Berwick Celebrates 70th Anniversary of VJ Day, Its Role in WWII

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BERWICK -- Today marks the 70th anniversary of VJ Day for Victory over Japan, when Japan formally surrendered to the Allied Forces, making September 2 the official end of World War II.

On Wednesday night, a community in Columbia County celebrated the event with a personal touch.

It was a patriotic ceremony for a very personal moment in history in Berwick.

Dozens of people came out to an industrial park on Oak Street for the unveiling of a new historical marker.

The marker was dedicated to the 9,000 workers at the former American Car and Foundry factory that once stood at the site.

From 1940 to 1944, that plant made more than 15,000 Stuart Light Tanks during the Second World War that were used in combat in Europe.

“Our historical marker that honors the Stuart Tank, the ACF, and all the workers that helped make all the tanks and all the other things they made here,” said Columbia County Commissioner David Kovach (D), who is also the chairperson for the Berwick Stuart Tank Committee.

This celebration also marks the 70th anniversary of VJ Day.

Joseph Massina not only served in World War II, he also worked at the factory test driving the tanks before being shipped overseas.

“I test drove them here at the ACF, I'd take them out on the road and test them,” said Massina. “Then when it came time to go to war, I had to go.”

Joe Zielinski was a foreman at the ACF and is proud to be a part of Stuart Tank history.

“I helped make them. The boss needed something, ‘Hey Joe, come here,'” said Zielinski.

For years now, the Berwick Stuart Tank committee has been trying to get an original Stuart Tank, or Stuie, back to Berwick.

“The town needs something that they can refer to, say my grandparents did that and my father did that, you know they were part of that,” said Tom Shade, a Marine Veteran who served in Korea and Vietnam.

The good news: they have been able to get one from a collector in England.

The next step is to bring Stuie home.

“We verified the serial number, it is a Berwick-made Stuart Tank. We're getting our ATF permits so we can get it shipped home,” said Kovach.

The Berwick Stuart Tank Committee says it was just $8,000 short of the $120,000 cost to get the tank, but the tank will still be shipped once the paperwork is complete.

Update: We're told after the ceremony, a man wrote a check for the remainder of the balance.

To learn more about the Stuie Tanks and the effort to bring to Berwick, go to this link: www.bringstuiehome.org

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