Dunkirk Class ‘48 to salute Korean War casuality

The Dunkirk High School Class of 1948 had a bit of money left in its reunion coffers and will use it to honor one of its own.

The money will be given to the Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council Honor Guard in the name of U.S. Army PFC John Naetzker, a Korean War casualty. A member of the 5th Cavalry regiment’s 1st Cavalry Division, Naetzker was killed in action on Oct. 11, 1951. Naetzker, who was born in Dunkirk on Dec. 13, 1930, was 20 years old when he died in the Chorwon area of North Korea.

“John was a member of the Dunkirk High School Class of 1948 and was deeply missed by all,” Class President Robert Zielinski said. “I thought of John, it was a shame a young fellow like that.”

Zielinski said he was in the Naval Reserve and was called up for several years of active duty during the Korean War.

“When I came home and found out he was killed over there, I said ‘holy cripe, he was a pretty good fellow.’ I liked him a lot,” Zielinski stated. “He always had a twinkle in his eye, a nice big smile. He was a helluva good-natured guy.”

War was no stranger to Zielinski and his classmates now in their 80s, having started high school in the fall of 1944 with World War II still being fought. He was asked what that experience was like.

“You just watched the newspapers. When you went to the theater you had all the coverage with that sort of thing,” he replied. “Now you get more coverage on the television from the history of it all. They have a lot of German and Japanese film that wasn’t available at that time. … The buck was tight at that time, everybody was coming off the Depression. Basically, it wasn’t until war time that things had picked up.”

Zielinski said quite a few of his classmates served in the military.

“The guys, they got drafted and that whole thing. As far as I know he was the only fatality; I didn’t hear of anybody else getting killed. A lot of the guys were in different parts of the country. Some were in Europe. Everybody didn’t go to the Orient so they were safe in that respect in performing their duty,” he added. “Most of the guys either enlisted or were drafted. At that time you couldn’t dodge it unless you had a college thing going for yourself. Normally, everybody spent some time in the military one way or the other.

“It ages you a little bit and gives you a little different outlook on life, that’s for darn sure. You’re cutting your mama’s apron strings, one of those things.”

Class of 1948 committee members Jack Benson, Anthony Pietro, Frank Zaccari, Earl Carlson, Michael Puglisi, Charles Hannum and Zielinski decided unanimously to donate the remainder of the class bank account, $236, to the DJVC Honor Guard.

Officers for the DHS Class of 1948 besides Zielinski were vice president Concetta Zaccari Griffo; treasurer Frank Zaccari and recording secretary Rita Jaguszewski Cieslewicz.

The service will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Naetzker’s gravesite in Willowbrook Cemetery. In the event of rain, the service will be held at 10 a.m. American Legion Post 62 in Dunkirk.

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