Anthony "Tony" Potochniak enlisted in the U.S.
Navy at the age of seventeen on February 10, 1943 at Albany, New York. He attended Boot camp
training in D-Unit, Company 201 at NTS Sampson, New York. He is a
graduate of NATTC Norman, Oklahoma on September 25, 1943, class AMM
44-43. His first shipboard assignment was onboard the USS SABLE
before being transfer to CVE pool at NAS Sand Point, Seattle, Washington
in October 1943. He served at NAS Tongue Point, Astoria, Oregon while awaiting commissioning of GAMBIER BAY (CVE 73) on December 28, 1943
In February 1944 GAMBIER BAY participated in resupply of
fleet carriers with aircraft and pilots, off the Marshall Islands.
Soon thereafter she participated in liberations of Marianas Islands, Palau
Islands and Ulithi. His CVE and squadron VC-10 provided air cover
for 18 of MacArthur's troop ships that departed Ulithi October 12, heading
for the liberation of the Philippines on October 20, 1944.
Tony participated in the Battle Off Samar, October 25,
1944 as a member of Task Unit 77.4.3 (Taffy III) where the GAMBIER BAY,
with five other "baby flattops" and their gallant escorts of DEs
and DDs slowed a monster Japanese Naval Force, consisting of four
battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and eleven
destroyers, until assistance from aircraft of Taffy II and Taffy I joined
up with aircraft of Taffy III to inflict major damage on this monster
fleet and cause it to retreat.
Taffy III paid a stiff price, with two DDs, one DE, and
two CVEs out of a 13-ship task unit going to the bottom, one of them being
the USS GAMBIER BAY (CVE 73). The survivors spent two days and two
nights adrift until rescuers arrived in PCs and LCIs. While adrift,
Tony held up Robert Gulich, an injured shipmate.
In 1968 Tony Co-founded the Gambier Bay (CVE 73) &
VC-10 Association, with Charles Heinl and Marty Showers. He retired as senior associate engineer, IBM
Federal Systems Division (Aerospace), Owego, New York in July 1984, where
he earned IBM's highly prized "Outstanding Contribution Award".
Tony was active in organizing the Escort Carrier Sailors and Airmen
Association to assist other escort carrier personnel in locating former
shipmates and form their own associations. Has been instrumental in
the publication of several naval history books. Tony is the editor
of "Old Shipmates", a publication of the Gambier Bay (CVE
73) & VC-10 Association.
Tony married the former Josephine Svikruha on Armistice
Day, November 11, 1950. They have three sons, three granddaughters
and a grandson.