The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 3, 2013

WWII Navy vet shares her story

JOHNSTOWN — Ann Sotak is proud that she is a member of what has become known as the Greatest Generation.

The longtime Lower Yoder Township resident, who turns 90 on March 29, looks forward to telling people about her role during World War II as a civil servant for the U.S. Navy in Washington and Johnstown.

After graduating from Johnstown High School in 1942, Sotak was looking for employment when she landed a clerical job at a naval office on a site that now is home to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The only person she knew in the nation’s capital was a female classmate, who helped Sotak to find lodging at a boarding house for women.

Sotak, who worked with about 100 others in the office, served as a typist and file clerk.

“Washington made me responsible for myself,” Sotak said about how being on her own made her independent quickly.

She was impressed with Washington and was able to experience things she never could have back home.

After working in Washington for 11⁄2 years, she was able to transfer to the Navy’s Johns­town office when an opening became available.

The Navy had a huge contract with the former Johns­town Plant, Bethlehem Steel Corp., to make steel products for amphibious landing crafts.

Because of the enormity of the contract, the Navy wanted a presence inside the Gautier Division of the steel plant.

Sotak started off doing clerical work in Johnstown but soon became part of the manufacturing process, dodging hot billets to ensure that the steel products, labeled with heat markings, were being shipped to the correct manufacturing facility.

Sotak helped to close the Johnstown office when the war ended.

She still keeps in touch with a couple of women with whom she worked at the Washington office.

Sotak is proud of her service during the war effort and proud of the nation, calling it the greatest country in the world.

Geeg Eash of Hooversville, Sotak’s daughter, said her mother enjoys telling people about her work with the Navy and the time spent living in Washington.

“It took a lot of courage,” she said about her mother leaving home at such a young age to go to Washington.

 

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