War Story Comes Home
man learns how his Uncle made the supreme sacrifice
his daughter Christina heard the unfamiliar voice of an elderly
man on tire other end of the telephone line, Ed Kanick might
have thought it was just another caller looking for the services
of the Lansford restaurateur. Little did he know that Pat Mastromatteo,
a resident of Manheim, Pa., only wanted to convey a war story
he longed to tell.
was only a few short weeks ago, when Mastromatteo, a member
of the Air Force's 39th Bomb Group in World War II, called to
tell Ed the story he was just as anxious to hear.
two had never met, although Mastromatteo and Ed's uncle and
namesake, the late Tech Sgt. Edward Kanick, a Lansford native
killed in the war, were comrades until their P-30
"Skyscrapper" bomber went down in the Pacific on June 1, 1945.
men were aboard the plane during the unit's 14th mission, their
target being Osaka, Japan.
Ten survived, with Kanick being the only casualty.
who with his group members still communicate 53 years later
with each other via what they call "a round-robin mailing,"
set out to tell the story of how their flight engineer made
the supreme sacrifice.
explained, "I knew Ed was from the Coal Regions, and my wife
is from Oneida, just south of Hazleton. Every time I would
come up here, I often wondered where Ed lived, and so, after
I decided to pursue his family."
carrying a small head shot of his late comrade in his wallet,
visited several regional newspapers, including the TIMES News'
Tamaqua office and papers in Pottsville, Berwick, Hazleton
and Wilkes-Barre. It was during a stop in Pottsville, when he
stopped at a stationery store to buy a scratch pad, that the
clerk invited him to look up the Kanick name in the telephone
directory, eventually finding the nephew's residence in Lansford.
"I asked if I could stop by his house because I wanted to tell
the story, Mastromatteo said. "I always thought the relatives
ought to know as much as they could about Ed's death."
dreadful event, Mastromatteo recalled, happened after the unit
left Northfield, Guam, and had just hit landfall. "We developed
trouble with the No. 1 engine and had to feather it
the propeller) but our Captain decided since we came this far,
we weren't turning back."
furthered that just as the plane went over its target, flak
hit the No.4 engine, causing it to catch fire. He said a third
engine ''ran away, out of control" causing its propeller to
make over 3,200 revolutions per minute," adding, "It spliced
us in half."
39th Bomb Group chronicle of the incident noted
the bomber was left in "perilous condition with accumulated
damage now amounting to the loss of two engines, a flak hit
in the third, damage to the flight controls and a hole in the
recalled that despite the plane "shaking like the dickens,"
Capt. Bill Orr and the pilot, Lt. Monte Frodsham, still managed
to bring it under control. "But we were losing altitude and
eventually would have crashed," he said. "The Captain decided
we would bail out."
that time, the plane's navigator spotted an small island in
the ocean which Orr decided would be their hopeful destination.
He ordered all of the men out of the plane and then remained
with it until he guided it away from the vicinity so that it
would not possibly hit any of the survivors in the water when
said, "In a matter of minutes, the plane exploded in mid-air."
Manheim man said since Kanick couldn't swim, the game plan was
for him to "hang on the back of the co-pilot (Frodsham)."
When the two landed in the water, the co-pilot planned to assist
him to safety. Unfortunately, it never happened."
said the airmen had parachutes strapped to their
chests and a rafting device on their backs, which enabled them
to survive in the water for about four hours.
Eventually, a B-17 plane dropped a Higgins life boat in the
water, which the 10 survivors were able to get to until they
were rescued by submarines. The unit reorganized and completed
23 missions before the war had ended.
Mastromatteo said of Kanick, who died at
the age of 23, "He was one of the finest men I have ever
known. He was very devout and sincere. If anybody should've
gone, it should have been the 10 of us instead of Ed.
Lansford airman was decorated by the U.S. with the Air Medal
and One Cluster, the Purple Heart, Good Conduct and Asiatic-Pacific
Theatre medals, which his nephew plans to obtain and preserve
in his uncle's memory.
late Frank Kanick, brother of the military hero, named his first
son after his brother.
searched for the story of my uncle's death and people either
didn't know much about it or didn't want to talk about it,"
Ed said. "Then, 53 years later, someone completely unknown to
me comes to my house and tells me the whole story. I can't believe
I finally heard the true story 50-some years after the fact,
but I'm grateful to Pat."
added, "This country should be grateful to those who have had
gone to war for us. These were 18- and 19-year-olds who had
the pressure of the world on their backs. Most of us, when we
were that age, were playing baseball and other games."
has since received numerous photographs and documents about
the 39th Bomb Group from Mastromatteo, including a photograph
of his late uncle. A search of family relics since he
learned the entire story of his uncle's death also resulted
in his discovery of a letter to his late grandfather, Joseph
Kanick Sr., written by Capt. Orr five weeks after the tragedy
in the Pacific.
Kanick (l) shows Pat Mastromatteo (r), his uncle's former
W.W.II fellow crew member, where the dead Lansford Sergeant's
name is listed on the town's honor roll.
In that letter, Orr said:
"This note I feel it is my duty to write and I, must assure
you a harder task I have never before undertaken.
"I was your son, T/Sgt. Edward Kanick's airplane commander
and pilot since the crew was formed at Salina, Kan., last
October. I want you to know, from a person whose association
with your son both as his commanding officer and friend
during training and these past few months of combat, that
there wasn't a man in the outfit held in higher regard.
His devotion to duty and unanswering loyalty to
the cause he believed in led him to early death.
Until the very end, he did his job with the same degree
of perfection that made him the best flight engineer I
have ever seen.
At a time like this words are futile things and I know
there is little I can do to ease your sense of loss.
However, in the words of someone more adept at expressing
the correct thought let me quote “We all must die
some time, but we all can't die for something.”
“Let us all pray that the victory we gain through the
price we paid by men like Edward Kanick will be the end
of war and the dawning of of an ever lasting peace.”
thanks to guys like Pat Mastromatteo, stories like Ed Kanick
continue to be told.
article was written by Bill O`Guerk of the Lehighton,
NEWS Staff. The article is dated 07/16/98