FOCUS ON HISTORY: Last flight over Japan

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Amsterdam attorney Robert N. Going, who died in 2019, wrote “Honor Roll: The World War II Dead of Amsterdam, N.Y.” in 2010.

Using Recorder clippings, museum collections and personal diaries, Going compiled information on 176 men from the Amsterdam area who died in the war.

The first was William E. Hasenfuss, Jr. from a family of nine children on Northampton Road. Hasenfuss had flown airplanes at an air field in Perth before enlisting in 1939. He died at Hickham Air Field in Hawaii during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The last Amsterdam casualty was listed in the book as Seaman Orlie Charles Thomas, who died in Brooklyn Naval Hospital on November 23, 1945. He had served aboard the battleship Mississippi in the Pacific.

However in his blog called the Judge Report issued online some time after “Honor Roll” was published, Going wrote, “In researching old newspapers for the Amsterdam war dead of World War II, I stopped on June 30, 1946. I should have kept going, as I now learn that yet another Amsterdam hero has gone unrecognized, and his may, in fact, be Amsterdam’s last combat death of World War II, bringing the total up to about 180.”

The Recorder reported on July 8, 1946, “Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Gawron, 7 Catherine Street, have been notified by the War Department that their son, Technical Sergeant Edward F. Gawron, previously reported missing in action July 3, 1945 over Japan, has now been officially declared dead. He was killed in action over Japan on the same date that he had been reported missing.”

Born in Amsterdam in 1925, Gawron graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch High School in 1942. His family called him Patch. He was 20 years old when he died.

He worked at Mohawk Carpet Mills while attending high school and after graduation was employed at the Naval Supply Depot in Scotia. Inducted into military service April 10, 1943, he spent two months with the Medical Corps. He requested and received a transfer to the Army Air Forces to become an air cadet. He attended gunnery school then went to Fort Myers, Florida to take training flights.

Gawron came home on a 15-day furlough before going to the Mariana Islands with the 20th Air Force as a B-29 gunner. He was flying his 35th mission when his B-29 was shot down on Honshu Island by anti-aircraft fire. 

The crew was on its last bombing mission which would have completed their tour of duty. The war ended Sept. 2, 1945. 

According to the website Find A Grave, Gawron’s plane was called Miss Hap. The website also reported that Gawron was buried at a military cemetery in Missouri.

The condolences letter from Adjutant General Edward Witsell continued, “I realize the anguish you have suffered since he was first reported missing in action and I deeply regret the sorrow this later report brings you. May the knowledge that he has made the supreme sacrifice for his home and country be a source of sustaining comfort.”

T/Sergeant Gawron was survived by his parents, Stephen and Julia Zintack Gawron; four brothers. Peter, Leonard, Joseph and Richard and six sisters, Connie, Sally, Veronica, Irene, Dolores and Mary. 

Richard Gawron provided information for this column. Richard and his wife Frances now live in Niskayuna.

Richard’s parents were born in Poland. Richard said his father built their house on Catherine Street off upper Church Street. The family raised chickens.

A 1932 City Directory listed Stephen Gawron’s job as a driver. He also held jobs at M.J. Wytrwal Coal and Oil in Amsterdam and American Locomotive in Schenectady.

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