On This Day in History, April 3: A War Hero Comes Home to Brooklyn

April 3, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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BROOKLYN — On April 3, 1942, 24-year-old radio operator Ignace Choinocki was home from the sea at 218 Barbey Street — a WW II hero responsible for saving the lives of 34 shipmates.

Ignace worked in the radio room of one of three medium-sized freighters which were in the Caribbean on February 22 when they were fired upon by an enemy U-boat. A tugboat, pulling some barges was also attacked. Ignace’s was the first freighter to go down, 100 miles off Trinidad. The radio mast on the ship had been smashed. The crew of 35 tumbled into lifeboats — that is, all but Ignace. He remained behind, working furiously to set up an emergency sending set. It was 9 at night, but the men in the lifeboats could see him moving about on the doomed deck.

Finally Ignace got the set working. Six times he sent out the call for help — S.O.S … S.O.S. Only then he thought of his own predicament but also for the tiny pet monkey, the only other living thing on board.

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The tugboat had survived. It did not sink as its captain had cut the lines and swung the craft away in an effort to escape. With survivors of the freighters, including Ignace and his little pet, chugging back to New York harbor, the raiding sub pursued pouring more shells into the barges, sinking two of them five miles from shore, then fled. There were a total of 74 survivors who reached shore. Ignace Choinocki can be credited with saving 34 of his fellow shipmates.

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