S1c John Joseph Petyak

Unknown Sailor

S1c John Joseph Petyak

John Joseph Petyak sent a large photo of himself, dated Dec. 5, 1941, to his family in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Two days later, Mr. Petyak, a seaman first class on the U.S.S. Arizona, was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The family received the photo in early January at about the same time a telegram delivered the news that he was missing in action.

Mr. Petyak was born May 3, 1920 in Wilkes-Barre to immigrants John Petyak and Anna Gyorda Petyak.

His mother was from Czechoslovakia and his father, a miner and later a street department worker, was from Austria-Hungary. He graduated from G.A.R. High School in Wilkes-Barre in 1938 and enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 1, 1940. The family attended St. Mary’s Greek Rite Catholic Church.

All three of his brothers served in the war and survived. Joseph served in the Army in Africa and Italy. Andrew was in the Army in the Pacific. Michael, also in the Navy, was in Okinawa when the United States dropped the atomic bombs.


Sources: The Wilkes-Barre Record; the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader and Evening News; Wilkes-Barre Independent; the Citizens’ Voice of Wilkes-Barre; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania World War II Veterans’ Compensation Bureau; Navy muster rolls; Census. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

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