ENS Philip Robert Gazecki,
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ENS Philip Robert Gazecki
Philip Robert Gazecki studied chemistry at Harvard, where he worked to solve one of the biggest problems for ships then and now: barnacles.
Barnacles attach themselves to the bottom of ships, slowing them down and wasting fuel.
Gazecki, a member of the Navy’s Reserve Officer Training Corps, helped create a paint that kept barnacles at bay. It was widely used in the Navy in the 1940s until better technology was developed.
Mr. Gazecki graduated from Harvard in 1941 and was immediately commissioned as an ensign. He was killed less than six months later on the U.S.S. Arizona in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Known as Robert, Mr. Gazecki was born April 15, 1920 at Neenah, Wisconsin 35 miles southwest of Green Bay to Philip John Gazecki, a bookkeeper at a paper mill, and Leona Schwartz Gazecki, a homemaker.
He was salutatorian of Menasha High School in 1937.
At Harvard he worked on the Naval Science Bulletin all four years and was its editor when he was a senior. He also belonged to the rifle team.
“He was an excellent boy, a very fine lad,” one of his teachers, Leslie K. Pollard, told the Harvard Crimson. “Everyone in school liked him; he had no enemies because of his perfect self-control.”
In a letter home about a week before he died, Mr. Gazecki said he was encouraged by a recent report from a senior officer who called him “An exceptionally bright young officer with an exceptional technical background. Interested and has a keen sense of responsibility. He is learning rapidly and has already gained a good working knowledge of the engineering plant (in two months).”
American Legion Post 152 in Menasha is named in honor of Mr. Gazecki and another local man, Henry J. Lenz, who died in France in World War I.
Sources: The Post-Crescent of Appleton, Wisconsin; The Menasha (Wisconsin) Record; The Harvard Crimson; the 1941 Harvard yearbook; Census. Navy photo. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.