Freedom Fighters: Harry Kancyr - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Harry Kancyr

(Source: Harry Kancyr) (Source: Harry Kancyr)

Harry Kancyr joined the Navy in 1943 at the age of 18.  Before his tour of duty was over, he had fought the Germans in the Atlantic and Mediterranean and the Japanese in the Pacific.

"We didn't have any problems until we got to the Mediterranean, then things perked up," he said.

Kancyr's ship, the USS Chase, was a destroyer, assigned to escort a large convoy of ships in the Mediterranean.

"The raid started...the Germans hit one ship that was carrying troops, troops and kerosine.  So we lost all the troops.  Probably the casualty rate was about 400 , just from the ships," he recalled.

Although the chase escaped damage, its crew spent most of the night, picking up survivors from the battle.

"Gibralter was a favorite of the Germans because it was so close to the African coast."

Soon after the sea battle with the Germans, the chase was sent back to Boston and converted to an APD, or attach passenger destroyer, and loaded up with 41 Higgins boats to carry invasion forces. The chase's first passengers were demolition experts, later evolving into the Navy Seals.

"We went into Okinawa before the invasion."

They went in and they mapped the beaches and found all obstructions for landing. After the initial landing on Okinawa, the chase was put on a picket line, which was a group of ships guarding the beaches from the hundreds of Japanese suicide planes sent into the area.

"That's how we got hit," he said.

During battle, Kancyr manned the ships number one gun, but after the ship was hit and the order given to abandon ship, Kancyr and the rest of the crew went into the water.

"I got off on the fantail in the back of the ship. You jumped into the water from there."

Ironically, although the chase had a large hole blown in its hull, it never sank, was repaired and sent back into action.

"I was in the water maybe ten minutes and a boat picked me up, brought me to a hospital ship, spent a couple of days in the hospital ship. Then they sent me back to the Chase."

After the war was over and Kancyr was discharged from the Navy, he became a well-known chef, working at clubs and fine restaurants through the country.

Now at the age of 91, Harry Kancyr looks back over his life and especially his role in his country's history, with pride.

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