Ernest Ziga of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania served with the Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1946. After training as a flight cadet at Yale University and earning a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Ernest shipped west became a B-17 maintenance officer. In the South Pacific he served with the 873rd Bombardment Squadron, sending B-29s, as the War Department ordered, for the “strategic bombardment of the Japanese Home Islands and the destruction of its war-making capability.”
“We lost a lot of planes,” Ernest recalls. “We lost a lot of men. Sometimes we were shot down but we also had a lot of fires on the B-29s because they leaked oil so much.”
On the first Monday of each month throughout 2015, we conducted oral history interviews at the Thomas & Katherine Detre Library & Archives in the Senator John Heinz History Center. The library is closed to the public on these days, so the staff graciously invited us to meet with local veterans and use this space to record and preserve their stories.
On May 4, 2015, we invited three senior Pittsburgh area veterans to the Senator John Heinz History to share their stories with the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. First to be interviewed by historian Todd DePastino was Ernest Ziga, who served in the South Pacific during WWII. Then we were joined by Korean War combat veteran Jerry Gzesh, followed by WWII navy veteran Rege Wessell.
I Outlived Them All
In the end, long life is the reward, writes Grace Paley, but it has its price. During our oral history interview, WWII veteran Ernest Ziga of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania browses through memorabilia collected from the war years and he reminisces about old friends. At 92, he’s outlived most everybody he’s ever known.
The original interview was recorded May 4, 2015 by the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.