11/9/2017 9:00:00 AM CENTENARIAN At 101, WWII vet
BY JAMES BREIG CORRESPONDENT
(Editor's note: Mr. Chaplek passed away Oct. 18, not long after he was interviewed for this story. A graduate of Fort Edward High School's class of 1933, he had joined the U.S. Army and served during World War II as a 1st Lieutenant for Squadron B 553rd AAF Base Unit.)
Joseph Chaplek, a member of St. Michael the Archangel parish in South Glens Falls, recently answered some questions about his long life, focusing especially on his stint as an airman during World War II.
Q. Why did you join the Army before Pearl Harbor was attacked?
A. I volunteered because I wasn't working.
Q. Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and what was your reaction?
A. I was a private first class in Pensacola, Florida. I was very shocked and upset. I thought, "Oh, boy, I'm in for four years."
Q. Where did you serve during the war, and what did you do?
A. I was in the 490th Bomb Group, based in England. [As a first lieutenant,] I was a navigator and flew 35 missions over Germany. During the Battle of the Bulge, we bombed the Germans out of the woods.
Q. What memories of the war would you rather forget?
A. The crew I flew with got shot down. Twenty-three were killed, and five of us survived.
Q. When the war ended, what was your reaction?
A. I was home on furlough and filled with joy!
Q. What has been the biggest positive change in society during your life?
A. The world at peace. People should not kill one another.
Q. What's the worst change you've seen?
A. People not helping each other and disrespecting each other. They're not taught [respect] from infancy.
Q. What made your 68-year marriage to Lillian, who died in 2013, so successful?