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A look back at the life and times of one of The Fisherman's most well known personalities, Ed Nowak.
By Capt. Bill Smith
Tags: special

I am sure that most readers recognize the name Ed Nowak because The Fishin’ Pole has been an icon in the New England fishing community for as long as I can recall. He is a prolific writer and a very talented photographer. Over the years, Ed has written thousands of outdoor features, newspaper stories, and columns. He is also an accomplished radio broadcaster. In this work, Ed has had a great impact on regional fishing and those who know Ed will verify that he is certainly a character!

I must start with a disclaimer about this article. I usually approach a topic with an open mind but when it comes to Ed I definitely have my opinions. I have known Ed for almost 30 years, and he is much more than a friend. He has been my second father, always willing to contribute ideas and offer advice. Ed has shared some wonderful times on my boat. He also shared in the joys of the birth of my children and my grandchildren. Ed has been my mentor, sponsoring my initiation into the Outdoor Writers Association.

Ed inherited much from his family. He is the son of a Polish immigrant who was raised in a strong Catholic tradition by his widowed mother. His father volunteered to fight for this country in World War I. Despite being seriously wounded, his father continued to perform his duty as a courier and carried some important information about enemy strength back to the regimental command. After returning to the States, Ed’s dad put himself through Burdett Business College, became the news editor of a Polish newspaper, and later formed his own successful business.

Ed always had a hankering for fishing and he remembers well growing up in Winthrop. Back then, a few cents bought a couple of fish hooks which Ed put to good use fishing from the shore at Point Shirley and off local piers. Later, he expanded his hobby, fishing the Graves to Nahant from the family’s sailboat. In those days, there were no striped bass so Ed targeted the huge schools of pollock which often blitzed the Harbor waters. Many of these brutes were in the 12- to 20-pound size.

When not chasing fish, Ed worked hard delivering 250 newspapers each morning before school and setting up bowling pins at the Winthrop Yacht Club at night. He also played varsity center on the Winthrop High football team where he earned an All Scholastic Honorable Mention. After high school, Ed worked as a stock boy for the prestigious hardware firm, Bigelow & Dowse and attended Boston University until being drafted during World War II.

Ed was assigned to the 21st Photo Reconnaissance Squadron of the 14th Air Force division in China. There he served as a war time photographer for the Flying Tigers under General Chennault.

Ed told me that the most important historical event of his life was his military service which spanned over 3-1/2 years in China, Burma, and India. It greatly influenced his ability to problem solve and to work hard to achieve important goals. These ethics were also what his family instilled in him as a youngster growing up during the difficult times of the Depression.

Rather than accept an appointment to Officer Candidate School, Ed wanted to join the fight overseas. He was first sent to the Air Force School of Photography at Lowery Field in Denver, Colorado where he was a member of the first photo class that included enlisted men. Prior to this time, only officers were trained as combat photographers. While there, he even managed to do some amateur boxing and represented the Air Force well, winning the middleweight division in the Inter-service League. After graduating, Ed was assigned to the 21st Photo Reconnaissance Squadron of the 14th Air Force division in China. There he served as a war time photographer for the Flying Tigers under General Chennault. Ed worked on a photo essay for Life Magazine about the famous Flying Tigers, gaining national recognition as a photographer.

With the war ended in Europe, Ed was reassigned from his combat position in Asia to the staff of “YANK”, the military monthly as a military photographer. He tells of working with some great journalists while honing his skills as a photojournalist. He fondly remembers working with Bill Mauldin, World War II's most famous cartoonist and a two time Pulitzer Prize political cartoon winner.

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