Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — On Dec. 7, 1941, the United States was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor, thus propelling the country into the second world war. As the “Greatest Generation” continues to age, it’s important to keep their stories and heroism alive for posterity.
Over the course of several weeks this past November, Union-Sun & Journal staff photographer Joed Viera spoke with four World War II veterans living in Niagara County. Two of them, Edward Kolek and Stanley Maziarz, are recipients of the French Legion of Honor Chevalier for their bravery and prowess during the war.
After interviewing the veterans, Viera traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this year to research their stories at the National Archives. He used the information to supplement his latest audio-visual production, A Call To Arms, which debuts online at lockportjournal.com this morning.
Viera, 28, said he’s always been interested in “war stories,” especially the stories of real soldiers. A Call To Arms is his contribution to the body of history that’s been recorded about U.S. involvement in World War II. Capturing four old soldiers’ personal stories to share with others was a privilege, he said.
Published here are condensed versions of those four veterans’ war stories, as told by them to Viera.
Edward Kolek: Ploiesti was a close call
Retired Lt. Col. Edward Kolek, 92, piloted bombing missions over Europe during World War II. Kolek flew more than the required number of missions and said that he enjoyed his role in the war.
“I just loved combat,” he said. “I was prepared both physically and psychologically. Prepared to be shot down every mission.”
Kolek’s most memorable mission was a bombing run over Ploiesti, Romania, meant to disrupt a major source of oil for Nazi Germany. While on the way to making the run, the B-24 that Kolek was flying was hit by German antiaircraft fire and lost an engine.