Kimberly, Wis. (WFRV) – At the suggestion of his brother, 18-year-old Robert Polakowski visited a recruiter on a fall day in 1943.
“And (the recruiter) says, ‘You got any money on you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah. I’ve got a little bit.’ And he says, ‘There’s a restaurant just down the block. Go on down and get yourself something to eat, you’re not going back, you’re on your way out,'” Polakowski recalled.
With very little money in his pocket, and none of his personal belongings, Robert Polakowski was now a marine, off to fight in World War II.
After ending up second in his class in coding school, Polakowski became a Corporal before heading overseas to the Marshall Islands as a radio gunner.
“I think we had eight B-25s and there were two crews to each plane so you would take turns,” said Polakowski said. “We raided different islands and so on and so forth,” he said.
Polakowski got home in1944 with a Staff Sergeant ranking, and stayed in the reserves for four years.
“That was something, coming onto that bridge and then it was a matter of moving on from there,” said Polakowski.
Polakowski remained close with several of his WWII comrades after the war, but over the years as some of them started to pass away, he found himself in need of something new. That’s when he joined several of the local veterans groups.
“There were about a half a dozen of us that still were close. One in Illinois, we used to go down and visit him and that kind of thing, and you never lost those. Well, each one, one by one, I was the only one left of that group now,” Polakowski said.
Polakowski still enjoys swapping stories and memories with other vets. Because even after seven decades, perhaps Polakowski knows better than anyone there’s no camaraderie like that of the military.
“When you’re with a group for those two years, you’re really close, more so than you’ve ever been in your lifetime. But that’s how you were, you were just that close with them,” he said.
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