Oral History Feature

The Last Voices of Pearl Harbor Survivors

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. Until his death in October 2018, he was one of two living Pittsburgh survivors of Pear Harbor. 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 that 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 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.


This interview is a production of the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. It was recorded December 14, 2015 at the Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


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