June 24, 2008

A soldier's story

Though Ezebius Joseph Kawiecki returned home to Bristol from World War II, his dog tags didn’t.
But it appears that more than 60 years after the metal identification card was left behind on a South Pacific island, it may soon be headed home to Connecticut.
After a story appeared in Tuesday’s Bristol Press, the long-dead soldier’s son and nephew each contacted the paper, filling in the details of Kawiecki’s post-war life.
Harwinton resident Charles Kawiecki, the soldier’s son, said his father never said much about the war.
“He made it back and had a family,” his son said. “I don’t know a whole lot about his actual experiences.”
Kawiecki served in the South Pacific and got a Purple Heart, his son said.
But nephew Ron Kawiecki said he heard at least one war story from another soldier in his uncle’s unit.
While fighting in the Pacific against the Japanese, Kawiecki shared a foxhole with a lieutenant, his nephew recalled hearing, when an enemy soldier leaped in, swinging a sword.
The lieutenant died and Kawiecki wound up with cuts to his neck and a finger during the struggle. But the Bristol man managed to kill the Japanese soldier with a jackknife, Ron Kawiecki said.
Charles Kawiecki said the story fits with what little he knows.
He said his father had injured his left pinkie and “could never really bend it all the way” because of some kind of hand-to-hand fighting in the war.
Ron Kawiecki said he remembers hearing that his uncle fought in a ski patrol against the Germans as well as serving in the Pacific Theater.
An Australian man, Harry Jas, said that Kawiecki’s dog tags were found on the island of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands.
During the summer of 1943, Connecticut troops from Kawiecki’s unit were among those who landed on the Japanese-held island in a bid to take two major enemy bases. It took six weeks of hard fighting, but American forces succeeded in taking their objectives.
Jas said he’s trying to track down relatives or veterans of the war so that he can return the tags he possesses and send “a picture of the local who found them.”
“That’s something,” said Charles Kawiecki, adding that he would be happy to receive his father’s old dog tags.
According to the National Archives’ World War II Army enlistment records, Kawiecki had a grammar school education and worked as an inspector before joining the military.
Genealogist Jeff Walden said that the 1930 Census lists a widower named Mitchell Kawiecki on Union Street who had two sons and a daughter named Freida. One of the sons was Joseph, age 15.
Alfreida Kawiecki of Main Street was listed on the lost dog tag as the person to contact if something happened to her brother.
Frieda Kawiecki, who lives in Meriden, said Tuesday that she doesn’t remember too much about her brother.
Kawiecki signed up as a private in the Connecticut National Guard in February 1941, about 10 months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and plunged the nation into war.
Ezebius Kawiecki, called Joe or Whitey by friends, worked at New Departure after the war, loved to fish, married and had two children, his son said.
Following his death in 1981, Kawiecki was buried in West Cemetery in Bristol, where he lived his entire life except for the war years. His wife, Maryanna, is buried beside him.
The Press is trying to arrange for the return of the dog tags to Charles Kawiecki.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Anonymous said...

Nice work, Steve.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Steve!

Tim Gamache said...

I concur,great job Steve!