PROFILE OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
EDGAR SVETLIK

Ed was born August 16, 1927 in Weimar, Texas to Steve and Agnes Svetlik.  Edís unique last name came from his fatherís Czechoslovakian ethnicity.  Edís mother, Irene Woods, was an orphan at the Childrenís Rescue Mission in New York City until the age of three. At that tender age, she was sent West on the Orphan Train, from which she was adopted by the Ben Witte family, and her name was changed to Agnes. Steve and Agnes married on July 5, 1922.  They farmed their entire lives while raising their four children: Van Lee, Dorothy, Ed, and Steve.

 

Ed attended Weimar High School and learned a strong work ethic while growing up on the family farm.  On February 19, 1945, Ed enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in Houston, Texas, and reported to the Naval Training Center in San Diego, California.  During his first week of Boot Camp, Ed came down with a case of tonsillitis.  He thought this was ďno big deal,Ē being the tough country boy he thought he was.  He expected an aspirin would be a quick fix, he would return to camp, resume readiness training, and join his shipís company in fighting the war in the Pacific.  However; the folks at sick bay had other ideas.  Ed was caught by surprise, as the doctors kept him hospitalized for a full three weeks of ďpatient care,Ē while he polished brass and buffed the floors.

 

After Boot Camp Ed was sent to Coronado, California for Amphibious training in preparation for the United Statesí invasion of Japan.  His training included on-beach assaults, instruction in hand-to-hand combat, and maintenance of diesel-powered engines for the LCVP (small landing craft) and LCM (large landing craft. He was then assigned to the Boat Engineering Division Land Craft #63 (Boat Pool) in Long Beach, California.

 

Ed, an engineman on the LCVP, serviced and maintained all the diesel engines. Some of the ships he serviced were the USS South Dakota BB57, the USS Texas BB45, USS Arkansas BB33, USS Princeton aircraft carrier CV37, USS Yorktown aircraft carrier CV10, USS Vicksburg CL89, and many others.

 

Ed was discharged from the Naval Reserves in May, 1946, and moved to Victoria, Texas, where he learned the welding trade by working in a machine and welding shop.  A year later, Ed moved to Houston, where he worked at American Can Company, while completing auto upholstery classes at the University of Houston.

 

With the Cold War looming on the horizon Ed re-enlisted in the U S Navy May 17, 1948, and began his second tour of duty.  Stationed at the San Diego Destroyer Base, he received orders to report to Hunterís Point on Treasure Island in San Francisco.  There, he was then assigned to the USS Buttner AP113 (en route to Tsingtao, China) to stand throttle watch duty in the Engine Room.  Before shipping out, Ed met his future wife, Rosemarie Helweg, of San Francisco.

Upon arriving in Tsingtao, China, Edís duty assignment was the Engine Room on the LST 846, which was in dry-dock for repairs at Subic Bay, Philippine Islands. About three weeks later, he and his crew received orders to fly with the Army Air Force to the Island of Guam in the Pacific Region. Four days later, they received orders to fly to Manila, in the Philippine Islands. From Manila, they flew back to Subic Bay in a Navy PBY (seaplane).

The LST 846 returned to Tsingtao, China, to transport displaced persons from Tsingtao and Shanghai to Formosa, and to other bases in Japan. Edís ship also delivered ammunition to the Chinese Nationalists fighting the Communists on its return to Tsingtao.  On the LST 846ís last trip down the famed Yangtze River, they cruised between the crossfire of the Nationalists and the Communists. Their mission assignment was to evacuate Army personnel from Nanking, China. While en route to Shanghai, Edís ship was stranded on the rocky bottom of the Yangtze River, and left high and dry by the receding tide.

The LST 846 was to be decommissioned at Bremerton, Washington.  While decommissioning their ship at Bremerton, Edís friend and fellow fireman Tony Rogers, was working in the engine room, spraying the engine with a preservative substance called Cosmoline, when one of the safety lights ignited. It knocked Tony to the deck, giving him first and second degree burns on his face and hands. At that moment, Ed had just started his way topside when he heard the explosion below him. He immediately returned to Tony, pulled him away from the burning engine and began extinguishing the flames. Ed stayed with Tony until the emergency service crew arrived and took him to the hospital. Tony is the only shipmate that Ed has contact with to this day.

After the decommissioning of LST 846 in September, 1949, Ed received orders to report for duty at the Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Washington. It was there that he requested a rating change from Engineman to Metal Smith. Edís Duty Station was on a Yard Repair Ship, but he slept and ate on the USS Indiana that was docked nearby. During the Korean conflict, Ed was involved with the commissioning of ships on which he did many types of welding and repair jobs.

Ed and Rosemarie Helweg were married on April 15, 1950. They have seven children; Lorelei, Loretta, Edgar J., Ronald, Steven, Joseph and Mark.

The Korean conflict was still going on when Edís three-year enlistment was up in May, 1951. He was given the choice of receiving a bonus of two to three hundred dollars to re-enlist for one full year or re-enlist for up to one year without the bonus pay. This gave Ed the option to be discharged any time before the year commitment was up. He turned down the full year commitment with the bonus pay. Believing that service was still important, he re-enlisted for one more year while hoping his service would not needed for the entire year. He was transferred to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point in February, 1951. Among  the ships he helped recommission at Bremerton and Hunterís Point, were the USS Iowa, USS Princeton, USS Bon Homme Richard, USS Hornet, USS Lexington, USS Ticonderoga, USS Los Angeles, LSTíS 898, 735, and 887. Ed was discharged at Hunterís Point a few weeks before his one year enlistment was up on April 28, 1952.

After Edís Navy service, he worked in construction with his father-in-law building homes in Yreka, CA. A year later, Ed began work for Eastlake Mills Lumber Company as a welder for two and half years. At the time, he was taking a two-year home study course in diesel engineering from Greer Shop Training, Inc... He completed the home study course, then spent six months in Chicago, IL, for ďhands-on trainingĒ in diesel engine, fuel injection and hydraulic systems. Ed completed his training in 1956 and was hired by Siskyou Tractor Co. in Yreka, CA; a John Deere and Caterpillar Dealership. Ed worked there until June 1960, then transferred to Fresno, CA.  He then went on to work for John Deere as a tractor and heavy equipment repair field technician. Mark Vucovich bought the Fresno Equipment Company dealership from John Deere  in May, 1961. While at Fresno Equipment Company, Ed worked as a field technician, repairman, and operator of the fuel injection pump room. Mr. Vucovich, asked Ed to develop and supervise a new in-house service technician training program, as John Deere Equipment was getting more advanced.  Ed was the Shop Supervisor for many years; the last eight as Service Manager. He ended his amazing career on June 7, 1989.

In 1998 Ed received a call from Les Traeger, a member with Ed in a Calif. LST organization. Les had asked Ed if he would like to be a volunteer at the Fresno Veteranís Memorial Museum. Ed has been volunteering since Aug. 1998.  He is in charge of keeping the records and photographs of the members of the prestigious ďLegion of ValorĒ.