Peter Zwieryznski Sr. of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania spent nearly thirty years in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, the air force militia of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  “Every three years when my enlistment was up, I thought what the heck.  Might as well do another three years,” Pete says of his long career as a maintenance specialist.  Committing himself to two days a month and two weeks a year–from the Korean War through the end of the Vietnam era–Peter rose to the rank of Senior Master Sergeant.

Pete Zwieryznski visited with us on our last day of recording veterans at the Carnegie Free Library in Beaver Falls, PA.  We were sad to leave our newly relocated space on the library’s second floor–where we had recently met and preserved the stories of ten veterans, but with the sweltering June heat upon us, perhaps it was time to go.  At least our overburdened air conditioner kept the summer heat and humidity at bay, at least until we could finally get Pete’s story.

In over two hundred interviews, Pete’s story was a “first” for us; we’ve never met a veteran of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, and our June 2013 recording was a tremendous learning experience.

Forging the Air National Guard

The Air National Guard as we know it today — a separate reserve component of the United States Air Force — was a product of the politics of postwar planning and interservice rivalry during World War II. The men who planned and maneuvered for an independent postwar Air Force during World War II didn’t place much faith in the reserves, especially the state-dominated National Guard. On the contrary, they were determined to build the largest and most modern standing force possible. They assumed that future wars would be short and highly destructive affairs decided by the ability of one side to deliver massive aerial firepower on an enemy’s heartland. They were convinced that reserves could not operate complex modern weapons without extensive post-mobilization training. Reserves did not play a prominent role in their vision of the postwar Air Force. For its part, the Guard had a well-established stake in aviation. It had formed 29 observation squadrons between World War I and World War II.  (More…)

Air National Guard at 60: A History

2013: Year of the Korean War Veteran

The Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee, authorized in the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, is dedicated to thanking and honoring all the Veterans of the Korean War, their families and especially those who lost loved ones in that war. Through 2013, the Committee will honor the service and sacrifice of Korean War Veterans, commemorate the key events of the war, and educate Americans of all ages about the historical significance of the Korean War.

“The Korean War was the first test of the United Nations’ resolve to stand against tyranny in all its forms. Twenty nations banded together with the United States and South Korea in a remarkable display of solidarity to turn back naked aggression and stem the tide of communism. The Armistice signed in 1953 that remains in effect today reminds us that we must remain vigilant against the forces of tyranny and oppression.

The Korean War also saw the advent of aeronautical, medical and societal change: Helicopters were introduced to transport casualties to field hospital. Jets became the new “standard” for aircraft; leading-edge radio technology allowed better coordination of troop movements. Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) units placed experienced medical personnel closer to the front, improving a wounded Soldier’s chance for survival. Perhaps the most lasting impact of the Korean War was the social change that was manifested to American society. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman had signed Executive Order 9981, implementing the full integration of America’s Armed Services. Thus, America went to war in Korea for the first time in her history with a military that reflected her diversity.

The selfless sacrifices of the Veterans who fought in Korea to ensure the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today must always be remembered. The Veterans who shivered in the trenches, tracked through knee-deep mud, flew combat missions over rugged mountainous terrain, and stood watch over hostile seas set aside their own comfort, safety and aspirations to answer the call to arms at a time when our nation was still exhausted from the horrors of World War II. These patriots halted the tide of communism that threatened to sweep over the Korean peninsula. Today the Republic of Korea stands as a modern, prosperous, vibrant democracy because of their courage and selfless sacrifice. (from Army Live: The Official Blog of the United States Army)