Here is an initial file regarding 1st Lt. Nick Gazibara, pilot with the 74th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group, in China, killed in 1945 in China. Below is a short narrative kindly provided to our project by his younger brother Don in 2008:
DOB 12/18/1922, Export, PA
Father Robert (Bozo) immigrated from Yugoslavia in 1914
Mother oldest of 7 children born in Export, PA.
Siblings: An older sister Ann and younger brother Donald.
Awards: Air Medal, and Purple Heart awarded posthumusly.
Nick graduated from high school in 1940 and because finding gainful work was difficult, he joined the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corpts) servicing there until the war started and jobs became more plentiful. He worked as a machinist apprentice for the Westinghouse Corporation until enlisting into the Army Air Corp in 1943.
Nick was a renegade in our family always pushing the envelope, and testing our mother's patience. he was adventuresome and always had a desire to fly. Someitme after starting to work at Westinghouse Corp., he took flying lessons and shortly theirafter borrowed $200 from the neighborhood grocer and bought a Piper Cub. Out mother was furious with the shopkeeper for loaning Nick the money to buy the plane. the plane had no door and no navigational equipment. On one occasion Nick was on a cross-country flight and got lost, then ended up landing in a partk somewhere west of Pittburgh, PA., before his fuel ran out. He would frequently fly over our house low enough so that we coudl recognize the plane, but our mother would NEVER come out of the kitchen to see him. She was deathly afraid on him flying!
|Nick and his younger brother Donald in the US before the war.
When he enlisted in the Air Corp, he was determined he would become a pilot, and only a fighter pilot, saying he did not want to be responsible for anyone else in the plane except himself. And he did just that, become a fight pilot. To my knowledge he was the only fighter pilot from our hometown, population of about 2000.
After completing pilot training and gaining his "wings," he be came home for a two keek furlough before going on to gunnery school. He was modest and somewhat shy, and had difficulty getting used to being saluted now as a commissioned officer.
After completing gunnery school he was sent to China sometime during the summer of 1944. His first duty station was Kweilin (Guilin
) and was there until that airfield was evacuated sometime in October 1944. His next and final duty station was Kanchow
, where he died in a plane crash during take off while evacuating that airfield on January 22, 1945.
In one letter he wrote to our sister Ann he mentioned a misison he was on where in a dogfight he shot down one Japanese Zero, claiming it as a probable becase he did not actually see it crash because immediately after seeing it descend he was attachked by another Zero and for the next 45 minutes he tried to outmaneuver the plane on his tail, flying close to the ground, skimming over tre tops, and tearing through a power line. His landing gear was shot away and he belly landed the plane at a remote airfield. He counted 12 bullet holes in his plane, everywhere except the cockpit!
|Nick somewhere in China during war time.
Upon his final crash while evacuating Kanchow, immediately after the crash into a parked airplane, he was pulled out of his burning plane by nearby crewmen who were working on another plane. He lived for several hours after the crash. After he died his body was place in one of four carge planes transporting personnel and supplies ot the next air base, Chihkiang (Zhijiang). As described by Luther Kussick in the book Guerilla One, the C-47s
"hit some of the worst weather ever experienced in China with headwinds of up to 125 mph." Three of the four transports crashed, however and the one carrying personnel successfully landed at Chihkiang. The transport carrying Nick's body crashed somewhere
between Kanchow and Chihkiang. His body was never recovered. Of interest, before taking off, the pet dog that Nick and his roommate Clark Manning had had was put on board the transport carrying personnel, and the only plane of the four getting to the final destination!
In 2004 I decided I would make a more concerted effort to learn more about my brother Nick so I went to the internet and looked up the 14th Air Force, and through the various references and after phone calls, I was finally able to track down the one person I remember Nick talking about, and who wrote to my parents after Nick was killed. The person was Clark Manning. When I called him, he prefaced his remarks by saying "...what wonderful memories I had recreated for him when he heard my name." Not only did he know Nick, but they were roommate for about 4 months immediately before Nick died. One year later I had the pleasure of meeting Clark and his wife Jackie at the 74th Fighter Squadron
reunion held here in Colorado Springs in May of 2005. We have become good friends since that first meeting and Clark has become somewhat of a surrogate brother for me.
So many years have passed, but my brother Nick Gazibara is still remembered, still loved, and still sorely missed.
Left image: In August 2007, project member Patrick Lucas visiting the cousin on Nick--also named Nick Gazibara--who shared vivid stories and memories of his cousin who was lost so tragically. Interestingly, the two cousins were both in the Pacific theater as this Nick was a crew member on a B-29 bomber (#42-63545 'UMBRIAGO'). He was shot down in Japan on May 26, 1945, and was a POW (at camp Omori Headquarters Camp Ofuna Tokyo 35 139) until the end of the war. Right Image: The two cousins, two Nicks, together, the cousin on the left to be lost in war, and the cousin on the right to be POW and survive the war.
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