DD-724.  Every plane strafed the ship.  Every plane that struck the ship spread gasoline and fire which set off magazines and ammunition.  Where do you go?  One account I read was of a sailor looking for a piece of rust to hide under during the peak of the battle.

The Presidential Citation indicated: 8 kills clear of the ship, 6 kills that struck the ship causing damage, and 2 bombs that struck and caused damage to the ship (a conservative accounting).  The official count of downed kamikazis is 22 when you add those from the Wildcats, the Corsairs, and the LSC's.  If you sit down to watch the Gary Cooper movie High Noon, and you skip the credits, that's how long the attack lasted; 79 minutes.  More that an hour of terror.  And when it was over there was an inoperable ship in danger of sinking and continuing to burn, 32 of your shipmates perished and 71 wounded.

My uncle was a big man; tall and fit.  Whenever I think of him I see his smile and hear his laugh.  Everyone liked Yaz.  His kids, my cousins, are great and accomplished people.  His wife, my Aunt Helen was the bedrock of our family.  When she passed from cancer many years ago, our annual reunions stopped and I rarely saw Yaz again.  I'm both glad and sorry I didn't press him about his experiences in the Navy.  I will be forever curious about what part he played during the attacks but I understand.  Some things are too painful to relive.  I had no idea what memories he carried around for nearly 76 years.

Ok.  I'm sorry this was so long.  But this one was kind of personal.  There's much much more that I could say and even more that anyone could say about the kamikazi attacks of WWII.   But if you got through all this, I'm sure you already know something about it.

As usual, if you have questions or concerns, email:




9 February 2021


For no particular reason other than wading through knee high snow and temps in the single digits, I've been thinking about the 'Frozen Chosen Few'.  I'm sure anyone that finds this website and takes the time to look at it will be familiar with my reference.  But, I really didn't know where the Chosin Reservoir was or really what happened there.  I went on a search and here's what I found.  Please excuse me if some of my facts are incorrect.  Once I started to find information, I found some of it, as you might expect, conflicting.


As you may know on 25 June 1950, Communist North Korea attacked Democratic South Korea. On the 27th, the United States announced support and began sending ships to Korea. By September of that year, the Communist forces had cornered the South in an area around Pusan (Southeast Corner of the peninsula).  MacArthur (I'm sure you've heard of that guy) planned and executed an invasion at Inchon that changed the face of the war; recapturing Seoul and forcing a retreat of the Northern forces back up the peninsula.  Unfortunately on 19 October, Chairman Mao Zedong (with permission from Jo Stalin) sent 10 Divisions across the Yalu River from Manchuria into North Korea.  


In November, 1950, General O.P. Smith's Marines as well as US Army, ROK, and British troops were sweeping around what we call the Chosin Reservior (Changjin in Korean) following a plan to push the Communist forces to the China boarder and end the war. "Home by Christmas" was the goal.


Not so fast.  On 27 November, General Smith's forces, approximately 30,000 men,  were attacked by 120,000 Chinese who had orders to "destroy coalition troops to a man".  


Now here's the thing.  November in North Korea near the Chinese border is nothing like November in the Lehigh Valley.  Sure, I'm sitting here with a cool 24 degrees on the thermometer watching the deer and the squirrels in a tag team match over the spilled bird seed while the snow continues to pile up.  It's nothing like -20 degrees during the day and -30 at night with no shelter, nothing even resembling a decent meal, let alone a hot one.  Snow?  Uh, you better believe it.  What passes for roads in that area (described as ox cart trails) are steep, narrow, and covered with drifting snow.  Oh, and let's not forget; THER'S ONE HUNRED TWENTY THOUSAND CHINESE SHOOTING AT YOU!!!!!


General Smith's reaction was to, "attack in another direction".  I read his account of the battle.  What he managed to do under the circumstances was amazing.  He gathered his  Marines from the west side of the lake and the Army ROK, and British from the east and began a defensive retreat 78 miles to Hungnam on the coast. This was no 'every man for himself-run for it' retreat.  The Marines had to keep their supply line open all the way to the sea while protecting their flanks and their rear.  First, forces were gathered at Hagaru-Ri by the 28th of November where an airstrip was protected long enough to fly out wounded and dead.  Once that was accomplished, the rear was protected as the forces continued south (remember they were completely surrounded and constantly had to 'break out') to Koto-Ri on the 6th of December.  More wounded were airlifted from that point and the fight continued down the mountains (Funchilin Pass?) to the next obstacle: the Chinese has attempted to block the coalition escape by blowing a bridge.  The answer was a Treadway Bridge.  Flown in and dropped in sections, it was constructed and passable in less than a day.  (Remember the temperature?  I can't fuel my tractor in OUR weather without running inside for a hot chocolate.) Remember, 30,000 or so men, equipment, and supplies had to keep moving or freeze!


The fighting to withdraw continued all the way to the harbor at Hungnam where on 11 December, the first of the men were loaded on ships and transported to Japan.  The last Marine Division was finished loading out on 14 December with the convoy departing on the 15th. Not just men but all the equipment and supplies that could be salvaged were also loaded.  General Smith's 'after action report' was dated 17 December 1950.  In it he claimed 4150 casualties with 400 KIA.  Elsewhere I've found up to 10,000 coalition casualties claimed.  I'm not sure where to go to find an accurate accounting.  The Chinese admit to 30,000 casualties from the battle but consider it a victory even though they didn't stop or destroy the coalition troops. 


Obviously there are books written about this action.  I'm sure I'll have to pick one up and get all of the empty spaces filled in.  I know I left a whole lot out.  Sorry but Mr. Nixon is always telling me too keep it brief.


As always, if you have comments or questions, email me:


[email protected]



27 January 2021


On the morning of 7 Dec 1941 Army private Walter Pasiak was leaving the chow hall and was greeted with the scene of dozens of Mitsubishis bombing and strafing Pearl Harbor.  He and his friends quickly ran to the armory and grabbed whatever weapons they could find.  Though Walter was trained on a 50 Cal, he could only get his hands on a rifle.  Somehow he survived even though his buddy died in his arms after their position took fire.


I was sitting safe, warm, and comfortable in my living room chair last week, reluctantly watching the local news,  when the story that Walter Pasiak, the last Pearl Harbor survivor in Lackawanna County,  passed away on 24 Jan 2021.   It was a quick, 30 second story shoe-horned between a Progressive commercial and local sports.  I felt Walter deserved more so I was off to the internet.


What I found was in Stars and Stripes (for some reason the Times Tribune has a stranglehold on information in that county).  Walter was a coal miner in Lackawanna county who wanted more out of life.  He decided the military and service to the country would be an honorable path.  He enlisted at 17 (obviously before the war) and was given training as a 50 caliber machine gunner.  He no doubt felt lucky to be stationed in Hawaii until our country was attacked and was dragged into war by the Empire of Japan.   From Pearl Harbor, and much later in the war, Walter found himself involved in the New Guinea operation where he earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.  He was involved in securing a Japanese airfield fighting on the Hollandia coast.  Information is sparse but I also found he was involved in the re-taking of the Philippines.


As though surviving WWII in the Pacific Theater wasn't enough, Walter served during the Korean War where he was awarded a Silver Star.  AND, he went on the serve in Vietnam.  He retired as a Master Sergeant after 22 years of service and went on to live in Scranton, PA, with his wife of 50 years.  Patricia Pasiak passed away in 2007.


The article I read indicated that Walter tested positive for Covid in November and was recovering but couldn't find what was the ultimate cause of his passing.  What matters most is that this was a great American who gave and served his country.  I thought he deserved a little more than 30 seconds between a commercial and the local sports.


As I've noted in previous posts, I will get together with Mr. Nixon as soon as it is safe for us to do so and changes will come to this site.  Until then, I'll try to let you know what I know and try to keep you up to date.  As always, send questions or concerns to:


[email protected]





18 January 2021


The latest news is that there is no latest news.  As reported last month, I corrected the contact list and the link to the pavers form.  So far I haven't seen any activity there.  I also fixed the 'email contacts' for Mr. Nixon, Webmaster, and Contact.  I have been checking emails regularly but there has been no activity there either.  I expect that as soon as substantial changes are made, interested parties will begin to make contact.  As with almost everything these days, I blame Covid.


I have been in contact with Mr. Nixon and we plan to meet at the earliest opportunity (when it's safe).  When that happens, more and better changes will come to the site.  We have links to fix and information to update.  Stay tuned.


As far as the back yard battle:  Eight deer and three squirrels made major assault on the bird feeder yesterday.  They had their best and youngest engineers at the rear directing but, the front line failed to breech.  The feeder remains intact.  As the sun popped out for a minute in the afternoon, a young cardinal sat victorious.  The deer just looked up at me with an "I'll be back" expression in her eyes.  I could be in trouble if they mechanize.


As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, you can contact us using the contact links or email me at:


[email protected]





21 December 2020


If you've been coming to this site over the last few months I'm sure you've noticed that hasn't seemed like there was anyone at the tiller.  And you were right.


Mr. Nixon is trying to get things under control again so you can find information you want and get signed up for the things you want to participate in.  He had to call the Coast Guard!!


So.


I'm going to try to get things moving again.  Just be patient.  It's a little like trying to get a 60 ft. fishing boat in side tow to come around in a 3 knot current and 20 knot breeze; it slow going and you have to be careful (sorry, I don't have an analogy for you Marines or Army guys except maybe convince some Jr. Officer that it's not your turn for KP).  Be patient.


I've added Dominick Russo to the contacts list and corrected the form for Rally Point pavers.  I checked them and had things printing correctly.  Many of the other links are still not correct yet.  When time (and COVID) permits, I will be working with Mr. Nixon to sort out what needs to be here and what needs to be corrected.


In the mean time I have squirrels re-enacting the Battle of the Bulge on my bird feeder and the deer are trying to de-forest the woods in my back yard.  If you feel the need, contact me at:


[email protected]

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