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Uncle Sam rushed him into WWII, but fate spared him the worst of it

Uncle Sam did not have a minute to waste in seeking the services of Robert J. Mischel – or so it seemed to the 1943 South Park High School graduate.

Right after graduation in June, the 18-year-old received his draft notice for World War II.

He reported to the old downtown Buffalo Post Office – now Erie Community College's  city campus – and was sworn into the Navy.

Just as quickly, Mischel and other draftees were marched over to the nearby Exchange Street railroad station and put on a train bound for basic training at Sampson Naval Base in the Finger Lakes.  After that, he was assigned to the USS Briscoe, an attack transport ship that would be delivering troops for amphibious landings on islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Mischel realized he would be in the thick of the bloody island-hopping campaign to push the Japanese back to their homeland. Once that happened, a final epic battle was expected.

But the hand of fate intervened and Mischel and his shipmates kept experiencing unexpected delays in joining the fight.

After arriving in late 1944 in Hawaii in preparation for the Battle of Iwo Jima, the Briscoe experienced mechanical problems.

"There was excessive vibration in the ship's turbo alternator and it required repair.  This delayed our departure from Pearl Harbor and ultimately caused us to miss the invasion at Iwo Jima," Mischel said.


Robert J. Mischel, 92

Hometown: Buffalo

Residence: Orchard Park

Branch: Navy

Rank: 2nd class petty officer

War zone: WWII, Pacific Theater

Years of service: 1943 - 1946

Most prominent honors: Asiatic-Pacific Theater Medal, Philippines Liberation Medal, Chinese Service Medal, World War II Victory Medal

Specialty: radio man


Months later, the Briscoe received orders to transport troops for the Battle of Okinawa. Again, an unforeseen circumstance occurred.

"Our ship collided during exercises with another ship and it necessitated repairs," Mischel said.

He and his shipmates were relieved. They knew the enemy was resorting to desperate measures.

"At the time, the Kamikaze suicide pilots were wreaking havoc on our ships," he said.

On their next major assignment, delivering troops to Manila, the crew of the Briscoe just missed a direct hit from an enemy torpedo.

"It went right across the bow of the ship. You knew it was a torpedo because you could see the wake from it," Mischel said. "I think if it hit, it would have caused a lot of damage. Our ship wasn't well armored. It was a ship that had been put together in a hurry."

While on shore leave, Mischel walked through the ruins of Manila and felt great sadness for the people. Many were hungry, dressed in rags and begged for help.

"The city was absolutely destroyed and the children would come up to us for anything we could give them," he said. "They were victims of the war."

But the war soon ended when two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in August 1945. And instead of participating in the invasion of Japan, Mischel and his shipmates were part of the armada of ships anchored in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese boarded the USS Missouri and formally surrendered.

"We were about a mile away and could see the Missouri. We couldn't see them signing the surrender but we knew what was going on. We were all quite ecstatic."

Robert J. Mischel traded his Navy uniform for the uniform and badge of the Buffalo Police Department, where he saw more action during a 36-year-career on the force.

 Not everyone was happy, Mischel soon discovered when he was walking the streets of Tokyo; but again, luck spared him.

"I was with two other sailors and we were walking along and all of a sudden this guy all dressed up in a Japanese uniform jumped out at us. He had a sword and was kind of brandishing it.

"We thought for sure we were in trouble because we were not armed. Suddenly he just disappeared and left us alone. I think he realized we were the conquerors," Mischel said.

Soon after that, the Briscoe was underway to China to deliver Chinese National troops to fight the Communists.

After completing the mission, the Briscoe's crew was granted a day of liberty at Tientsin.  Mischel recalled going ashore and experiencing an unexpected treat.

"There was this Russian bakery right at the pier and they had bread, fresh milk and eggs. We hadn't had that in years and we had a feast."

Back home, Mischel found the love of his life and married her, the former Norine McMahon, in 1949, the same year he joined the Buffalo Police Department. The couple raised six children and have 18 grandchildren.

For more than 36, he served in the Police Department, rising to the rank of captain and heading the force's traffic division.

He says he sometimes thinks about his war duty but mostly it's "an afterthought." That's because police work provided him with more than enough memories.

When asked to share one, Mischel told of when he was a young patrolman and responded to a deadly shooting in a bar on Michigan Avenue at East Eagle Street.

"This guy had been denied a drink and he went home and got a gun and came back and shot up the whole place. He killed three people," Mischel said. "My partner and I arrested him."



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