ANSLEY - - June 9-11, three World War II veterans from Custer County will be traveling to Washington, D.C. with the Central Nebraska Hero Flight. One of those veterans is Arleigh Sintek of Ansley.
Sintek will be accompanied by his son, Jim. This will be the first time Sintek has ever flown, and he says he is looking forward to it.
Like many young men of his day, when Arleigh Sintek graduated from high school, college was not his first stop. Rather, it was the military that awaited him - the United States Navy to be exact.
After graduating from Elba High School, Sintek entered the Navy, completing boot camp at Great Lakes, Mich. From there he went to Camp Bradford, Va., where he was assigned duty aboard a large tanker referred to as a Landing Ship Tank (LST).
The job of the LST was to transport equipment for the troops ashore; equipment for building roads and air strips mainly. Sintek recalls going to Chesapeake Bay for special training with what were know as "shakedown crews." That was where you learned all about the ship and how it works, he says.
About a half dozen of the men in his group, including him, were selected to go to Peoria, Ill., to get the ship they would be sailing It was a brand new ship -just being built. The men took the ship down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans.
"It was something to see, that - big old ship going down the river," Sintek laughs. "But that was a good way to make sure she would stay afloat.”
When they arrived in New Orleans the ship was finished and the rest of the crew was added, about 100 crew members in all. The new ship took its maiden voyage down through the Gulf of Mexico and Panama Canal, up the west coast to San Diego for a few days, then on to San Francisco.
"All along that line we made stops picking up more equipment," Sintek recalls.
From San Francisco the crew made their way to Hawaii. *That was a long trip," says Sintek. "That old flat-bottomed boat would only go about 7 knots."
The crew spent only a brief time in Hawaii before heading out once again, this time making a stop in Eniwetok, a small sand island south of the equator, then on to Guam. While at Eniwetok, Sintek says they met up with several other ships before heading to Guam, which had already been secured by that time.
From Guam the ship made its way to Sai Pan, which was also all but secured, then on to Okinawa.
'There was much more action there," Sintek remembers. "The invasion had already started there."
The crew unloaded some of the equipment from the ship at Okinawa, then left for the Philippines where they picked up more equipment and personnel.
"We were on our way back to Okinawa and were about halfway back when we intercepted a radio message that Japan had surrendered," says Sintek. "We were then sent to Hiroshima for just short of a week, but we didn't really do anything there. Then they sent us to Nagasaki and it was the same way."
He says they arrived at Hiroshima shortly after the atomic bomb, and the devastation was massive.
"We were some of the first ones ashore after the bomb was dropped and we didn't see personnel, no bodies, no one - everything was just tore up."
Sintek remembers Nagasaki being the same way. The ship arrived at Nagasaki, Japan Sept. 24, 1945, and departed the city Oct. I, 1945. He says he saw one man at Nagasaki riding his bicycle, and that was the only living soul they saw in either city.
They remained in Nagasaki for three or four days then the crew received orders to return to Guam. Again, they were in Guam only a short time before being routed back to Hawaii and on their way home. With the war officially over, the LST was no longer needed.
The ship sailed from Hawaii back up to San Francisco, where the crew remained for about a week. Sintek says he was then sent to Seattle, then to Minneapolis where he was discharged in the spring of 1946.
He served aboard the U.S.S. LST 1123 from Feb. 19, 1945. to March I, 1946. as a Seaman First Class. He enrolled in school soon after his discharge and started at Kearney State Teachers College in the fall of 1946. After graduating from the college he taught school at Ansley Public Schools for seven years, before deciding to return to college to get his master's degree so he could be a superintendent.
"I went in to see Ival Gardner at the bank about getting a loan to go back to school and he asked me just to come to work for him at the bank," recalls Sintek.
He took Mr. Gardner up on his offer, and remained at the bank for more than 30 years. In fact, Sintek just retired as Director of the bank a little over a year ago.
It was while teaching at Ansley that he met the love of
his life,. Penny Porter. The couple was married in 1950, and had two sons - Dave of Ansley, and Jim of Kearney. He lost his beloved Penny a year ago, but says he manages to keep himself busy. He still lives in the home the couple built and loves to work with wood out in the shop on nice days. Sintek is widely known for the beautiful pendulum wall clocks he makes and gives away. He says he does it just because he enjoys it.