Local Jewish veterans’ stories add to history of World War II

Elinor and Yale Palchick both served in the Philippines during World War II. (Courtesy Yale Palchick)
Elinor and Yale Palchick both served in the Philippines during World War II. (Courtesy Yale Palchick)

During World War II, Tucsonan Yale Palchick, now 91, helped liberate a Japanese war camp holding American POWs, was at Okinawa at the war’s end and in Tokyo a few days after the United States dropped its third atomic bomb on Aug. 19, 1945. But mostly, “I was trying to stay alive,” Palchick told the AJP.

Holocaust survivor Bill Kugelman was sufficiently impressed with Palchick’s World War II effort to bring him to the attention of the AJP. It’s important to tell the stories of the men and women who served in World War II as well as Holocaust survivors, to keep their histories going after they’re gone, said Kugelman.

Palchick served in the Army Air Corps, which was taken over by the U.S. Air Force in 1942. “We were kind of spies” looking for German infiltrators, he says. “I was in charge of a group who went as civilians, lived in rooming houses, worked as mechanics building helicopters” at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Hartford, Conn. It was difficult to get paid for their work at the factory, says Palchick. “At Yale University [in New Haven] there was a colonel who knew about us. He got money to pay us.”

Toward the end of 1944 he was deployed to Leyte in the Philippines, where the largest amphibious assault of World War II’s Pacific Theater took place. Palchick served as a co-pilot and engineer. “We landed [helicopters] with supplies. We were dropping paratroopers in to fight and took out the wounded,” he says. “I was there to welcome [Gen. Douglas] MacArthur,” the U.S. Army commander of the Pacific Theater.

Coincidentally, Palchick’s girlfriend at the time, Elinor, was a military nurse taking care of soldiers in the Philippines. “We knew each other since we were little kids,” says Palchick of Elinor, now his wife. “We got to fly around over there after the war and had some fun.”

Palchick was discharged from the U.S. Air Force in January 1946. “We lost family, two of my mother’s sisters and one brother that I know of” in Russia during World War II, he says. “One of our friends came from Russia. He made it out of one of the death pits there and told us that’s how they died.”

As for his part in the military, Palchick says, “I was a small cog in the whole machine. I did my part. It was all part of teamwork.”