Alex Dyga of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a Pearl Harbor survivor. He joined the Army just months prior to the Japanese attack on the Islands. When the attack came, Alex was stationed on Hawaii as a “mule skinner.” He would serve the entire war on Hawaii. At 92, Alex is Pittsburgh’s only remaining Pear Harbor survivor.
During the Great Depression, the Dyga family worked a small farm in Finleyville, Pa. But, by 1934, both parents had died and Alex and his siblings were left orphaned. As the older kids tried to maintain the farm, the younger children were taken in by others. Alex, age seven, was sent to live with Catholic nuns in Emsworth.
“I was a bad kid,” Alex recalls, and so it was probably with great relief the nuns shipped him off to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as soon as he turned sixteen. After two years working in the outdoors of Washington state, Alex returned to the orphanage, where the nuns promptly marched him to downtown Pittsburgh and enlisted him in the Army. “Send him to Hawaii!” the nuns sternly instructed the recruiter. And so he went.
After four years in the Army, Alex returned to Pittsburgh, worked, loafed, starved, and then decided to re-up in the Army where he could have a better life. Eventually, he would cross over into the Army’s newly formed Air Force, where he would serve until his retirement in 1961.
On the first Monday of each month throughout 2015, we conducted oral history interviews at the Thomas & Katherine Detre Library & Archives in the Senator John Heinz History Center. The library is closed to the public on these days, so the staff graciously invited us to meet with local veterans and use this space to record and preserve their stories.
On December 14, 2015, we invited three senior Pittsburgh area veterans to the Heinz History Center to share their stories with the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. First to be interviewed by historian Todd DePastino was Chuck Brewick, who served as a WWII B-17 navigator. Then we were joined by Alex Dyga, WWII Pearl Harbor Survivor, followed by Col. Gordon Lam, an army veteran of the Vietnam War.
Alex Dyga – WWII | VBC Short Stories
Alexander passed away on Wednesday, October 3, 2018.
Alexander was a resident of Pennsylvania at the time of passing.
Alexander proudly served in the U.S. Army and Air Force during WW II.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday, 10 am, Sacred Heart Church, 154 Orchard Avenue, Emsworth. Burial with military honors will be held Wednesday, 11 am, at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.