A World War II veteran who died under especially heinous circumstances is being remembered in his home community.
Historians and legionaries from around the east Bronx have worked together to have Community Board 9 approve a street co-naming for 2nd Lieutenant John Sekul, in Castle Hill where he grew up.
Sekul was killed in a mob attack by German civilians after being taken as a prisoner of war during World War II.
They mistakenly identified him and his fellow crew of U.S. Army Air Corps bomber ‘Wham! Bam! Thank you, Ma’m’, for the allied bombing the evening before, according to research by Richard Vitacco, East Bronx History Forum president.
CB 9 unanimously voted recently to approve the street co-naming in his honor near where he lived, on Newbold Avenue between Havemeyer and Castle Hill avenues, at the urging of EBHF and American Legion’s Unionport Post #1065’s membership.
“We believe that this proposal of esteem and recognition is the least we can do to honor a hero such as 2nd Lt. John N. Sekul,” stated William Rivera, CB 9 district manager, in a letter to Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr.
According to Diaz’s office, the councilman’s staff is in touch with CB 9, and there are only formalities that have to be settled before it’s put on the City Council street naming calendar.
Sekul and his crewmembers were accosted by townspeople as they were crossing railroad tracks in transit to a prison camp after being shot down on August 24, 1944 while on a bombing run inside of Germany, said Vitacco.
The townspeople beat the soldiers with rocks, bricks and debris before a German officer finished off six of the prisoners with his Luger pistol.
“This was a murder that was committed,” said Vitacco, adding that Sekul and his companions were killed ‘in cold blood.’ “There is a level of danger when going into the service, but this was definitely a war crime.”
Ironically, there are monuments remembering the crew of the airship in Germany (where the incident occurred) and in Pooler, GA.
“The fact was that he is honored with a monument in Ruesselsheim (Germany) where he was killed, but there is no recognition for (Sekul) in his hometown,” said Vitacco.
Vitacco engaged the help of Post #1065, which went door to door on the block to gather 65 signatures in favor of the co-naming, said Ricardo Garcia, a City Islander who is post adjutant.
Vitacco said that Garcia, an Iraq War veteran, was instrumental in securing the community support for the co-naming.
“The recognition for this World War II veteran will be extremely impactful because it will denote that the Bronx will always honor and regard the service of its community in the military,” said Garcia, adding that all of the American Legion posts in the county collected petition signatures.