At 96-years young, Professor Stanley S. Katz has a perfect recollection of his time spent in World War II as a member of the 389th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force and the 2nd Air Division. As he speaks of his experiences serving as a Navigator and Bombardier in a war that had nearly 85 million fatalities, his eyes dance as he takes a journey down memory lane.
Katz was born to Mary and Theodore Katz on September 15, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Boys’ High School, a young Stanley was eager to enlist in the military, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Norman. At the tender age of 18, Stanley embarked on a mission to bravely fight on behalf of the American people during the deadliest war in history. Though his fate was uncertain, he selflessly decided that the destiny of the world superseded his own.
For his first two years in service, Katz
traveled all over the United States, getting every fifth week off. After voluntarily enlisting, he was oriented at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York where he joined the Army Air Corp (AAC). By January1943 he had arrived in a part of the country that was novel to him, Miami Beach! Donned the most beautiful boot camp in America, Miami Beach became a pivotal point for the war efforts. “Nearly half a million men took over more than 300 hotels and apartment buildings for housing and training headquarters by the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command" (MiamiBeachVets.com).
77-years ago, a teenaged Katz was one of them. During that year, he traversed his way through several states including Denver, Colorado for Gunnery School and Wichita, Texas where he awaited his orders for the upcoming year.
One day before his 20th birthday, Katz graduated from San Marcos Army Airfield Navigation School in San Marcos, Texas. Now knowing how to fly military-grade planes, he embarked on just one more training, bombardier. Practicing on marks in the sand, he learned how to drop bombs on targets with precision at the Charleston Army Air Field in Charleston, South Carolina. After two years of Air Force training, it was now time for him to experience combat.
A determined youth with hope in his heart, his first stop in Europe was Reykjavik, Iceland where United States Air and Naval bases protected the small island nation. Between 1944-1945, Katz defended the United States as a part of the 389th Bombardier Group, spending the majority of his service at various bases throughout the United Kingdom. Scotland, Norwich, and Hethel were among the places his bombardier group were assigned.
During this time, he served as the Navigator and Bombardier on the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber in England on missions over Nazi Germany. One memory he recalls is witnessing one of his commanders' planes blow up, and his body floating so close to his window that he could have touched him.
Another fact he shared with us is that one of his squadron commanders was none other than actor Jimmy Stewart, widely known for his portrayal of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life.
Katz was preparing to deploy to Japan when the call was made, World War II had officially come to an end! It was June 1945 and after three-years of tragedies, victories, and experiencing the world from a birds-eye view, he was finally able to make a safe return to his family in Brooklyn.
After the war, Katz attended Marietta College in Ohio. It was there that he met and fell in love with a beautiful young lady with fiery red hair, Sylvia. Soon after he graduated he moved back to the East Coast, accepting a position as a professor at what was then Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Ct. During his 56 years as a Professor Emeritus of Biomedical Sciences, he founded Quinnipiac's School of Allied Health and Natural Sciences. For nearly 30-years, his appointment as an International Consultant for Public Health took him to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and China where him and his wife were special guests to the foreign elite.
As I sit with Professor Katz in his Southbury residence, looking around you see dozens of photographs of his late wife Sylvia, his 3 kids, 6 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren; and of course, pictures of him and his infectious smile throughout the near century of his life. At 96-years old, his recollections of the war paired with his enthusiastic story-telling, make it seem as if it all just happened yesterday. A veteran of World War II and an intellect of the utmost standing, Professor Stanley S. Katz, is the true definition of a hero.
Thank-you Professor Katz for your service and your story.