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Carnegie native remembers decision that saved his life

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
George Brosky

George Brosky wasn't supposed to survive the night of July 29, 1945.

The man who tried to kill him told him so.

Brosky, 88, a Carnegie native who now lives in Hawaii, was aboard a Naval destroyer in the South Pacific that night. Ten miles away was the USS Indianapolis, a heavy cruiser that had just dropped off the first atomic bomb on Tinian Island — the same bomb that later would be dropped on Hiroshima.

As Independence Day approached, Brosky reflected last week on his time defending his country.

“We were looking for subs,” said Brosky, a lieutenant. “We didn't realize that we were that close to them.”

Brosky's destroyer, an intelligence-gathering ship, was searching for submarines in the southern Pacific, halfway between the island nation of Guam and the northern end of the Philippines. Not far off was a Japanese submarine, looking for a target.

For three days, the destroyer and the sub, led by Capt. Mochitsura Hashimoto, squared off, with the men on the respective ships manning their stations, ready to battle it out with the enemy. After three days, Brosky's destroyer lost track of the sub. They thought they were in the clear.

In the meantime, Brosky's destroyer, low on fuel, linked up with a nearby oil tanker to refuel. The sub reappeared and spotted the two, but the submarine's captain realized there was a bigger fish to be had: the USS Indianapolis.

“He had a choice,” Brosky said.

In a tragic ending that has since gone down in history, the Indianapolis was torpedoed, and 800 of the 1,100 men aboard the ship were killed.

From there, the sub captain turned his attention back to Brosky's destroyer and the oil tanker.

Fate, however, had other plans. The crisp, clear day turned suddenly dark when a rain squall moved in and blocked the submarine's view.

“It was nothing short of a miracle,” Brosky said.

But Brosky remained puzzled: For three days the Japanese sub had the chance to take on the destroyer. Why not?

Five months later, he got the chance to find out — from Hashimoto himself.

In December 1945, the Navy convened in a Court of Inquiry in Pearl Harbor regarding the sinking of the Indianapolis. Hashimoto was summoned to testify, which gave Brosky the chance to face the man who could have killed him just a few months earlier.

“My big question was, ‘Why didn't you surface in those three days and fight it out with us?'” Brosky said.

Hashimoto's response was simple — but chilling.

“You were too small of a ship to waste a torpedo,” Hashimoto said. “I knew there would be a bigger ship if I just waited.”

Brosky said he has told few people about his experiences.

“Like many veterans, when I came home after the war, I felt that my family and friends — they were never out there,” he said. “They would never be able to understand, so why bother talking?”

After returning, Brosky went on to the University of Pittsburgh, where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees in bacteriology. When the Korean War began in 1950, he was moved to a Naval hospital in Pearl Harbor. He has been there ever since.

But his work didn't end after his stint in the Navy.

On a trip to the Philippines in the early 2000s, Brosky saw firsthand the destruction caused by a recent typhoon. It was one orphanage in particular — Jardin de Maria — that caught his attention.

“The ceiling was cracked and leaking, the walls were cracked, and it scared the heck out of the kids,” he said. “There was one 6-year-old that was asleep on the bed, curled up in a fetal position. She didn't want to eat. She didn't want to talk. She didn't want to say anything.”

The girl was coaxed out of bed and greeted Brosky.

“I gave her a big hug and said, ‘Hey, I love you, and I'm going to take care of you,'” he said.

And he did.

Upon returning home to Hawaii, Brosky promptly took out a loan and set architects and contractors to work planning a new, concrete orphanage in place of the old one.

He even let the children pick out their own paint colors for their rooms.

“It was very colorful when they had the opening celebration one year later,” he said. “It was just so beautiful.”

Brosky said he just wanted to give back after having such a fortunate life.

“That storm squall that covered us from the submarine? That had to be a miracle,” he said. “I was protected all during the war. These kids should be too.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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