Anthony Henry Banach, U.S. Navy

Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts.

Anthony Henry Banach served in the United States Navy Reserves in the 1930s and then in the United States Navy during World War II.

During his first enlistment with the U.S. Naval Reserve, he served with the 12th separate fleet division as a seaman, 2nd class, and fireman, 3rd class. He enlisted Feb. 2, 1931, and was honorably discharged on Feb. 11, 1935. During that time, he attended 180 drills.

On Feb. 28, 1935, he re-enlisted in the 12th Reserve Naval Reserve unit, serving as a fireman 3rd class, then fireman 2nd class, and an engineer. He attended 199 drills, and was discharged honorably on Feb. 27, 1939.

He was credited with 379 reserve drills in eight years. His training duty ships were the USS Cole in 1933, the USS Herbert in 1935 and the USS Tattnall in 1937.

His third Naval enlistment began Feb. 2, 1944. This time, he was engaged in regular service with the United States Navy in World War II. His military duty stations included the Naval Training Station in Sampson and the Naval Training Station in Newport, R.I. He was honored with a number of medals and awards during this tour of duty. They included the World War II Victory Medal, American Campaigns, Navy Unit Citation, Asiatic Pacific with 3 combat stars, and the Sharp Shooter M-1 Carbine Award.

He served on the USS Monitor, which was an LST 5 named after the original Monitor. The navy had this ship built for its fast speed. It was a landing ship that served a dual purpose of also running interference for the larger battleships. The ship saw her first combat in the Philippines, where she later participated in the invasion of Luzon. Later, the Monitor saw action in delivering Marines to Guadalcanal and the battle of Okinawa, preparing for the landing on Japan’s mainland. The USS Monitor carried over 1,000 sailors from the battleship the USS Missouri (BB-63), the battleship the USS Indiana(BB-58), the battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) and the USS Alabama (BB-60).

He also served on the USS Cole, a destroyer escort ship. It was the first of three ships named the USS Cole. This ship was built in 1918, named after a USMC officer, E. Cole, who was the first one killed at Belleau Wood.

As a machinist mate 3rd class, Banach’s duties were to repair and replace defective metal items needed to maintain the ships availability; to set up the tool machine; to make new tools; to fabricate metal items that may be needed; and to weld and braise medals.

Prior to that enlistment, Anthony married Emily Kondzielski Nov. 24, 1935. The Thanksgiving Day wedding took place at St. Hedwig’s Catholic Parish. After the ceremony, the families, friends and guests were invited to a reception held at the Dunkirk Falcon Club located in Dunkirk’s Fourth Ward. Anthony and Emily were eventually blessed with two daughters, who grew up to become Janet (Banach) Miller and Audrey (Banach) Szwejbka.

Grandchildren followed, including David D. Miller, Denise (Joseph) Trippi, Cynthia (Rick) Sheridan, Colleen (Frederick) Kane, Maureen Carlson, James Szwejbka Jr., Jay (Jessica) Szwejbka, Jon (Kimberly) Szwejbka and Jodee (Szwejbka), wife of the late Randall Cooper. The next generation includes great grandchildren Jillian Petrella, Ty Miller, Brittany Sheridan, Ryan Sheridan, Sara Miller, Steven Kane, Rebecca Kane, Frederick Kane III, Rachael Carlson, Robert Carlson, Janelle Szwejbka, Josalyn Szwejbka, Marissa Szwejbka, Elizabeth Szwejbka, Andrea Szwejbka, Grayson Szwejbka, Louis Smith, Skylar Cooper and Randall “Randy” Cooper II.

The year was 1913. In the city of Dunkirk, most that had lived in that era would have called 1913 “the year of the big blow,” “the fresh water fury,” or “the year of the big storms.” 1913 was when the city of Dunkirk witnessed what most experts called a “cyclonic blizzard.” It was a year that saw a major countrywide storm that had caused most of its havoc along the Great Lakes area. To describe a cyclonic storm, most locals would have said it was a storm of many blizzards with hurricane- like winds.

A few months before Dunkirk witnessed that cyclonic blizzard of 1913, the Walter Banach family from Dunkirk’s Genet Street had been busy looking for a bigger home to raise their ever-growing family. Walter, a skilled machinist from the A.P.C. company and his wife Maryanna (Stanistzwczyk) knew another baby would be arriving soon. On Jan. 15, on a cold and snowy day, Walter and Maryanna welcomed into the world their new son, Anthony Henry. Waiting at home were Anthony’s new family: sisters Isabella (Belle), Stella, Angeline, Florence and Josephine as well as big brothers Joseph, Henry and Edward. Now a family of 11, the Banachs moved to their new larger home on McDonough Street in Dunkirk’s Fourth Ward. It wasn’t long before the family needed more room, so in 1916, they moved to a larger Pangolin Street home.

Growing up near the lake, as a child Anthony spent much of his youth with the neighborhood children either swimming at Wright Park’s beaches, wading out to the flats and even exploring the caves along the cliffs. He heard many stories from the older kids about pirates sailing into these caves or a blind farmer going over the cliffs with his horse while plowing the fields. As Anthony grew older, he realized that these caves were only a few yards deep and no farmer ever went over the cliffs.

As was the case for most children of the First Ward, St. Hyacinth’s was the school where the majority spent their time learning the ABCs, English, history and even Polish.

With times being hard, most children when they could would help the family by going to work to help to pay the bills and have food on the table. It was common for the boys to leave school and help the family. Anthony was no exception. He started taking any odd job that would help. Finally he landed a job at the Dunkirk Radiator Co. Later, because of his skills, he was lucky to land a job at Alco in the heat treatment department.

On Jan 15, 1931, Anthony woke up knowing that this day was the day that could change his life. He now was 18 years old. In those days, things changed when a man was 18. He could then apply for better jobs. He would be considered an adult. Because of his love for water and now that he was old enough, Anthony enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve. He could now be part of the military and serve his country. Also, he could still stay in Dunkirk and work to help with the family’s obligations.

Anthony would admit that the real reason was he wanted to see the world and see it from a ship. Anthony enlisted, and the next four years he attended 180 of the 187 drills, an outstanding record that listed Anthony at a 3.8 out of 4.0.

When his reserve obligation was completed, Anthony received his honorable discharge. One of the highlights of Anthony’s first enlistment was his annual 15-day summer cruise. He had the honor to be assigned to the (1933) USS Cole, his first time on a U.S. naval ship. Anthony got his wish to see the world. The 15-day cruise took Anthony through the Panama Canal. Anthony now officially had a sea story. On Feb. 11, 1935, Anthony Henry Banach received his honorable discharge from the U.S. Naval Reserves.

NEXT WEEK: World War II on the horizon.