NBJ 6-42 GOVT-WASHINGTON, D.C. OCT. 24 95 I P.
MRS. MARY BARTEK
80 BANARD STREET
FREEHOLD, NEW JERSEY
THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRES ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP
REGRET THAT YOUR SON PRIVATE JOHN F. BARTEK AIR
CORPS HAS BEEN REPORTED MISSING IN PACIFIC THEATRE
SINCE OCTOBER 21 SEARCH BEING CONTINUED PERIOD
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION WILL BE SENT WHEN RECEIVED
ULIO-THE ADJUTANT GENERAL
919 A. OCT. 25
One of America's famous heroes of World War II was Freehold's own Johnny Bartek. Johnny Bartek grew up on 80 Banard Street in Freehold and attended one year of high school before "flunking out" at age 16. For the next couple years he worked at various jobs, including some time at the rug mill, but couldn't find one he liked so he joined the army at age 18. While a private in the Army Air Force he was a flight mechanic assigned to the flight carrying famous WW I flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient Eddie Rickenbacker from Hawaii to the New Guinea headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur. Because of inadequate navigational equipment and a faulty weather report, the B-17 overshot its mark and pilot William Cherry was forced to ditch this flight in the Pacific Ocean near Canton Island. Rickenbacker and Cherry's crew spent 3 weeks lost at sea in a life raft. All but one survived and were rescued by Navy pilots in the Ellice Island chain
on Friday, November 13, 1942, more than 500 miles beyond Canton Island.
Those lost at sea: Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker; Col. Hans Christian Adamson (Protocol Officer accompanying Rickenbacker); Capt. William T. Cherry, pilot; Lt. James C. Whittaker, co-pilot; Lt. John DeAngelis, navigator; Sgt. Frank Reynolds, radio operator; Pvt. John Bartek, flight engineer; and Sgt. Alex Kaczmarzyck, passenger returning to
his unit after hospitalization.
Very few supplies were on the raft, their food ran out after three days. One of the few items on the raft was a Bible given
to Johnny by the First Baptist Church of Freehold. The inscription on the fly leaf says "A sacred token, to John F. Bartek from the First Baptist Church, Freehold, N.J., April 7, 1942." Reading this Bible helped sustain the men through the harrowing ordeal. On the eighth day, a few minutes after reading Matthew 6:31-34 from the Freehold Bible, a sea gull landed on Richenbacker's head (a sign from God they believed), becoming food and fish bait to help keep the men alive until their rescue on the twenty first day.
THE BARTEKS OF FREEHOLD
Johnny likes his home town. He says that Freehold is a pretty good place. Then with that roguish glint, he once added, "You know what they say over there in Freehold. They say that George Washington put it on the map, but Johnny Bartek kept it there.
Freehold is a hard place to get to from New York City; when you arrive you can get your geographical bearings from the local hotel and from there on out you are on your own. There are no taxicabs in Freehold. The girl at the hotel desk is full of infor- mation and can show you the place where Johnny used to buy milkshakes. The Bartek family home is about two miles out of town on Bannard Street which parallels the rail- road tracks. On the way out I stopped for a moment to look at the first Baptist Church, whose pastor gave him the Testament.
The first house in the block is the only one that has a telephone, and Johnny said he felt sorry for the poor neighbors who relayed the messages when he caused so much excitement over being lost and found. Every house on his street, except one, has a service flag in the window and there isn't a single front doorway that doesn't fly the American flag.
Johnny's genial father was waiting at the front door to greet me. He took my rub- bers to the kitchen to place them near the fire and returned with Johnny's mother. One look at her fine face told much of the story.
Johnny's mother is a good housekeeper. Everything was spotless and orderly. The house was bright and cheerful and plants were standing on the window sills where the sun could get at them. The pictures on the walls in the living room dealt with American history, the Bible and the Barteks. Among them was a head of George Washington, an old steel engraving of Our Lord standing before Pontius Pilate, and a head of Christ with an inscription which said, "The Lord is My Shepherd." The largest picture was that of a castle built on a rock with a quotation from Samuel saying, "The Lord is My Rock and My Fortress and My Deliverer."
Other books written about this experience were:
There was also a three part series published in Life Magazine in 1943.
70 Court Street, Freehold. On display are Johnny Bartek's actual
Mae West Life Jacket and Bible! The Home Front exhibition will be
open to the public until July of 2006.
Looking for a copy of the book? As far as I know it hasn't been
published since 1943 but I found a used copy at Amazon.com.
Johnny Bartek is still alive and well, and lives in New Jersey.