This is the cover story in this month’s Faith Grand Rapids magazine. Though Ed Czyzyk was a Marine and not a soldier, it’s a great look at a local guy who served in World War 2:
More than six decades later, Ed’s memories of the September 1944 landing on Peleliu remain vivid, as does the Catholic faith that helped him through it. The World War II veteran still uses the well-worn Catholic Prayer Book that he believes protected him as much as the 100 pounds of gear and ammunition that he carried throughout the jungles of the South Pacific. The adage that “there are no atheists in a foxhole” holds true, Ed believes. Looking back on those fearful moments before he and others in the First Marine Division jumped from their landing craft into a hail of mortar shells: “You can’t tell me that everybody didn’t pray. That saw me through the war,” he says matter-of-factly.
He served in a communications unit and had previouisly landed on New Britain. He would also invade Okinawa on Easter Sunday, 1945. One of his brothers, also a Marine, happened to be on the landing craft next to his and they met briefly on beach. For Ed, Okinawa was far less intense than Peleliu had been.
One of his saddest memories of Okinawa was watching Japanese kamikazes dive into U.S. ships in the harbor. “Every day at sundown you’d see these Japanese kamikazes… they came in droves,” recalled Ed. “It hurt to see those Japanese dive into those ships. You know that it had to kill a bunch of sailors and Marines aboard ship. It just hurt.”
Also of interest in this issue of the magazine is A child of war, a short article about a local Grand Rapids woman who was just five years old when the US entered the war.
She attended nearby St. James School and during the many daily walks between her home and school, she, along with others, would look for materials to recycle for the war effort.
“We didn’t waste any of that time (going back and forth from school), as it was part of our mission to look for discarded packages of cigarettes along the way. If we were lucky, the crumpled pack would still hold the inner lining of tin foil. This was not easy, as it meant weaving your way from curb to sidewalk and back again, adding more miles to your journey, but the prize made it worthwhile,” she said Carefully lifting the tin foil out, Ellen would return home and add it to the ever growing ball she was collecting. When that ball was big enough, she would proudly turn it in for scrap metal needed for the war effort.