A proud Battle of Midway veteran from the Lehigh Valley who’s been widely recognized in recent years has had another day in the limelight.
I’m talking about Hank Kudzik of Allen Township, a submariner who was aboard one of the fleet’s largest boats, the USS Nautilus, during the 1942 battle that turned the tide of the war against Japan.
Hank and his wife, Jacqueline, attended the 71st annual Battle of Midway Commemoration in Washington, D.C., on June 4. His daughter Wanda Frecks sent me photos, one of which appears here.
Naval District Washington marked the battle with a wreath-laying ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial. Hank was an honored guest. Afterward, he received a copy of the proclamation naming June 4 as “Battle of Midway Day,” signed by the chief of naval operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert. A reception was held in the Navy Memorial for Hank and other Midway veterans.
Hank was 17 years old and on his first patrol when the battle took place. The Nautilus was strafed by enemy planes. It torpedoed the stricken Japanese carrier Soryu, then dived and was hammered by depth charges from a destroyer.
Last fall, Hank was saluted by the American Veterans Center, based in Arlington, Va. He was one of four veterans to receive the Audie Murphy Award for their roles at Midway. The presentation was made at the center’s 15th annual awards gala in the Renaissance Washington Hotel.
I did Hank’s story in 2010 as part of my series in The Morning Call “War Stories: In Their Own Words” and included it in my book of the same name, published by the newspaper the following year.
“I wanted to be safe,” Hank told me at the time, “so I picked the submarine.”