12.15.2008

.:Pray for the Troops:.

I was looking up addresses online this evening for Christmas cards. When I typed in my Great-Aunt's last name I stumbled upon an article about my Great-Uncle Ski, a Pearl Harbor survivor. With Christmas fast upon us and thousands of our men still serving in the middle-east we need to be faithful in our prayers for them and their families.

Without further ado:

Pearl Harbor Survivor Laid to Rest in 'The Best Place On Earth'

By Lt. Arwen Consaul, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- As USS Utah (AG 16) rested quietly in Pearl Harbor, a crowd gathered on her solemn memorial to witness a time-honored ceremony. Pearl Harbor survivor and USS West Virginia (BB 48) Sailor, Cmdr. Adolph "Ski" Czerwenka's, ashes were scattered across the waters of the harbor July 8.

Czerwenka was born in Chicago, Ill., Sept. 3, 1919. He started studying at UCLA, but couldn't afford to finish college and decided to enlist in the Navy in December 1939. Dec. 7, 1941, Ski was a 22-year-old radioman 3rd class, stationed aboard USS West Virginia (BB 48), the "Wee Vee."

West Virginia was moored with six other battleships beside Ford Island on what was called Battleship Row. Czerwenka (pronounced chair-wenka) was in the petty officers' washroom that morning. He was laundering uniforms, and he was stark naked due to the heat. Without any indication or warning, a torpedo hit the ship and general quarters sounded. Ski rushed to his duty station - no shoes, no shirt, nothing. He didn't have time to run to his locker, he didn't have time to think.

Many of the ship's communications systems were brand new, so Ski and his fellow radiomen tried to get the communications going, but the attack continued, and more torpedoes hit the West Virginia. The ship listed to port, and the lights went out -- all in less than 30 minutes. When the order came to abandon ship, Czerwenka helped several injured engineers to safety.

USS Arizona (BB 39) blew up just as Czerwenka got on deck. Oil and fire were everywhere, he slid down the port deck and into the water. An empty motor launch drifted by, and Ski climbed in and got the engine going. He picked up a couple of guys, a coxswain and an engineer. The three Sailors began fishing survivors from the water. They took them ashore, and went back for more time and time again.

When Czerwenka got to the Pearl Harbor receiving station later in the day, civilian women were there making up bandages. That's when he realized he was almost naked, and had been naked most of the day. The one thing that impressed him most about the whole incredible chain of events was that in the midst of all that surprise and confusion and destruction, everybody reacted by doing their job, the job they had been trained to do.

Like many Pearl Harbor survivors Czerwenka spoke humbly of the experience. In a 1999 Newsweek article, he stated, "I didn't have time to be afraid. There was too much to be done."

One of Czerwenka's daughters, Martha Hodnett, recalled her father's modesty. "He was always proud of what all the Americans did at Pearl Harbor," Hodnett said. "He never stood himself out as a special kind of person."

Czerwenka rose to the ranks of first class petty officer before becoming a "Mustang." In May 1944, Czerwenka was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy. He ultimately dedicated more than 31 and a half years of his life to the Navy and retired as a commander in July 1971. Although not an official assignment, he was a Navy recruiter of sorts. He convinced his two prospective sons-in-law to join the Navy, a stipulation both had to fulfill before marrying his daughters.

Ellen Czerwenka, Ski's wife of 55 years, remembered her husband fondly. She recalled the Pearl Harbor stories he told school children. She remembers how Ski would speak to children or anyone who would listen and talk about "getting in a boat, picking up survivors and doing what he felt was the best thing to do."

So he answered and said to me: “ This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘ Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts. .Zechariah 4:6.

2 comments:

Brianna said...

I MISS YOU KATIE!!!!!!!

What a neat article about your great uncle! Thanks for posting it....

Lauren Ann said...

nice post! This was my first time to your blog, and I have no idea how I got here. It you comment on my blog, I think I could come back to your blog. Just a thought.