John Katsaros, Who Escaped the Nazis in WWII, and Later Served as WHAV Sports Announcer, Dies

Staff Sgt. John Katsaros in disguise during World War II. (Courtesy photograph.)

Joe Clementi, who worked at WHAV before joining WHDH, discusses the crew at the station. John Katsaros, who announced football games, listens behind.

(See related obituary.) Haverhill’s John Katsaros, a veteran who escaped from the German Gestapo during World War II, and later became one of WHAV’s first radio announcers, has died at age 97.

Katsaros served as a waist gunner and survived a B-17 bailout in 1944 over France. He was captured by the Germans, rescued by the French underground and then began a perilous quest for freedom through France and Spain. He chronicled the adventure in his book, “Code Burgundy: The Long Escape.”

At the end of 2019, Katsaros was one of an elite group of 17 World War II veterans who traveled to France, Luxembourg and Belgium to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Just before boarding the plane, he told WHAV about the solemn trip.

“My wife says, ‘Gee, that sounds like a good vacation.’ I said it is not a vacation. It’s an obligation,” he said at the time.

Katsaros retired from the U.S. Army Air Force as a staff sergeant.

One of WHAV’s earliest voices, Katsaros began working at the radio station during the late 1940s under the legendary Ken Ash. He went on to be a play-by-play announcer at Haverhill Hillies’ football for 27 years.

At WHAV, Katsaros said he began with Joe Azzarito, who was a spotter. “I went on to do everything from play-by-play, spotting to color,” Katsaros recalls. During those days of early local radio, he says, pioneering WHAV staff had to create their own technology. “Ash built a creative light system that allowed us to keep track of players on the field.”

Katsaros related his experiences during WHAV’s “Reunion of the Radio Stars” in 2016.

As a longtime member of Kiwanis, Katsaros participated in the service club’s 2016 Turkey Drop to raise money for charity. He told WHAV, which covered the event live,

“Well, as a Kiwanian, it was wonderful and also as a former WHAV announcer for football, it is wonderful to be with you. I’m happy to see you bringing back WHAV 100 percent for Haverhill,” he said.

Funeral arrangements had not yet been announced by news deadline.

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