It’s Memorial Day once again but as many people are wisely posting on their various social networking profiles, it is a day that is so much more than being about BBQ’s with your friends and family or getting some fast savings on appliances and other tangible crap. It’s a day that is one meant for honor and respectful thanks to those who lost their lives for our country in the service of the United States Armed Forces.
The photo below is of Private First Class Anthony Kosko who served in the U.S. Army back during World War II. He was the youngest of my Grandmother’s six brothers and sisters. All were first generation offspring of Russian Immigrants and were residents of Greenpoint Brooklyn. He was stationed in Anzio, Italy back in April 16th of 1945 and was killed in action by enemy forces. He was nineteen years old at the time according to the family passed down history. The war would end five months later and interestingly enough I learned that he originally lied about his age to be able to enlist.
Here’s another more posed shot and a slightly happier visage. I was lucky enough to dig up some of the other army photos that he had sent my Grandmother back then so I scanned them all for inclusion in this Memorial Day blog posting.
Here’s Tony with two other soldier friends at the basic training camp in Oklahoma. I was getting all of this information from what was written on the back of the very old photographs.
Not sure what location these next couple were done from but they do work for this narrative for sure.
Here’s Anthony and two orphans as he had written. I believe this was in Italy in 1945 as he was stationed there.
This was a little tricky to read but it looked like he had written that it Tony, Shawken and Kelly. I could not properly read the other two names, but think that this was what it said.
This is Tony and Mike at a base camp I guess.
The writing on the back of this photo said that it was from left to right group on truck is Bill, Willy, Tony, Greek and Dutch on Willy’s Flatiron truck.
My Grandmother’s brother John was also in the service back during the WWII and in one of the notes about Tony’s death wrote what he learned had went down that day. These are his words
“Tony was killed 16 April, 1945 in a town called Pietamala, Italy which is near Bolzano. That’s close to the border leaving Italy going north. I visited the place where he was killed. It was in a draw on a farm. The guys were told to sprint across the field and he got hit with a mortar explosion. Those things, you can’t hear them until they’re on top of you. It’s too bad that he died. He started from the heel of the boot – a place called Anzio. He and Mike was in Italy whereas I was in France. He and Mike met each other before Tony was killed.”
Next up is the photo copy of the actual telegram that the family received upon his death. You might have seen such a receipt played out in the movies and yes this was how this kind of news was communicated around back then. There was no immediate sharing to one’s Facebook or Twitter account because such things were decades and decades away. A phone call didn’t seem proper but the telegram from Western Union seemed to suffice. There were a lot of these sent out during WWII.
The next few photos are from the grave in Mount Olivet Cemetary where he was laid to final rest. This kind of thing was more common to be photographed back in those days and since these images exist I felt that they add greater impact to my words by including them. First is the dug up ground, you can see the Priest, some family members and other military there.
A different visual of the eternal resting place of Private First Class Anthony Kosko.
The American Flag is draped over the casket and the flowers are set up for the final goodbye’s.
The priest gives his sermon at the graveside. This was very likely done in Russian as the family was Russian Orthodox.
My Great-Grandparents, John and Anna Kosko.
The next image is a certificate of honor that was issued to his name. If you cannot read the writing, I have transcribed it for you below for ease of appreciation. You’ll notice that this is signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and he was very clearly NOT the President during WWII (that would have been Harry S. Truman during those years). I don’t know the story behind this certificate but if I find out I shall append the information into this posting to reflect it.
PFC Anthony Kosko would receive the medal pictured below for his service and sacrifice. For those in the unaware, this is the Purple Heart and the full description of how they are issued is for “Being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces”.
Since I had all of these images and information I decided to share them with you all in a more proper Memorial Day posting. Had my Grand Uncle Tony lived he would have been around 86 give or take but I doubt that I would have gotten any war stories from him. I did peruse some of the letters that he sent home to my Grandmother (he called her “Shorty”) but they rarely mentioned the conflict which was interesting to observe. My guess is that news from home or memories of such a place were far more important to the enlisted men. Please remember to fly the flag today in whatever fashion you decide to be the most proper and respectful. This fellow used a giant crane to do it and that was pretty cool to observe.
Have a Happy Memorial Day my friends.