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Veteran’s Day Spotlight: Hank Kudzik and Jack Holder

December 10, 2019
Jack Holder (far left) and Hank Kudzik (far right) pose with a fellow Midway veteran and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum board member Brad Ball at the Midway movie premiere in Hollywood in November.

World War II veterans Hank Kudzik and Jack Holder fought in the decisive Battle of Midway, often referred to as the turning point in the Pacific during World War II. As representatives of the Greatest Generation, we honor Hank and Jack as heroes who helped turn the tide of the war.

These are their stories…

Hank Kudzik, 94, Battle of Midway Survivor

“My first assignment was to help take the dead sailors off the Battleship Oklahoma.”

At the age of 16, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hank Kudzik left high school to join the Navy. He was sent to Pearl Harbor, where his first assignment was to help take dead sailors off the Battleship Oklahoma.

He eventually volunteered for submarine service and got a berth aboard one of the fleet’s largest submarines, the USS Nautilus, which assisted the attack on Japanese aircraft carriers during the pivotal Battle of Midway.

His varied career as a submariner included 14 combat runs. He experienced several near death experiences in his time as a submariner, including once on the receiving end of friendly fire.

He married Jacqueline Boemio in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the fall of 1945 and had two daughters, Renae Behrens and Wanda Frecks.

After leaving the service, he worked for the Fuller Co. as a sales engineer, retiring in 1985.

Jack Holder, 97, Pearl Harbor and Battle of Midway Survivor

“God, please don’t let me die in this ditch.”

Jack Holder is a veteran of the Battle of Midway, as well as a survivor of the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. He survived the brutal attack by sheltering in an under-construction sewer ditch with friends. “One of my shipmates had remembered there was sewer line under construction behind our hangar. He says, ‘Let’s go for the ditch, follow me.’ We all ran, jumped in the ditch,” Holder explained. “My most vivid remembrance was, ‘God, please don’t let me die in this ditch.’”

When asked why he volunteered to go to Midway, his answer is simple: “It was strictly for revenge.” He flew a PBY at Midway and several other battles, and managed to make it back each time.

For seven decades, Jack didn’t speak of his harrowing experiences publicly. Now, he retells his story to younger generations across the country. “It’s changed my viewpoint on a lot of things,” he said. “Yes, I guess it’s been a relief for me and actually, it’s an enjoyment.”

Honor our Veterans

Help us preserve the historic World War II sites defended by veterans like Hank and Jack by taking stock in Pearl Harbor today.

With a gift of $100, you can “take stock” in a virtual piece of American history: one square foot of this hallowed American battlefield. You’ll receive a commemorative Stock certificate suitable for framing which signifies a virtual and symbolic piece of Pearl Harbor. More importantly, you can play a key role in restoring and preserving one of our country’s most cherished historic sites.

Funds raised through Take Stock in Pearl Harbor benefit the restoration and maintenance of all four Pearl Harbor Historic Sites: the USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

Together, we can honor our veterans and save these hallowed grounds … one square foot at a time.


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