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Retired Coast Guard auxiliarist George Felski was involved in four major invasions in the Pacific Theater during World War II.


Cheboygan Tribune, December 7, 2016
By Kortny Hahn, Staff Writer
Edited by Kathleen Ferguson

World War II veteran George Felski had an eventful time in the United States Navy as a Seaman First Class, including the time he spent in Pearl Harbor before going on four major invasions in the Pacific Theater.

"I was there, not stationed there, but we came in continuously from the South Pacific and loaded up," said Felski. "I was on an LST, that's Landing Ship-Tanks.

On the tank deck, we had 21 tanks or ducks." The ducks were water and land vehicles that could be driven off the ship onto the land during the invasions.

On the bow of the ship, there were also 50 100-gallon fuel tanks full of fuel for the planes and the ammunition was all stowed below deck.

When he first got to his station, there were 11 other men who were from Chicago, like Felski. They were in a group on a troop ship and it took them two weeks to get to Washington state because of needing to zig-zag to avoid the submarines.

They first went to a Marine camp for two weeks until they were able to get their ship. Then they took their ship to Pearl Harbor, to load up for their missions.

"That's where we picked up our ship," said Felski.

While in Pearl Harbor, the men were not allowed to spend much time on the island, or away from the ship. They also weren't allowed to have any cameras with them, so not many photographs were taken during that time.

"We didn't have much time to think of anything," said Felski. "We were constantly on the go."

When the ships first loaded up and started out toward their invasion, Felski said they encountered a typhoon and some of the ships lost their load of what was on their decks.

There were two groups of six men and they were all given their papers and told to get on the ships but no one was checking to make sure they were on the right ship. Felski, fortunately, got on the wrong ship and found out later of an accident he could have been involved in.

"A couple months later I saw one of the guys from the ship," he said.

When they had all been getting on the ships to go to Pearl Harbor, Felski remembers hearing a loud bang and seeing a large amount of smoke in the sky.

"I couldn't figure out what the heck happened," he said. "Well, the gas we have in the tanks on the top, it must have been odors from there and one of the tanks had been leaking, and everyone was smoking, so it went bang. We lost four or five."

The guy from the ship Felski ran into said he had been on the back of the ship when the explosion happened. He had heard the bang and the next thing he knew, he was waking up in the hospital.

"So I was fortunate to not be on that ship," said Felski.

After loading up their supplies in Pearl Harbor, Felski and his fellow servicemen went on four major invasions, including Saipan, Luzon and Tinian, returning to Hawaii after each invasion. He received a Philippine Liberation star, and an Asiatic Pacific Area Ribbon with 3 stars for his service in these areas.

When on the way to their missions, there were more than 500 men on the ship, sleeping in rooms with bunks that were three high and a 50 gallon drum in the middle of the room in case someone needed to get sick.

"I said this is not for me, I went over to the gun mount and slept on the life jackets all the way," said Felski.

During his military career, he also received letters of commendation from President Harry Truman, the Secretary of the Navy and the Governor of Illinois, thanking him for his service to the country. He had been a member of the firefighter's group and the pointer on a twin-40 cannon on his ship. He received a total of four medals, all with gold stars.

Felski was in the Navy from January 1944 - April 1946, and was in Pearl Harbor before the sand was put in to raise the USS Arizona to make a museum two years after the attack on the base.

"All you could see was the top of the ship," said Felski.

After the war was over, Felski was part of the crew in Sacramento that was charged with the disposal of large quantities of ammunition that was left over. Most of the ammo that was being disposed of was well over its expiration date and could no longer be used.

"So we got the job of hauling it out, 20-40 miles and dumping it," said Felski. "And we got out there and we got caught in a big storm and we broke our cable."

There were two doors with a ramp that was used to access the ship. With the cable breaking, the ship started taking on water, with between six and eight feet of water accumulating before anyone was able to do anything with it.

Felski said the duty officer came by and asked all of the men on the ship if they knew anything about the pumps that were used to drain the water that had built up. Felski volunteered that he knew how to work on the pumps so was told to take as many men as he needed and get the pumps working to drain the water.

"I had worked on them before, so I knew what I was doing," he said. "So I got them all set and the water all drained. By that time they had the cable set and we were on our way. The duty officer says I'm going to put you in for a silver star and officers' training."

When he found out the officers' training took six years to complete, Felski decided he didn't want to take that route. He never received the silver star.

After his time in the Navy, Felski was back in Chicago, where he met his wife. They moved to Cheboygan, where they have been living since 1952. He started working for his father-in-law at Hobart's Marine and then purchased the marina in 1965 and sold it in 1987.

He also joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Cheboygan, where he was commander for six years and vice-commander for seven years after he sold the marina. "I was in there 15 years," said Felski. Felski retired from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, but still maintains friendships with those he served with.

 STRANDED BOATER RESCUED BY AUXILIARISTS

A stranded boater, adrift in Long Island Sound for two days, was rescued this past Tuesday by an Auxiliarist on a recreational voyage. Robert Ewing, an AUXAIR Aircraft Commander, who flies when he is not out on his Lord Nelson tug, came upon and rescued a man in a plastic raft in the middle of Long Island Sound. See link below.

http://nypost.com/2016/06/14/stranded-man-rescued-after-two-days-adrift-in-long-island-sound/