Anthony Henry Banach, U.S. Navy
Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts.
With his Naval enlistment over, it wasn’t long before Anthony Henry Banach knew he needed to go back and do what he really enjoyed.
On Feb. 28, 1935, only 17 days after receiving his discharge relieving him of all his obligations, Banach re-enlisted in the United States Naval Reserves for the second time. As he did in the past, he spent his time in the reserves as a second class fireman and now earned the rank of an engineer.
The next four years saw Anthony attending 199 drills out of a possible 204. This enlistment included Anthony’s summer 15 day cruises on the USS Herbert in 1935 and the USS Tattnall in 1937. This time, Anthony added to his worldly adventures, seeing the Mediterranean and escorting 6 Naval LST to the Roosevelt Roads U.S. Naval station in Puerto Rico. On Feb. 27, 1939, Anthony was discharged honorably again.
Upon coming home, he landed a job with the Dunkirk Locomotive plant, because of his Naval skills, he landed a job in its machine shop.
With the Navy behind him now, a good job, and a family started, life was going well. In the summer months, Anthony played softball. It was a game he excelled at. Whenever a new team was in the process of filling positions, when the catcher’s job came up, most captains’ first choice was Anthony. Work, softball, and walks along the lake took all of Anthony’s spare time. All was going great until that one radio broadcast on Dec. 7, 1941 that informed everyone that the Pacific U.S. Naval Fleet was deliberately attacked at Pearl Harbor.
To Anthony, the Pearl Harbor news hit him like a ton of bricks. In his head, memories returned of friends from his Navy days. He had feelings that he should have been there, and thoughts of ships being sent to the bottom of the harbor with all those sailors being helpless. He was ready to join the next day, Dec. 8. Anthony was told that the country wasn’t ready for massive enlistments. All the boot camps and Navy schools were already filled with prior enlistments. The U.S. had massive transportation for moving young men for training. The country needed to build more training bases.
They needed qualified personnel to train new recruits. Part of the Navy’s battleship fleet was destroyed at Pearl Harbor. It would take at least one or two years before the U.S. would be ready to begin to have the offense to pay back the Japanese. Along with that, the U.S. was being forced into fighting a two-front war – one in the Pacific and one in the Atlantic. Anthony was told to go home, and when the time was right, he would be contacted. With the country at war, Anthony waited for his letter from the War Department. Other factors were that he was married and at the time, he was 28 years old. The Navy department finally typed up a set of orders for Anthony.
On Feb. 2, 1944, Anthony’s orders read as follows: “Depart from U.S. Reserve Training Center, Dunkirk, N.Y. and report to the Federal Building in Buffalo, N.Y.” When the military-chartered bus arrived at the Dunkirk Reserve Facility, Anthony was told he would be in charge of the group selected to be sworn in. On that bus, Anthony was responsible for 29 new recruits. Of that group, 14 were married men.
With boot camp over, Anthony received orders to report to Philadelphia and report to the destroyers and submarine piers. Once there, report to the commanding officer of the USS Monitor (LSV-5). Reporting to a landing ship in Philadelphia could only mean that Anthony was being assigned to the war in Europe.
Confused by the military uniforms and clothing issued, Anthony knew that he didn’t get enough clothing to keep him warm. That all was forgotten when aboard. Anthony was informed that the USS Monitor had received orders to report to the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet stationed in San Diego, Calif. Now, he was not considered a boot, he was a salt. He could now tell the newer crew members his sea stories about how he went through the Panama Canal.
With the crew of the USS Monitor, Anthony saw action in the Pacific, which involved many escorts of the bigger battleships along with daily protection of U.S. aircraft carriers moving Marines for landings at Okinawa and Guadalcanal. When the war was over, the USS Monitor (lsv-5) was decorated along with her crew with five battle stars.
There were four major sea battles. The Monitor and crew survived two Kamikaze attacks, and ran interference for the Franklin. The Monitor nearly received a torpedo hit. The ship was saved because of the quick response from the captain.
With the war over, all the credit was given to the big ships and the fly boys. Those who sailed in the “tin cans” came home knowing that they did their part. They put themselves out there to stop the big boys from being hit. To those families of the flyers who were shot down, all owe the sailors of those tin cans for putting their lives on the line to not leave anyone behind.
It was on the Marine Corps birthday in 1945 when Anthony received his third honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy. This time, it included the medals and decorations Anthony had earned while fighting for his country.
Now home, and the world at peace, Anthony picked up where he left off. Like most men and women from that generation, Anthony put his uniform in a bag and his medals in a cardboard box. The war was over and nothing more was needed to be said. As for many sailors from Anthony’s era, the families grow older, only knowing that dad or grandpa served in the Navy during the war.
As time goes on, the uniform gets thrown in the trash and the medals and papers get tucked away in a closet or the attic. Years later, the veteran passes and the family only know little of the sacrifices their loved one had paid to keep this country free.
Someday a family member will see this cardboard box and will try now to understand the footsteps their loved one had walked while serving his country. The papers in the box are all filled with partial words, different numbers, and very little help in understanding what it means. It is then when the daughter, son, wife or family member realizes that it would have been so easy to just have asked dad or grandpa when he was alive.
Anthony came home and enjoyed life. He worked at Roblin Steel until his retirement. He enjoyed the lake so much that his daughter told me he went for walks everyday along Lake Front Boulevard. He excelled in softball and played with Koch’s Brewery and the Genesee teams. His softball playing earned him induction into the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame.
Along with baseball, Anthony was dedicated to protecting the people in Dunkirk with his service as a firefighter. His dedication involved attending as many fire protection classes and seminars as possible. He held many hard-earned certificates in fire training for single company operations and New York state fire defense training. He also earned awards for basic, intermediate and advanced fire training. All from the state of New York. Along with the awards, Anthony held many positions in the fire hall. In 1963, Anthony held assistant fire chief, and in 1964 was the city fire chief.
On Brigham Road at the Dunkirk Fire Grounds Training Center, you will find Anthony’s name inscribed with the others who were instrumental with having this facility in the city. Before Anthony was involved with the others, Dunkirk firefighters had to go out of the city for any training.
Helping to start Dunkirk’s first fire training site wasn’t the only thing Anthony was involved with. In its infancy, Anthony was also there for the signing of Dunkirk’s World War II Veterans’ Club for its incorporation.
Anthony was a quiet man. He loved to help anyone who needed help. His daughter had told me a story about when Anthony wanted his two girls to attend Cardinal Mindszenty High School. Thinking his wish was to come true, Anthony later learned that one daughter had chosen to attend Dunkirk High School, mainly because all of her friends were going there. Letting the daughters stay happy, Anthony let them decide for themselves what school they wanted to attend. Each daughter was supportive and dedicated to her school.
Anthony would feel the loss himself when one of his daughter’s school’s football or basketball teams would lose a game. Knowing the feelings one would have when each daughter’s team met each other in a Mindszenty-Dunkirk game, Anthony was in a difficult position. The only way Anthony could keep both his daughters happy when the two girls’ schools met, was to keep himself neutral. Loving sports and not wanting to miss the game, Anthony would always be found at the football game standing between the goal post.
When the games came inside, Anthony would try to sit or stand behind the basket.
On April 9, 1988, we lost this hero. With the help of those papers that were left in that cardboard box, I was able to track this man’s dedication to our country. He enlisted three times. Usually, that’s the enlistment you would have from a person that wanted to make the military his career. Not so for Anthony. His first enlistment came when we were at peace. He didn’t have to join, and during peace time the military is more strict and demanding, it was not just one enlistment of giving up one weekend every month along with other scheduled drills.
Anthony Henry Banach dedicated his life to his country, his community, his teams, and his family. He knew what he wanted and he did it. He always told his daughter, “It’s best to see the whole picture before you do things.” He loved being a catcher. When asked, “Why be a catcher?” Anthony’s reply was, “The catcher is the only position on the ball field that can see everything.”
Anthony saw and did everything he had wanted to. He was another hero who went and did his job, and when done, as most heroes, went on.