Cleveland, Tennessee’s Bartosz witnessed Japan’s 1945 surrender

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Thaddius Bartosz holds up a photo album with a picture of himself on Monday, October 31, 2022. Bartosz, who is 103 years of age, is a Navy Veteran.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- World War II ended in the Pacific theater on Sept. 2, 1945, when Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu came aboard the USS Missouri, docked in Tokyo Bay, and signed an Instrument of Surrender on behalf of his nation's government.

Thaddeus "Bart" Bartosz, now 103, saw it happen from his vantage point aboard the nearby USS Detroit.

"Everybody gave a good holler, a good scream. Everybody was happy that it was all over with," said Bartosz, who lives in Cleveland, Tennessee, part of each year with his daughter, Tyler Livingston.

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A Buffalo, New York, native, Bartosz said his family moved to Miami when he was young, but later on, when he, his dad and his brother couldn't find enough work, the family moved back to Buffalo in the late 1930s.

"I worked as a welder at Bethlehem Steel," Bartosz said, until he and his buddies decided to enlist in 1942. He said he chose the Navy because his brother had been drafted into the Army.

"I told him, 'You can't dig a foxhole on a steel ship,'" Bartosz said. "At least I got a warm bed and three squares a day versus living in a mud puddle."

Enlisting, he said, was something he and his friends felt "we had to do. It was our duty."

"It made you mad because (Japan) had attacked Pearl Harbor," he said. "We thought we'd take the Japanese in six months. Whip them in a hurry.

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"Didn't work out that way," he added.

Bartosz said he trained first near Chicago, then in San Diego. He said he was in San Francisco when he was assigned to the Detroit as a firefighter/damage-control technician.

"There were all kinds of repairs to do on the ship, to keep everything working," he said, adding that he could recall only two instances in which the Detroit saw combat -- when the ship bombarded a Japanese position in the Aleutian Islands and, later, Japan's northern islands.

Bartosz opted to stay in the Navy after the war. He said the Detroit sailed from Tokyo Bay to Midway Island, Honolulu, then through the Panama Canal to Philadelphia, where it was decommissioned.

Records he kept indicate Bartosz served aboard five more ships over the next 16 years. He said he'd attained the rank of senior chief petty officer when he retired in 1961.

"My wife said it was time for us to get out, that we'd been in long enough," he said. "It was time to raise the kids."

Bartosz said that, after his Navy retirement, he went to work in Miami as a welder for Eastern Air Lines and stayed with that airline until it went out of business in 1991.

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Bartosz said that, given the opportunity, he likely wouldn't change anything about his nearly 20 years in the Navy.

"When I looked over my situation (before enlisting), I decided a steel mill was no place to be working," he said. "It's a madhouse -- dirty all the time and dangerous. As a CPO in the Navy, you've got a nice, clean place to work -- and you see the world.

"You take things as they come," Bartosz said. "Everything fell into place."

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Name: Thaddeus “Bart” Bartosz.

Age: 103.

Branch: U.S. Navy.

Years of service: 1942-1961.