Tony Potochniak - Founder, Creator & Historian


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 (Plankowner).

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.   


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