Tec 4 Joseph Stanley Kwiatkowski
| T/4 Joseph
S. Kwiatkowski was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 28, 1918. He was
the son of Bruno and Mary Kwiatkowski. He was one of the couple's
five children and known as "Joey" to his three sisters and
brother. When he was little, his family moved to Pennsylvania
where his father worked as a coal miner. The family moved again to Illinois when his
uncle convinced Joe's father to
take a job with the Chicago & North Western Railroad in the
railroad's Proviso Yards.
Joseph grew up in both Maywood and at 122 North Twenty-third Street in Melrose Park, Illinois. Although he started high school at Proviso Township High School, he attended high school for about a month when he left school to go to work. One reason for this was that his father had been injured at the railroad yard and could no longer work. During this time, Joe worked as a caddy at a golf course.
On September 24, 1940, Joseph joined the Illinois National Guard's tank company in Maywood. He did this because the company was going to be federalized. He also knew that since a draft act had been passed that it was just a matter of time until he would be drafted.
In November of 1940, Joseph's tank company was called to federal service when the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard was federalized. The company spent several days in their armory before leaving Maywood for Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Joseph trained with his tank company at Ft. Knox, Kentucky for nearly a year. It was at this time that he attended cook's school and became a cook for B Company. While training, he became best friends with Henry Deckert, who was also being trained as a cook and was also from Maywood. At this time, he also met Catherine Lloyd from Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. He called her "Katie".
In the late summer of 1941, Joseph took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. His job was to make sure the tankers were fed. It was after the maneuvers, on the side of a hill, at Camp Polk, Louisiana, that Joseph and the other members of his company learned they were being sent overseas. Joseph returned to Kentucky and married Katie.
Joseph returned to Camp Polk and with his company traveled to San Francisco by train. After arriving there, he and his company were taken by ferry to Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals and shots. Joseph sailed for the Philippine Islands with stops in Hawaii and Guam before arriving in Manila.
After arriving in the Philippine Islands, Joseph and his battalion, were housed in tents along the main road between Fort Stotsenburg and Clark Airfield. This was because their barracks were still under construction.
The morning of December 8th, Joseph lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. Since he was a cook, all he could do was watch the attack. For the next four months he worked to feed the tankers who were fighting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.
During the Battle of Bataan, it was Joseph's job to feed the members of B Company as best as he could. As the battle continued the amount of food given Joseph to feed each man got smaller, Joe's sense of humor made the situation easier for the men to handle. When he came to feed the tankers, he would announce, "Come and get it! Horse burgers, courtesy of the 26th U. S. Cavalry!"
The night of April 8, 1942, the night before Bataan officially surrendered to the Japanese, Joseph was among B Company members who escaped to Corregidor. Joe and the other members of the 192nd made their way along the east coast of Bataan. They found a cave with a boat in it. At the point of a gun, they convinced the boat's owner to take them to Corregidor.
As the boat approached the island, the soldiers signaled the island that they were Americans with a flashlight. After several attempts, their signal was acknowledged and they were signaled how to get through the mine field.
On Corregidor, Joe was given new clothes and fed. He also was assigned to fight with one of the U. S. Marine units. He remained on the island until Corregidor surrendered after the Japanese invaded the island on May 6th.
Joseph and the other Americans remained on the island for an additional two weeks. They were finally taken by barge to an area off the coast of Bataan. They were about a mile off shore, when they were ordered to jump into the water and swim to shore. Once on shore, they were used as labor to rebuild a pier.
After the pier was rebuilt, the POWs formed ranks and ordered to march to Manila. The reason the POWs were ordered to march through Manila was so that the Japanese could show the Filipinos their superiority. Having heard about what had happened to the Filipinos and Americans on Bataan, the new POWs feared for the their lives. To their surprise, they were treated quite well by the Japanese.
During Joseph's time as a POW, he was held at Cabanatuan. At some point, Joe was sent to Nichols Airfield to to build runways and revetments. The POWs on the detail did this with picks and shovels. This detail was known as a "death detail" due to the large number of POWs who died on it because of the work and abuse.
Joe was returned to Cabanatuan in April 1944. In October 1944, he was selected for transport to Japan. He and the other POWs were taken to Bilibid Prison where he was given a physical. It was determined that he was too ill to go to Japan, so he was sent to McKinley Hospital in Manila.
What is known is that Tec 4 Joseph S. Kwiatkowski died at McKinley Hospital in Manila on January 14, 1945. He was buried in Bilibid Hospital Plot. According to Joseph's sister, Helen, his family did not receive word of his death until June of 1945.
After the war, a friend of the family was stationed in the Philippines and went to the office which held the records of Americans who had died as POWs. He asked if he could see Joseph's record. The military officer in the office said that the friend couldn't, but that he was going to take a break and that no one else would be in the office. The friend looked at the record and said that it stated that Joseph died from dysentery and beriberi. This information conflicts with 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield report on the 192nd which states that Joseph's died from tuberculosis.
After the war, Joseph's remains were reburied in Plot D, Row 10, Grave 243, at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.
It also should be mentioned that Joseph's wife, Katie, never remarried.