John Bozek was born August 16, 1924 in Detroit, Michigan. His parents had emigrated from Poland at the turn-of-the-century, and John was the youngest in a family of four siblings. He grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, but John remembers that his father always had a job, and that the family even had a car – he recognizes that times were much tougher for others. By the time the war came, John was in high school, going to Lou’s Coney Island and the movies, and enjoying the life of an American teenager. Then Pearl Harbor happened: John and some friends went to join up, but they were to go home and to graduate, which they did. But the notice came shortly after that, and John reported for duty, requesting an assignment in the USAAF. Further education and basic training ensued, and then the men were shipped overseas, arriving in Italy close to one month later. Flying for the 450th Bomb Group, John was stationed in Manduria, near the tip of the heel of Italy’s boot. As a navigator and occasional bombardier, John would fly 50 missions. The 450th Bomb Group had targets generally focused on infrastructure (oil refineries, rail bridges, rail yards, marshalling yards, etc.) in Munich Germany (700 Miles or so) and Vienna, Austria. They would depart from their airfield, fly over the Adriatic Sea, cross over the Alps, turn to their targets and attack their target areas. Other but less frequent target areas were in Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Italy. John flew his final mission in April 1945. He departed his unit and waited to catch a ship back to the US. On the trip back, as the ship was passing through the Straits of Gibraltar he got the news of VE Day (May 8, 1945). His trip to Europe in 1944 took 26 days, but his return trip in 1945 took 5 days. The war was still raging in the Pacific and a possible invasion of the Japanese mainland was on the way, so he was on orders for transition training on another aircraft and duty in the Pacific Theater. John had met a young lady when on leave earlier in the war, and when John returned from overseas in May-June 1945 they dated 29 times during his 30 days of leave. He then departed for additional training in Santa Ana. They got married in 1948 and 73 years together before Clare passed away in September 2021. John was at Ellington Airfield in Houston, Texas in August 1945, training for deployment to Pacific Theater, when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. VJ Day, ‘Victory over Japan’, was celebrated on August 14, 1945. The war was over. John turned 21 two days later on August 16, 1945. Crestwood students were fortunate to hear all these stories over zoom in February 2022, when we had the chance to interview John.
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