Walter Alexander Krozel passed away at Buffalo General Hospital December 18, 2012 following a severe stroke he suffered while a resident at the VA hospital in Batavia. Born on March 27, 1915 in Columbia, CT, Walt was truly a member of what Tom Brokaw described as the "Greatest Generation".
Walt, the youngest of nine children of immigrant parents, graduated from Willimantic High School in 1933. He attended Connecticut State College (now UCONN), and played varsity football for Coach Orlean Christian. Coach Christian recognized Walt for knowing and having the ability to play at any position on the team.
Walt's business career started when he ran a "trap line" on his walk to grammar school. He helped with the family farm and held numerous odd jobs to earn spending money while attending public school until he graduated at the height of the Great Depression. He drove various delivery trucks, held construction jobs, and worked as a night watchman, attempting to fund his college courses when it was possible. He secured a job with SOCONY Vacuum and moved to Syracuse, NY. While working full time, he earned his private pilot's license, and became a member of the Civil Air Patrol.
When the United States entered World War II on December 7, 1941, Walt enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was sent to Arcadia, FL for flight training. While in training, Walt met Margaret Cato, an Arcadia school teacher. After a short courtship they eloped to Dothan, AL, becoming husband and wife on July 25, 1942. Walt soon earned his pilot's wings and a commission as 2nd lieutenant. Walt and Margaret moved to Langley, VA, where he was assigned to a B-24 Liberator Squadron. In November 1942, Walt's squadron was among the first Liberator squadrons to fly the Atlantic for duty at St. Eval Field, Cornwall, England. He flew several anti-submarine missions over the Bay of Biscay. On January 10, 1943, while waiting to take off for a mission, fully loaded with fuel and depth charges, a British Whitley bomber collided with Walt's Liberator causing a fire and explosion. Six airmen were killed and ten were severely injured, including Walt. Margaret, at home and pregnant with their first child, received a War Department telegram stating that Walt had been killed in action. Several weeks passed before the error of this report was corrected. Though badly burned, Walt, heavily bandaged, managed to return to Margaret's side for the birth of their "little pilot" Alexandra Gail Krozel. During his recuperation, Walt made radio and other public appearances to help sell War Bonds. More recently, Walt made an annual appearance in Medina's Memorial Day Parade. Medina's residents will remember Walt in uniform riding in the Albone's Rumble Seat or his golf cart every year through last year's 2012 parade.