George M. Panik
Biography: George Milan Panik was born on January 24, 1921, in Crabtree, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Charles “Charlie” Milan Panik and Sofia Perkovic (maiden name Bosanac for she had been married previously). He attended local schools through the grammar level. At some point, he moved to Ohio and was working as a shipping and/or receivng clerk as indicated by his enlistment record.
Service Time: George entered the service on August 14, 1942, at Akron, Ohio. After his basic training, he was assigned to the Reconnasciance Company of the 810th Tank Destroyer Battalion and trained with them within the U.S. On December 20, 1943, the 810th was disbanded and its men were sent to other tank destroyer units. George was sent to the 612th and assigned to its Company A. His MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) is listed as Light Truck Driver.
The 612th had moved to Louisiana and participated in maneuvers there with the 3rd Army from September to November of 1943, and then moved back to Camp Swift where they were reorganized as a towed battalion.
The unit was alerted for service on February 18, 1944, and moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, in March for final preparations before going overseas. They shipped out from the New York port on April 7, 1944, and arrived at Greenock, Scotland, on the 15th. After two months of additional training and preparations, they boarded transports and landed in France with 3″ towed anti-tank guns, beginning on June 14, and were committed in the vicinity of Cerisy, fighting at Vire during the breakout in July and early August.
The 612th moved to Brittany and supported the siege and capture of Brest in late August and September and then shifted to Belgium in October and supported operations against the Siegfried Line until December. At the outbreak of the Battle of the Bulge, they engaged the Germans in the area of Honsfeld, Belgium.
The 612th converted to a self-propelled battalion using M18 tank destroyers beginning on December 29, 1944, and then joined the attack through the Monschau Forest in February, 1945, crossing the Rhine River in March and later participating in the race through central Germany to Leipzig in April. They crossed the Czechoslovakian border on May 6th and took up occupational duties.
The unit received credit for five campaigns including Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe. George was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service as identified on General Order #95 of the 2nd Infantry Division, dated August 15, 1944. George returned to the U.S., leaving from Marseille, France aboard the ship USAT George Washington and arriving in New York on October 26, 1945. He was discharged on the 29th and left the service at the rank of Private First Class.
After the war, George returned to Ohio and found work as an iron worker for Republic Steel. On November 6, 1946, George married the former Betty Ann Williams who was born in Youngstown, Ohio, and was the daughter of Charles Enley Williams and Violet Irene Prince. The couple made their home in Youngstown and have four children, Gerald, born in 1947, Linda in 1948, Barbara in 1952 and George Jr. in 1957. In his spare time, George enjoyed hunting. He was a member of Boilmakers Local 358, St. Georges Lodge Branch No. 66, the Loyal Order of Moose and the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
After the death of his wife in 1962, the family broke up with only limited contact between George and his children. George passed away on March 8, 1977, and was buried in the Tod Homestead Cemetery in Youngstown, Ohio.
I want to thank George’s son, George Jr., for providing the information and photos used in this tribute. I also want to thank him for his service in the Navy, specifically submarines in which he traveled all over the world. He served for thirteen years from 1974 through 1987.