Pulaski, Wis. (WFRV) – Eugene ‘Jack’ Kraszewski was the only boy in his family to be drafted into WWII in 1943.
He was 18 years old, the product of a Pulaski farming family.
“I went (to war) as a boy, came back as a man,” Kraszewski recalled. “I went to the zoo in Chicago one time with a friend, but otherwise that was my first time away from home.”
His second time away from home; A train ride to basic for the U.S. Army at Fort Hulen in Texas.
“We were an anti-aircraft unit, and we had to know every plane that flew around,” Kraszewski said. “We had to study all of them in basic training so we didn’t shoot down our own planes.”
Kraszewski’s anti-aircraft battery was attached to the 9th U.S. Army.
They traveled up through Europe as the Second World War progressed, landing first in Scotland before going to England, France, Belgium and finally Germany.
“When we were overseas, we never thought, ‘Oh, we’re going to be in battle,’ or this or that,” Kraszewski said. “You didn’t give it a thought, you did what they told us to do and that was it.”
Kraszewski spent his whole adolescent life working on the farm in Pulaski, something he said gave him the work ethic needed when it was time to serve in World War II.
“Whenever we had to do anything it was easy for me, whatever we did, because I was used to hard work” he said. “Some of these kids from the city, they couldn’t take the hikes and stuff,” said Kraszewski.
From the city or from a small town in Wisconsin, Kraszewski and his battalion fought through it all; Marching through snow and ice, with just two pairs of socks and digging foxholes in the frozen ground.
Even liberating prisoners from concentration camps; “It made your heart feel good,” Kraszewski recalled.
It all culminated with the famed Battle of the Bulge, in late December of 1944.
“The Germans threw everything they had at us, I think our front line was maybe 30 miles long,” Kraszewski said. “They pushed us back, way back and that was the last battle we had, and from there on out, it was pretty easy going,” he said.
However, if there’s one thing Kraszewski remembers well, it was the moment he knew he was home.
“I don’t remember seeing it on the way out, but I remember seeing it on the way home; The Statue of Liberty,” he said. “(To me), it was home.”
It’s been more than seven decades since the end of World War II, and Kraszewski thinks he’d still do it all again.
“I’m glad I did it,” said Kraszewski. “There were a lot of days you enjoyed it, and we lived with the same crew, same guys for almost three years, they were just like brothers, you know?”
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