April 5, 1944
From the "Herkimer Evening Telegram"

This story was printed April 5, 1944 in the Herkimer Evening Telegram. The human interest involving the soldier in the article is so touching, that I chose to submit this moving story with its history.

Betsy Voorhees
Town of Herkimer Editor
May 2001


Middleville--Thrills equal to the best "brain storms" of the world's leading fiction writers have been real in the life of Pvt. John Zaborek, 22, son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Zaborek, who arrived home unexpectely yesterday with an honorable discharge form the army.

Experiences, recited by the young infantryman, now a victim of shellshock, included participation in the initial invasion of North Africa, 16 days a Nazi prisoner during which his ship was a direct hit of an Allied serial bomb, and the regaining of freedom which permitted him to rejoin his company and take part in the invasion on Sicily, where he received his wounds.

Zaborek, one of three soldier sons of the Middleville couple, enlisted in September 1940. After basic training at Fort Wadsworth, L. I., he trained at Edgewood Arsenal, Md., Puerto Rico, Camp Blanding, Fort Henning, Fort Devens and Indiantown Gap.

On Aug. 7, 1942 he was shipped to England and three months later was part of the First Division in the N. African invasion. He was a rifeleman and his unit fought bitterly to help drive the crack Nazi Afrika Korps from Africa.

It was on Good Friday, one year ago, that Zaborek and 20 other Yanks, drove German soldiers from an important hilltop position only to have the Nazis counter-attack and cut off all routes of retreat. Being surrounded the American platoon surrendered and were marched to a German prison camp near Tunis.

For 13 days the Americans were confined in low buildings with straw, on the floor as bedding. Meals comprised one loaf of bread daily to be shared by three men, a portion of mule meat and a dish of carrot and pea stew.

While there Zaborek had opportunity to compare the Germans with the Italians and the way each treated American prisoners.

"The Italians wanted to be friendly and tried to give us cigarettes and extra food portions but the Germans would not let them," he said. "I don't think the Germans liked the Italians very much."

He also noted the difference between German soldiers, asserting that the "older ones seemed to know what the score was and the younger men were true Nazis with the idea that the German troops still had possession of all Africa. This was three days before the fall of Tunis, so you see how misinformed they were," he said.

LOST $1,600
One of the first things the Germans did, according to Zaborek, was to take all valuable articles from their captives, including $1,600 in cash from the Middleville man.

He had been in various hospitals in Africa and arrived in the U.S. Feb. 14, 1944. He was given his medical discharge at Deshon General Hospital, Butler, Pa.

His arrival was a complete surprise to his mother and the reunion was most unexpected. It seems Mrs. Zaborek had come to Herkimer yesterday morning to seek aid of the Red Cross Home Services, explaining she had not heard from her son in a long time.

While standing at Albany and Main Sts., she spied her son just as he was stepping out of a car, having hitchhiked from Utica to Herkimer.

"I just couldn't believe it was Johnnie," Mrs. Zaborek said. "Here I was worried that something had happened to him and there he was right in front of me."

On his chest he wears four service ribbons, one for being in the army before Pearl Harbor; one for participating in American theatre of war, a third for being in the European Theatre and the fourth for good conduct.

The Europen band has four stars, each representing a major campaign. During his 18 months abroad he met only one soldier from this area a machine gunner named Stuart Balch, also of Middleville. Balch, later wounded, is now at a training camp in the U.S.A.

Zaborek has two brothers in service, Corp. Benjamin Zaborek, 28, in Hawaii and Sgt. Steven Zaborek, 28, in England.

All spellings are as in the original newspaper article.

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Created: 5/22/01
Copyright © 1945 Herkimer Evening Telegram
Copyright © 2001 Betsy Voorhees
All Rights Reserved.