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Buffalo veteran tells how he witnessed the end of WWII

2 On Your Side’s Pete Gallivan got an email from Sarah Minkel, whose grandfather was there, aboard the USS Missouri and witnessed the Japanese surrender.

Earlier this month we recognized Western New York's contributions to victory in World War II Call this a follow-up story.

2 On Your Side’s Pete Gallivan got an email from Sarah Minkel, whose grandfather was there, aboard the USS Missouri and witnessed the Japanese surrender.

Gallivan spoke with Alex Gabryszak about that historic day.

“I enlisted in January 1945, I was 17 years old," Gabryszak said. 

Gabryzak was about to grow up quickly. He was a powder and primer man on turret one, a big gun on the USS Missouri.

“We did see action and went on a bombing run in Hokkaido, Japan," Gabryszak said. 

They also saw history in the making.

"They dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki,” Gabryszak said. “And President Truman says ‘you guys stick around there, they're going to sign a peace treaty on your ship.’"

Even at 93 years old, he remembers it like yesterday

"I did see the Japanese entourage go on the ship," he said. 

September 2, 1945, aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, World War II comes to a close when Japanese officials sign the unconditional surrender. Gen. Douglas MacArthur presides over the momentous occasion.

"I was about maybe 60, 75 feet away from the ceremony on the 0-2 level where they signed a peace treaty,” Gabryszak said.  

Even in the moment, he said he realized how momentous this occasion was. 

“I said man, what a historic moment, for a seaman second class to be a witness to [the end of] one of the greatest wars America ever had," Gabryzak said. 

Alex made it to the 50th-anniversary commemoration, 25 years ago, and was looking forward to possibly making the trip to pearl harbor for the 75th. But like many other events, it was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.  

Though the virus canceled the ceremony,  it can't cancel out this proud Buffalonian’s place in history.

After serving his country, Alex got married, had three daughters. He worked at Calspan. Now he loves to golf and traveling. He has certainly earned his retirement.