Yesterday was the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that brought the United States into WWII and caused so many young, enthusiastic men to enlist in the army. Josef Jankola from Perth Amboy, New Jersey was one of those men. It is his uniforms that are currently on loan to me from the Proprietary House Museum, as I bring them around when I teach and give lectures. It was almost a year ago when we stumbled upon them in the back of a closet at the old museum and not seeing them having any use there, they were given to me, for the time being, so they could be used for education. All this time later, I still have them, and all this time later, I was still searching for more information on the marine who owned them. After posting two articles on the uniforms, one about them being found, and one with some additional follow-up information thanks to my friend, military expert Ed Mantell, many people have contacted me with more information about the jackets themselves and the insignias, but we could not find anything in-depth on the sergeant, who we did deduce died sometime in 1943 or 44 in the Pacific. But even with more facts steadily mounting, what I really wanted was a picture. It was yesterday when I finally got my wish.
In the afternoon, I was emailed by Jankola’s grand-nephew, who stumbled upon this blog, and currently lives in Maryland. He added some more information as well as told his father about the find. While it still remains a mystery to the whole family as just to how those uniforms landed at the house, I was told that some pictures and other documents relating to the marine survived and were located in his grandmother’s house and taken after she passed away. Later in the day, I was sent the death notice from the original newspaper which includes his picture as well as where he died:
With this newspaper clipping, a few of my questions that I asked in my first articles were answered. For starters, I got to see what he looked like, as well as find out his age and the approximate location of his death, which is noted as being in the battle of Saipan. This really brings it to life for me (especially since he was only two years older than me when he died) and it was very emotional getting a chance to see his face for the first time. Since I borrowed these uniforms, they have been worn by many of my students, who I let try them on in order to bring them closer to history. Now that I have this information (and the family says they will try to send more, including the telegram notice of his death) I can now give a complete presentation when talking about the two uniforms, and will keep his memory alive. I just hope that wherever Sgt. Jankola is right now, he knows that his earthly possessions are being taken care of to the best of my abilities, and by the strange trick of fate that led them to be donated to the Proprietary House many years ago, and eventually into my hands, he is helping to educate our youth nearly 70 years after his death.