MAHANOY CITY - December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy" as Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated, marked the beginning of World War II for the United States. Japan launched an aerial assault on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, HI, and the United States air bases on the island of Oahu.
According to a Pottsville Republican-Herald article published in 2013, 152 residents of Schuylkill County serving in the armed forces were at Pearl Harbor on December 7th. Unfortunately, three of those 152 would never see the coal region again.
Jerome Szematowicz, born and raised in Mahanoy City, enlisted in United States Army in 1939. He served with the 22nd Material Squadron at Hickam Field, on Oahu, and was working on a B-24 Bomber at the time of the attack. The Japanese attack would claim the life of Szematowicz and the lives of 26 others in his squadron. Szematowicz became Schuylkill County's first Gold Star of the war. According to a 2014 article published in the Republican-Herald, he would be the first of 962 losses for our county.
75 years later, Szematowicz's hometown school, Mahanoy Area, competes with rival Shenandoah Valley for a trophy named in his honor, and in honor of Shenandoah's Anthony P. Damato, who sacrificed his life to save his fellow Marines in the Marshall Islands in 1944.
75 years later, we remember Pearl Harbor, and we honor the sacrifices of Szematowicz and all from our area who lost their lives while serving our country.