We were extremely honored to have the veteran's flag of my father-in-law, Michael A. Yashko a deceased World War II veteran, flown over the harbor at the re-dedication ceremony of the AtlanticHighlandsHarbor on Friday, Oct. 25.
Mike's experience in the war was like many of the WWII soldiers, of which there are now fewer and fewer remaining to tell us their stories.
Mike Yashko was born in 1918 into a large Russian/Polish heritage family in the small coal-mining town of Windber, PA. After living with his sister in New York and working as a cook, he enlisted in the Army on April 30, l941 into the 187th Field Artillery Battalion at Brooklyn at the age of 22.
The following year, 1942, Mike met his wife, Winona, from Bristol, VT, while he was stationed at Fort Ethan Allan near Burlington, VT. She was in nurses' training at Burlington. They met at a drugstore soda fountain. Their first daughter was born in late 1943 but Mike was unable to visit her before being shipped off to England in early 1944.
Winona Yashko was forced to leave her nurses' training, as was required in those days after marrying; she returned to school at the age of 40, became an RN and got her BA in Nursing.
Combat in Europe
Mike was on one of the many troop ship crossings to England in 1944; he had a fear of water and told stories of the forced water jumps from the high ships during the training.
Combat began with the landing of the 6th Armored Division (the Super Sixth) on UtahBeach in Normandy on 18 July 1944.
Mike was in 14th Infantry Regiment, 187th Field Artillery Battalion (Baptized By Fire.)
In the European Campaign the Super Sixth was under General Patton in the Third Army. Beginning with the liberation of Brest and the clearing of the Brittany Peninsula, they then moved across France. The most difficult combat was in the Battle of the Bulge and their engagement in the Battle for Bastogne. After driving into Germany by late January 1945 and crossing the Rhine, they drove on to Frankfurt. By April they were liberating captured Allied soldiers and freeing the notorious German Concentration Camp at Buchenwald. They took Leipzig, crossed the Mulde River, and then stopped on April 15, 1945 and waited for the arrival of the Russian Army.
See the 6th Armored Division Campaign Map:
Brest to Bastogne: The Story of the 6th Armored Division:
Mike was an Army chef with the rank of Technician Forth Grade; one of his potato-peeling underlings eventually became General Vernon Walters, UN ambassador and advisor to presidents.
Mike returned to the US in 1945 to see his daughter for the first time. His second daughter was born in 1946.
Mike was an intelligent and sensitive man who kept his violin and enjoyed playing it throughout his life and always had a love of dogs, especially his last Dalmatian, Daisy.
He had a variety of jobs and careers after the war including chef, funeral director, and finally state health inspector for restaurants. It was not an easy life, always a struggle to make it, but he kept his grin, sense of humor, and intellectual curiosity.
Thanks to the officials of Atlantic Highlands and particularly to Administrator Adam Hubeny for flying Mike's flag above the harbor.