Comptroller, congressman honor WWII hero

In a ceremony held on July 31 on the USS The Sullivans, Comptroller Mychajliw presented the medals that Mr. Straub was awarded to his daughter, Marjorie Jean Lagana.

Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. and United States Congressman Chris Collins recognized Eugene Straub, posthumously, with the medals he earned during his service with the United States Navy. In a ceremony held on July 31 on the USS The Sullivans at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, Comptroller Mychajliw presented the medals that Mr. Straub was awarded to his daughter, Marjorie Jean Lagana, who was only six months old when her father was killed in battle.

“Mr. Straub was a hero. He served in the United States Navy for four years before being honorably discharged in 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor he re-enlisted. Mr. Straub was a man who loved to serve his country and believed in fighting for freedom. Through his service and his life, he demonstrated commitment, strength and bravery. Unfortunately he lost his life for his country. We honor that life and his strength, and we thank his family, especially his daughter, Marjorie,” said Comptroller Mychajliw. 

“Eugene Straub made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II and we honor his brave service to our nation. As a member of Congress, helping to recover medals for veterans and their families is one of the most rewarding experiences. In this particular case, we were able to present Mr. Straub’s family with the service medals he never received, including the Purple Heart and a flag flown over the United States Capitol. This is a truly amazing story and I am humbled to have been a part of the process,” said Congressman Collins. 

Mr. Straub earned seven medals while serving in WWII: Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars, World War II Victory Medal, and Honorable Service Lapel Pin. His daughter was also gifted an American flag that was flown over the US Capitol, courtesy of United States Congressman Chris Collins, in Mr. Straub’s honor. Congressman Collins also praised Mr. Straub’s service during WWII.

Records indicate that Mr. Straub joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. At the time he was stationed in Leicester, N.Y. for several months until he turned 18 a year later. He then came here to Buffalo to enlist in the Navy. After completing basic training in Newport, R.I., he was assigned to his first ship, the cruiser USS Vincennes. Mr. Straub was then transferred to the USS Indianapolis after requesting to serve alongside his brother, George. He obtained the rank of Second Class Gunner’s Mate and received additional training as gun director – sight-setter, qualifying to operate the five-inch deck guns. 

Mr. Straub’s original term of enlistment ended with an honorable discharge in May of 1941. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he re-enlisted and in January of 1942 he was ordered to Philadelphia for assignment to the USS Juneau. Following his re-enlistment, he married Marion Trick of Attica, but in just weeks the Juneau was on duty in the Caribbean participating in the blockade of the Caribbean Islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe to prevent the escape of Vichy French ships in waters that were infested by German U-boats. 

The Juneau entered the Pacific theatre in early September 1942 with the goal of securing the waters around the Island of Guadalcanal and engaging Japanese forces on three separate occasions including the naval battle of Guadalcanal. 

“Eugene was an extraordinary person that proudly served his country. It was his dream to be able to serve his country,” added Congressman Collins.

On November 12, 1942, the Juneau encountered heavy Japanese resistance and during the nighttime hours a torpedo struck the ship and badly damaged it. The ship attempted to reach land, approximately 20 miles away. However, mid-morning Nov. 13, 1942, Japanese submarine I-26 launched two torpedoes and at approximately 11 a.m. the Juneau exploded and disappeared into the sea in less than one minute. Only 10 men survived of the nearly 700 onboard. On July 29, 1943, Marion received a telegram notifying her that her husband had been killed in action on Nov. 13, 1942. He left behind their one-year-old daughter, Marjorie Jean.

“We must always and forever honor our veterans. I want to also thank Congressman Collins, Marjorie and her family, and everyone involved in ensuring that Mr. Straub was recognized. The Congressman has worked tirelessly to help veterans, as well as the fallen that earned these recognitions but never received their medals. While these medals are long overdue, the contributions that Mr. Straub made were never forgotten and never taken for granted. On behalf of a grateful nation we thank all our veterans and active servicemen and servicewomen,” concluded Comptroller Mychajliw. 

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