At the intersection of Flushing Ave and Grand Ave in Maspeth, dozens of people ranging from World War II veterans to the St. Stanislaus Kostka choir came together to remember a local hero.
Stanley E. Wdowiak, a Maspeth native, will be remembered for generations after 64th Street was co-named to honor the veteran.
Maryanna Zero from the United Veterans Fraternal Organization, Fred Gundel from the Kowalinski Post #44, and Ken Rudzewick from Maspeth Federal Savings placed a wreath in the plaza at the intersection.
“This plaza naming today is a thank you to one of the outstanding members of the greatest generation,” said Ken Rudzewick. “Stanley Wdowiak was a true town hero.”
Wdowiak was born in Greenpoint, and enlisted into the U.S. Army at the age of 17. He was the recipient of the Navy Cross for extraordinary bravery and heroism in helping to capture an enemy submarine and its crew during World War II.
The capture occurred off the northwest coast of Africa on June 4, 1944. Wdowiak was the second man to leave the destroyer U.S.S. Pillsbury to enter the German U-Boat 505 with the objective of keeping it afloat while capturing it.
The Pillsbury had disabled the U-boat with depth charges that caused it to surface due to a failing engine and damaged rudders. The boarding mission was extremely dangerous because of likely booby traps and timed explosives to sink the disabled submarine.
Armed with hand grenades and an automatic rifle, Second Radioman Wdowiak and another sailor secured the U-boat while also capturing a German crewman. This effort salvaged the submarine and kept it afloat so that the boat could be towed to Bermuda.
The German submarine contained valuable code books as well as an “enigma machine,” which encrypted communications for the German military, allowing the U.S. to intercept German communications just before the D-Day Invasion.
Wdowiak’s heroics helped save thousands of U.S. and Allied Troops on that day and for the duration of the war.
After the war, Wdowiak relocated to Maspeth, and marrying his wife Margaret in 1947. They had a daughter Nancy and twins Patricia and Peter, raising the children in a house adjacent to the newly renamed plaza. He passed way in 1988.
“This fulfills a lot of his memory and legacy, he was always a brave man,” said his daughter Patricia Mascia. If there was a problem in the neighborhood, he would be the first one to clear it up.”
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where the submarine now resides, holds Wdowiak’s Navy Cross, as well as a pair binoculars he took as a souvenir. Deanna Tyler came from the museum with Wdowiak’s award and binoculars for the crowd to admire.
The event included the singing of the National Anthem by St. Stanislaus Kostka singers, as well the playing of Taps by Tom Barella, a member of the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 32. Councilmember Robert Holden delivered opening and closing remarks at the ceremony.
“Maspeth is near and dear to me,” Holden said. “I used to march in the Maspeth Memorial Day parade every year. These kinds of events where you can honor the greatest generation are really special.”