Rete Janiec's Story

I was born on June 2nd, 1919.

I met my first husband, Ozzie Gaynier in college. I was a Sophomore at Michigan St. Ozzie was a senior. He had just won the College Middleweight boxing championship and he stood out like a man amongst boys. Right from the beginning, we were inseparable.

So, when Ozzie left for flight school in Florida, it was hard and when he called me and ask me to join him. I knew my college days were over. When Ozzie won his wings, we were secretly married. We could not afford a wedding dress. Ozzie wore his Navy blues, I wore a Navy blue dress with matching hat.

On his training missions, Ozzie would often fly over the top of our small studio apartment that was located above a garage. I would know it was him when he would gun the engine in low pitch...his signal. I would run out into the yard and wave.

We shared a candlelight dinner at Fisherman's wharf in San Francisco. With a parting smile, he promised to return....a promise the he could not keep.

On my 23rd birthday, unbeknown to me, Ozzie sat on Midway Island preparing for an attack there from the Japanese. He was a part of a contingent of Torpedo Squadron Eight there put in place to assist in the defense of the strategic Island.

Two days later, Ozzie flew off with his squadron....never to return. The 6 planes flew off in two groups of 3. Ozzie led the second group. Their leader, Langdon Fierberling led the first. Langdon had determined that the only way to make a difference was to strike hard as fast as possible. Langdon led the group away from Midway, against the orders of their leaders there and straight to the Japanese flotilla.

Langdon's gamble did not go as he had planned and all but 1 of the planes were shot down, including Ozzie. The only plane to survive, flown by Bert Earnest survived only when his plane was shot up so bad that he lost hydraulics and had to drop out. Bert somehow figured out how to keep his plane flying and only by the visual of the smoke from the attack was able to get it back to Midway. He landed there on one wheel.

The attack, however, may have caused one of the defining decisions of the battle. Admiral Nagumo was so taken by the Samurai-like attack, that he believed that they needed to further attack the island to insure that it's air attack capability was totally defeated so that they could not attack them again. He ordered his torpedo loaded planes to be changed to bombs for another run on Midway. This decision left his planes onboard the ship as the dive bombers off of the three American carriers attacked and sunk all but one of the Japanese carriers and thus winning the battle.

Back in San Diego, I was just trying to survive. I listened to every news cast and stayed close to all other wives hoping for any piece of news that I could. I knew something must have happened because Ozzie was a writer...and the letters had stopped.

On June 12th, 10 days after my birthday, I received word from the Navy. Ozzie was missing in action. That night I struggled with sleep. He could not be gone....he had promised he would return. Shortly before dawn, I had a very vivid dream. Ozzie was standing next to my bed. “I'm alright Darling”, he said, “I am OK”. When I awoke, I could not believe that it was just a dream....it was just too vivid. He had to be alive somewhere....maybe out on some obscure island.

I applied for work in many places but the city was so overwhelmed with people looking for work that it almost seemed impossible. I finally got a job at the Naval Air Station in the overhaul and repair shop. One of my jobs was to ride a gas-powered scooter to meet each arriving aircraft and to check it's serial number. Every pilot that came from the Pacific was asked the same thing....”Have you seen my Ozzie”.

Eventually, the leader of Torpedo Squadron Eight flew to the base to see me. He told me that Ozzie was gone. We had lost him in the battle for Midway. I then figured that the dream had been just that.....Ozzie was in Heaven and was telling me that he was OK.

I had to move on....but I figured that I would do it alone. I would never fall in love again.

I stayed on the base and close to the other widows....just getting by. Years later as I lay by the pool with one of the girls, a young pilot stopped by and talked to me. I was intrigued by his boldness as he asked me out for a date. But he was cute....and younger than me.....and I said yes. Just like he talked me into the date....he later talked me into marrying him. I found out later that as my new love had been watching me that day from up above in the Officers club. He turned to one of his mates, pointing at me and stating boldly, “I am going to marry her one day”. Finding true love twice in my life had happened.

Shortly after several dates, the young officer was ordered to NAS Pensacola for Instructor duty. He convinced me to come east, so in September of 1948, I moved to the Pensacola area. After several months of courtship, he finally asked me to marry him. We were married in June of 1949 and I began my second tour as a Navy wife. Our next duty station was NAS Atlantic City, followed by tours of duty at NAS Alameda, NAS Moffett Field, NS Long Beach (Home Port of the USS Yorktown, NAS Point Magu with the Pacific Missile Range, Monterey, and NAS North Island in San Diego where my husband had his squadron command followed by two cruises to Vietnam aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31), another tour at the missile range, followed by duty in Washington DC. Our last and final duty station was yet again at Pt Magu but that was as the C.O.’s wife at the Naval Air Reserve Unit there.

When my husband finally retired in 1978, we moved to Pueblo, CO for two years, then back to Southern California for 11 more. In 1992, we finally moved to beautiful Central Oregon where we still live.

I was the typical Navy wife, raising a family, involved in Navy Relief, helping other Navy families and enduring deployments and various “at sea” exercises.

We later retired and moved to Bend, Oregon where we still live.


I am Rete Janiec....wife of Captain Roy Janiec and proud mother of Commander Chris Janiec and Captain David Janiec, both Annapolis grads.

Next week, we will be celebrating our 65th wedding anniversary and will look back on a long and happy marriage after a rather strange and unique beginning.

Thank you for letting me share a lifelong experience with you .

 

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