Philip Streczyk

Philip Streczyk (25 November 1918 – 25 June 1958) was a technical sergeant in the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army during World War II.

Biography

Streczyk was born to Polish parents Andrzej "Andrew" Streczyk (born 1876 in Austria-Hungary) and Marya (born 1886 in Austria-Hungary). Streczyk was a native of East Brunswick Township, New Jersey.[1] He had nine siblings.

Streczyk quit school in eighth grade to help support his family, working as a truck driver until he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1940 at the age of 21. Streczyk was able to speak Polish, and used this ability during D-Day.

D-Day

Streczyk is famous for being one of the first men off the beach at Omaha Beach.[citation needed] He served in E Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, under Lieutenant John M. Spalding. He and his men helped make the breakthrough there on D-Day possible. His platoon landed on the Easy Red sector, and made it to the seawall largely intact, unlike most in the first wave. Instead of attacking up the beach exits, as was planned, he instead helped find and clear a path up the mined bluffs, left of Exit E-1. Once at the top, he attacked the enemy fortifications from the rear, clearing out trenches and pillboxes along Exit E-1 and taking prisoners. He was able to interrogate several of the Ost battalion POWs because he spoke fluent Polish, German, and English. Later on D-Day, he was involved in actions further inland at Colleville-sur-Mer.

For his actions on D-Day, Streczyk was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Great Britain's Military Medal. [2] His company commander later called him "the greatest unsung hero of World War II".[3] He saw action in five other major battles during World War II with the Big Red One, including Tunisia, Sicily, and Hurtgen. He was awarded the Silver Star four times. His six theaters earned him six Bronze Stars.[citation needed]

One of Streczyk's children, Stanley Streczyk, told historian John C. McManus that he did not get along well with Lieutenant Spalding. Ron Streczyk told McManus that "After D-Day, during the Normandy fighting, one of Tech Sergeant Streczyk's men was severely wounded in a firefight. The stricken soldier's jaw was gone and he begged for death. The sergeant obliged and put him out of his misery. Later he felt guilty about it."[3]

Subsequent World War II service

Strezcyk continued to fight through Normandy, the Mons Pocket, Aachen, and finally the brutal Battle of Hürtgen Forest. In total, he logged 440 days of combat.

During the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, Streczyk reached a breaking point. He "shook uncontrollably and babbled incoherently" to the point where he had to be evacuated from the front lines with a suspected case of combat fatigue. His case was bad enough to where he needed to be evacuated to the United States Army General Hospital, Camp Butner, in the United States.[4] In an interview with a journalist during his convalescence, he called his unit "The best platoon a man ever had". He was subsequently discharged from the U.S. Army.[3] His Distinguished Service Cross was pinned onto him by General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower on 2 July 1944. Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery personally awarded him the British Military Medal about a week later.[2]

Post-war life

Streczyk became a builder in Florida.

He married Sophie Karanewsky and they had four children.

Streczyk had frequent nightmares and was in persistent pain from the physical and emotional wounds he sustained during his time in combat. This ultimately led to his suicide on 25 June 1958.[3] He was buried with honors at The Church of Our Savior Cemetery (first known as Polish National Catholic Church Cemetery) in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

References

  1. ^ Pogue, Forrest C. (2006). Pogue's War: Diaries of a WWII Combat Historian. University Press of Kentucky. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-8131-9160-7. OCLC 69659085. Retrieved 13 February 2011. I was leader of the first section of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Division, and we were scheduled to go in on the first wave. My assistant section leader was Technical Sergeant Philip Streczyk, East Brunswick, New Jersey.
  2. ^ a b "Phil Streczyk homecoming". 13 April 2017. Archived from the original on 13 April 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d McManus, John C. (2014). The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach. Penguin Group USA. ISBN 9780698142787. OCLC 876715038.
  4. ^ "No Place Like Old United States, Much Decorated Sergeant Says". WarChronicle.com. 2003. Archived from the original on 13 April 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2020.

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