State Sen. Cathy Young presents medals to the family of the late First Lieutenant Robert W. Wicks, a World War II veteran who survived a plane crash in Slovakia and was saved by a local family. Pictured are, from left, Daniel Goho, American Legion Post Commander William Gilbert, Sen. Young, and David Wicks, son of First Lieutenant Wicks.
Dansville family receives posthumous war medals
DANSVILLE — The family of a World War II veteran recently was presented with four service medals.
The medals were awarded posthumously to First Lieut. Robert W. Wicks, who survived a plane crash in the mountains of Slovakia and was saved by a native family.
Young’s family was given the Prisoner of War Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal by state Sen. Catharine Young (R,C,I- Olean) during a ceremony at Daniel Goho American Legion Post 87.
“My father and his fellow soldiers in World War II were a remarkable generation of Americans,” said David Wicks, son of First Lieutenant Wicks. “I am so pleased today because my father truly deserves these medals. This completes the circle of his military career and I’d like to thank Senator Young and Ross Glover, the former Commander of the American Legion in Dansville, for all their help in making this possible.”
First Lieutenant Wicks spent most of his time with the 15th Airforce Division out of Southern Italy. His first combat mission was on Aug. 27, 1944. This mission was an attack on Blechhammer, which was a military facility in Poland that housed many of the petroleum products used by Hitler’s war machine.
His 24th combat mission targeted Axis powers in Vienna, Austria. At the time, it was a heavily-defended Nazi stronghold. On Dec. 11, 1944, moments before takeoff, Wicks was switched to a different plane, as they wanted an experienced bombardier, his specialty, to help lead the attack. With this new crew — who he had never met before — his B-24’s four engines were shot almost simultaneously by anti-air artillery. The plane lost speed and altitude and all of the 10 men on board had to bail out of the aircraft.
The damaged plane crashed into the mountains in Slovakia. Wicks parachuted to the ground, where he was saved by the Pavol Macina family, who hid Wicks on their farm for several months. Wicks was considered a prisoner of war of the German Government from Dec. 11, 1944 to July 16, 1945.
“First Lieutenant Wicks’ story is truly amazing,” Young said. “He was on the front lines protecting freedom throughout the world in one of the most important wars ever. His bravery and commitment to our nation are truly inspirational. … We are all grateful for his service.”
Wicks’ son David even traveled to Slovakia in 2004 to meet four generations of the family that helped his father survive the war. This past summer, three generations of Pavol’s family visited Dansville to spend time with the Wicks family and see some of New York’s treasures, such as Niagara Falls.
First Lieutenant Wicks was born and raised in Rome, N.Y. After the war, he moved to Clinton, where he ran a bowling alley. He died in 1996.