Watchmaker who went to war
Herman Shanker passes at age 98
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Nov 14, 2012 | 3893 views | 2 2 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SHARING HIS EXPERIENCES – Herman Shanker talked about his experiences at war last year at the VFW Post 226.
SHARING HIS EXPERIENCES – Herman Shanker talked about his experiences at war last year at the VFW Post 226.
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“I was with the 90th Bomber Group,” said Herman Shanker last year when speaking before a group of sixth graders at V.F.W. Post 226. “We flew B-24s, which are heavy bombers, in the Pacific. I flew 27 missions. Coming back on a run, one of the crew reported one of the pins breaking, and once they break, the plane goes any which way. You can’t control it. We had to jump quick.”

They jumped out over New Guinea and landed in a field where they confronted by Japanese soldiers coming out of the jungle.

Shanker recalled the shootout that transpired and, finally, how he and his crew managed their escape.

“We got out of there fast and headed for our base,” he said.

On foot in the jungle, the half-hour trip by air turned into a hard three-day trek fighting through heavy overgrowth. Every time they came to a stream, they had to shoot the alligators to get through. Once back, they headed for the war room, reported their experiences, and then went to the mess hall.

“Boy, did we eat. We ate and ate, and then went to our tents and went to sleep,” he said.

Drafted on 19th birthday

Born in 1914, Shanker was a watch- and instrument-maker at Bendix before being drafted on his 19th birthday, June 18, 1943. He served in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1946 in the Pacific Theater of operation. He was a member of the “Jolly Rogers” flying in and repairing B-24 Liberator bombers. He piloted a B24 Bomber and was a member of the 90th Bomb Group, 319th Squadron.

Shanker was shot down a second time, in even more hectic circumstances, landing in water with sharks that attacked and killed half of his crew.

“We floated around for three hours in the water,” he said, an incident he did not like to recall often, but thought he might not survive.

But he did survive, passing away on Nov. 6 this year at the ripe old age of 98. Except for the war years, he lived his entire life in Bayonne.


__________
“I like helping people.” – Herman Shanker
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A legacy left behind

Shanker served in New Guinea, the Philippines, at Okinawa, and finally Ie Shima, where the surrendering Japanese Imperial forces were flown for the formal surrender ceremony in August, 1945. He said that he was the last man to leave Ie Shima. He was held over until the last plane took off in case repairs were needed.

Upon his discharge at the rank of staff sergeant, he returned to watch-making. But in 1950, he took up employment as a sewing machine mechanic for Maidenform in Bayonne. He retired from the company in 1979. Thereafter, he and his wife Esther often traveled around the country, especially up to Rochester, N.Y.

In the early 1990s, he assisted his son Steve, who worked on flight line duty at the Wings of Eagles war plane air show, helping to direct taxiing aircraft.

In 1999, Shanker, then 94 years old, was honored by the Bayonne Marine Corps League with the Lance/Corporal Stanley J. Kopcinski Memorial Award. Shanker had also been the commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 18 of Bayonne since 1998. He served as junior vice commander of V.F.W. Post 226 of Bayonne and as chaplain of the Bayonne Memorial Day Parade Committee, which plans the annual Memorial Day Parade as well as the Flag Day ceremonies and other special events.

Shanker loved collecting at ShopRite on Avenue C for many causes and was as much a fixture there as the store manager, setting up his chair near the exit door where he greeted many of his friends in the community.

“I like helping people,” he told the Bayonne Community News at one such collection not long go.

Shanker was also an avid gardener who always shared his produce and pickles with neighbors and friends and continued to fix mechanical watches until a few years ago. He could play the piano and organ by ear and often did so at many WWII reunions.

Comments
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revo
|
November 15, 2012
how unfortunate an obit of a great vet is ruined by sloppiness.

The headline says he was 98. But the copy says:

"Born in 1914, Shanker was a watch- and instrument-maker at Bendix before being drafted on his 19th birthday, June 18, 1943." If he was born in 1914, then it would have been his 29th birthday.

Then it says:

"In 1999, Shanker, then 94 years old, was honored by the Bayonne Marine Corps League with the Lance/Corporal Stanley J. Kopcinski Memorial Award." If he was 94 years old in 1999, then he would have been 117 years old when he passed.

How old was this great man really??? Can't someone use a calculator?
revo
|
November 15, 2012
he would have been 107 years old when he passed if he was 94 years old in 1999. Maybe I need a calculator!