Jacob “Jerry” Gzesh of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania served a short hitch in the army just after WWII. Afterwards, in his first semester at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University), the army called him up to active duty and sent him to Korea in 1950. “What was I to do,” he says. “I had to go.”
While in Korea, Jerry served with the 2nd Infantry Division as a combat engineer. Sometimes. He did a lot of different things. Whatever necessity required was the order of the day, such as when Jerry picked up a wounded soldier, while under heavy fire, and brought him to safety. “I didn’t know who he was,” Jerry remembers, “and I never knew what happened to him. It was just something I had to do at the time.”
For his gallantry, General Matthew Ridgway presented Jerry with the Bronze Star Medal, the esteemed version affixed with a “V” for valor.
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.