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Heinz History Center to house archive of veterans' oral histories

| Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, 9:30 p.m.
Bill Vidonic | Trib Total Media
Army-Air Force veteran Joe Lynch, 92, of North Versailles relates his memories of World War II to Todd DePastino, executive director of the Veterans Breakfast Club, an organization that gathers oral histories of veters, during a presentation Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Hearing on Dec. 7, 1941, that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, Joe Lynch, a soldier in the Army Air Force stationed in Florida, said he didn't realize the scope of the world-altering event,“I said, ‘Where's Pearl Harbor?' I'd never heard of it,” said Lynch, 92, of North Versailles. “I was too young.”

About 40 World War II veterans Saturday marked the 73rd anniversary of the attack that propelled the United States into World War II by relating their war stories at a gathering at the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

Todd DePastino, executive director of the Veterans Breakfast Club, which is archiving oral histories of veterans, said he knows of only two Pearl Harbor survivors in Western Pennsylvania. Neither attended the history center event.

Heinz History Center President and CEO Andy Masich announced that the center will permanently house oral histories collected by Veterans Voices of Pittsburgh, which is partnered with the breakfast club.

The Veterans Breakfast Club is scheduled to celebrate the opening of the veterans archive at the history center on April 30. The center will open a World War II memorabilia exhibit on April 25.

Many veterans said Saturday that they had enlisted in the military before the war, expecting only to serve for a year or so, not suspecting that they'd soon be on the front lines of the world conflict.

“It was either go into the coal mines or go into the service,” Lynch said.

Army veteran John Kuzio, 94, of New Cumberland, W.Va., wanted to hear other veterans tell their stories. He had given an oral history at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland in 1992 that became part of a documentary.

“It was personal satisfaction that I'd been in the service, and I served my country,” Kuzio said.

Patricia Tylka of Mt. Lebanon read recollections of her father, Army Tech Sgt. Joseph F. Kralik Sr., who was stationed at Fort Shafter on Oahu Island near Pearl Harbor.

“He prayed for his mother and his sister, back in Pennsylvania, that they were safe, since there was no way of knowing what was going on in the rest of the country,” she said.

Kralik died in 2007.

For details about the oral history project, visit or

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

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