AUSTINTOWN — John Mashiska said he did not volunteer for military service because he figured if the military wanted him, they would find him.
He was right. He received his draft from the US Army in June 1951, just two years after graduating from Youngstown East High School and while he was attending New Castle Business School. Luckily, Uncle Sam allowed him to delay his entry by a month since the notice came a few days before his high school sweetheart Beverly was to be married.
On the same day, his childhood friend Sam Calaizzi also received a draft notice, who was also granted delayed entry for being the best man at Mashiska’s wedding.
Mashiska, who will be 93 in December, enlisted in the Army on July 9, 1951 while working at Truscon Steel on Youngstown’s East Side.
“I was upset when I got my draft letter. I wanted to get married,” he said.
He completed his six-week basic training at Fort Lee, Virginia. Calaizzi went to Kentucky as part of a tank unit, so he and Mashiska didn’t see each other again until they both returned home. Calaizzi returned first because he was hit in the back by shrapnel.
“I was in administration. I knew that somehow going to business school would be to my advantage,” Mashiska said with a chuckle.
After basic training, Mashiska said he was put on a boat and sent straight to Korea.
“You didn’t waste any time,” he said.
He was assigned to the 849th Quartermaster Petrol Supply Company, which was responsible for overseeing the petroleum, oil, and gas used in the planes and jeeps, as well as for lighting and heating purposes.
Mashiska said he didn’t see a fight because he was in administration, but on one occasion the North Koreans tried to bomb his unit’s camp in Incheon, Korea. He said if the bombardment had been successful it would have set their entire campsite on fire because of all the flammable liquids.
When asked if he had ever been shot at, Mashiska replied, “Not that I know of. I was lucky.”
He said a group of Japanese men once approached him and two other soldiers and asked them to buy a money order from the post office. Mashiska said he and his comrades did so, but when asked a second time a few days later, Masishka made out the money order to his wife and mailed her home.
“It was $600. That was a lot of money, and we realized the Japanese soldiers were probably using it to buy ammunition for the enemy, so I didn’t feel bad about it,” he said.
Mashiska said he worked hard because he wanted to be a corporal to get a higher salary, noting that his wife was working at Livingston in downtown Youngstown at the time. He received $374.30 a month from the Army.
He was eventually promoted to corporal but was discharged from Custer, Michigan a short time later on June 10, 1953.
“I never had to fire my gun while I was in Korea. I was lucky,” Mashiska said.
He said one of his best memories from the service was traveling to Okinawa, Japan to rest and relax and also to see a USO show at the base.
After returning from the war, he got his job back at Truscon Steel but was fired. He was fired from several positions before serving as a production manager at Youngstown Steel Door for 22 years. He lost his job there in 1985 and then worked for four years at a rubber factory in Carey, Pennsylvania. He worked part-time at Sears in Austintown for about five years before officially retiring.
SERVICE BRANCH: Army
MILITARY HONORS: Overseas Campaign Medal and Good Conduct Medal
PROFESSION: Various steel companies, Youngstown Steel Door for 22 years
FAMILY: Wife Beverly, aged 66 (died October 2017); daughters Lynn Yovanovich and Phyllis Miller and son John, all from Austintown; five grandchildren, including a pair of triplets, and a great-grandson who is due in December
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