Michelle Ann Kratts

A Christmas Miracle in Niagara Falls

In Christmas, Off to War on December 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts

John L. Madera

It was shortly after the bombings at Pearl Harbor when Mr. and Mrs. Fred Madera, of 501 Hyde Park Blvd, received the news by telegram.

“The Navy department deeply regrets to inform you that your son, John Loughton Madera, seaman second class, USN, was lost in action in the performance of his duty and in the service of his coutnry.  The department extends to you its sincerest sympathy in your great loss…”

John was a young man, not yet twenty, and he had been recently employed with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a latrine orderly in Niagara Falls.  It was stated in the Niagara Falls Gazette, that Seaman Madera had the distinct honor of being “the first Niagara Falls man officially reported killed in action in the war since the United States entered...”

But the strangest thing happened and it must have come like a mother’s prayer on the evening of December 16.   Another telegram arrived.  Posted by airmail from the Fleet post office, Pearl Harbor, it said the following:

” Everything is ok with me.  Please dont worry about anything.  I will write a letter later when I get a chance….”

The letter was from John, himself.  Because of Navy censorship it was impossible to determine the time or date the stamp but local postal officials believed that the postcard would have required at least three days to be received here in Niagara Falls from Pearl Harbor.  In other words, it had been written AFTER the attack.

John’s family was not new to this sort of thing.  His father, Frederick George Madera, was a hero of the First World War.  He had served with the Canadian and American armies and had received numerous decorations including a Purple Heart for wounds received in action.  Following the war he was very active in veterans organizations.  He was the organizer and the first president of Branch No. 51 of the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League.  John’s brother, Frederick, also served in the Army during the Second World War.

After a little investigation it was found that other cases of men “killed in action” were also erroneous.  The Navy’s records were incomplete and casualty reports were often wrong.  As some of the enlisted men had neglected to report back to their officers during the attack, they were assumed dead–especially if they were known to have been on or near ships which were damaged or destroyed.  If there was no record stating that they had reported to officers, it was assumed that they were missing or dead.  Following the complaints that naturally arose from this situation, the Navy “promised more information within a few days.”

But John L. Madera–our Niagara Falls guy–was very much alive.  He survived that fateful day in December and served faithfully throughout the war.  He lived a long life and passed away in South Carolina on September 27, 1998.

And it might be said that that there was a woman in Niagara Falls named Grace Madera, the mother of a young man reported dead, who believed in miracles that Christmas of 1941.


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