Friday, November 11, 2011

Bill’s Friend Who Died at Biazza Ridge

Today is Veteran’s Day in America, 11/11/2011. The 11th of November is also Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Many other countries also observe this day as a special day of war remembrance.

For this Veteran’s Day I would like to focus on Bill’s friend who perished in the Battle of Biazza Ridge, Sicily 1943 and all of those men who died in that horrible battle.

Below is a picture of Bill with his best friend before the 82nd Airborne left America for Casablanca. I have not been able to discover his name, but I believe that he is the same friend who died at Biazza Ridge.

Bill & Friend
Figure 1:  Bill with his Buddy
Source: Author’s Collection


Figure 2: Ponte Dirillo Memorial to the men who fought and died in the area around Ponte Dirillo, the bridge over the Acate River,  including Biazza Ridge, Sicily July 9 - 11
Source: Image courtesy of the United States Navy, Credits U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Stephen P. Weaver,  US Naval Air Station at Sigonella, Sicily during a remembrance ceremony in 2003 Retrieved May 2, 2011  from http://www.navy.mil/view_single.asp?id=16204
Bill’s friend is most likely among those named on this memorial. Unfortunately, I have been unable to conclusively tell which name it is.

The Search for Bill’s Friend

The last time I interviewed Bill was on March 22 2006, between 2:00pm – 4:00pm at his Miamisburg rest home in Ohio. Six weeks prior to this I had finished writing the chapter in the book dealing with Sicily. My intention was to take this opportunity to read to him what I had written, get his reaction and perhaps evoke from him some buried memories. It was a long shot and my expectations upon seeing him were low. Some months earlier Bill suffered a stroke which left his speech and motor functions severely impaired. When I entered the room he was lying in bed seemingly immobile staring blankly into nothingness. I had my doubts as to whether he could be reached because he didn’t respond to anything I said by way of greeting or description of my purpose for visiting him.

Getting nowhere with small talk, I decided to begin reading the chapter. After page nine Bill’s eyes began to focus and he turned his head toward the manuscript and looked at it. The more I read the more alert he became. An hour later I finished reading the chapter.

Bill now appeared to be compos mentis. His eyes were clear and expressed interest. I asked him if he wanted me to read it to him again. This time he responded with an affirmative nod. As I read he listened intently with his unique focused expression. It’s a look he got when he was particularly interested in something. Anyone who knew him would have instantly recognized it. With that look on his face I knew he was with me. I permitted myself the luxury of a small measure of hope.

When I reached the section on my account of his participation in the battle of Biazza Ridge he lifted his head off his pillow and I saw his eyes moving from left to right across the page. He was actually reading the material for himself! I held the book up for him to read more, which he did for a time before losing strength. I asked him if he wanted me to read the section on Biazza Ridge again. He nodded, yes. As I read he became more animated, time and again looking lucidly at me then back at the manuscript.

Once I finished that portion I asked him “Were you at Biazza Ridge?” To my surprise he spoke clearly responding with “Yes.” I could hardly believe my ears as he had been unable to speak for months. I looked up from the book at him and he was staring back at me with a dark, frightened expression on his face. The unexpected stark look shocked me.

Gathering myself I ignored the stare and pressed my advantage asking him “Did you have a good friend who died in the War?” Again he responded “Yes.” I asked “Did he die at Biazza Ridge?” Bill nodded affirmative. “Did he die in a Tiger tank attack?” Again he nodded affirmative. “Or did he die in another campaign?” He shook his head – no.

I showed him the list of names of the men who died  on the Ponte Dirillo memorial in Figure 2 above. I asked him “If I read out the names of the men who died at Biazza Ridge could you tell me the name of your friend?” There was no response, so I continued by holding up Figure 2 closer to his face. I repeated “This is a picture of the memorial to those who died at Biazza Ridge.” I took his hand in mine and told him again “I am going to read you the names on this list. If I say the name of your friend, you squeeze my hand”. He returned his gaze to look at the list.

I took this as a sign that he understood, so I proceeded to read the names to him. He seemed to react when I reached the positions in the list around the names of “Aloysius Boncyk”, “Stephen Vidumsky”, and “Alfred Glascock”. To my dismay he did not squeeze my hand, but became very excited and began trying to form words. I read the list again and got the same reaction at about the same places in the list. Bill was trying with all his might to tell me the name. Given the timing of his reaction, I couldn’t tell for certain which name in the list he was reacting to. I tried a third time, focusing on the following names one at a time: “Aloysius Boncyk”, “Stephen Vidumsky”, and “Alfred Glascock”. Whenever I mentioned any of these names he reacted strongly by trying to form words.

He looked up at me, frustrated before turning his gaze back to Figure 2. His eyes were moving from left to right across the page. He was reading the names. As he read his face became very sad and a tear formed in the corner of his right eye. By the time he was part way through the list more tears were forming. He continued reading until he finished. Then he turned his head away and gazed out his window.

In his condition my bringing up the past was obviously hard on him. I tried to console him. I told him what he did in the War was a tremendous cost for any one man to bear. I said we are grateful that he fought in Sicily and the rest of Europe so that we could be free today. I said that his sacrifice was a debt we as his family could not repay. I told him that he had made all the difference in our lives, opening for us opportunities for achievement that would never have otherwise been obtainable. I said without his sacrifice his brother James Clark would not have been able to become the success he was. The mention of his brother lifted Bill’s mood. He had once told me that that James Clark was the best that Preble County High had ever produced. Although he would never admit it, in some way he must have known that he was in at least a small part responsible for James’ success in academe and business.

Bill’s attention went back to the manuscript again, so I asked him if he wanted me to continue reading to him. He nodded his head, yes, so I read it to him one more time. At the end I asked him “So what do you think? Do you like it?” He responded “Yes” and nodded his head. I told him how I was going to write the rest of the book starting with Salerno and going through the battles and the good times he had in England, Ireland and continental Europe, ending with the occupation of Berlin. I asked “How do you like the plan?” A smile came across his face as he responded “It’s good.”

I am presently researching how Aloysius Boncyk, Stephen Vidumsky, and Alfred Glascock died.  These names and the other names listed in the table below are the most probable. All were members of 3rd Battalion Headquarters Company, Company G or Regimental Headquarters Company.  To the best of my knowledge all of the men in the table fought and died at Biazza Ridge.

There is another reason some of these names are strong possibilities. During my interview with Bill’s brother Henry Clark Jr. he was fairly sure  that the man’s name had the letter G in it, or was somehow associated with that letter. He also thought that the man might have come from Ohio and that was one reason for their friendship.

The one name on the list which satisfies all of these criteria is Aloysius Boncyk. Aloysius was from Mahoning county, Ohio.

Other strong possibilities are John McGuigan of RHQ and therefore flew in Bill’s serial,  and Alfred Glascock  as well as  the other men from G Company named below. Note that some names listed on the monument in Figure 2 are not listed below since they did not fit Bill’s story for valid reasons. Either they later died of wounds, or were from 1st battalion and died in the battles around Ponte Dirillo (not at Biazza Ridge), or their deaths were already explicitly explained in existing histories by eye witnesses and they did not die in the manner explained by Bill.

Table 1: Possible Names of Bill’s Friend Who Died in the Battle of Biazza Ridge 

Name
Rank
Company
Status
Place
Date
County, State
Serial #
Boncyk Aloysius     PFC G KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Mahoning, OH 15072250
McGuigan John,  J PVT Reg HQ KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Queens, NY 32012829
Glascock Alfred   PVT G KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Loudoun, VA 33183948
Myrhow Harold,  L PFC G KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Spokane, WA 19096523
Angelo Dominic, T PVT G KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Philadelphia, PA 33314899
Meile Carroll , W PVT G KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Baltimore, MD 20343348
Barnett Walter, M PVT G KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Pottawattamie, Iowa 20743494
Moynihan Cornelius, J Jr  CPL G KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Kings County, NY 12063157
Knight Vernon, F PVT HQ/3 Bat KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Multnomah, OR 39317596
Vidumsky Stephen, W PVT HQ/3 Bat KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Northampton, PA 33183338
* Fiske Raymond, E PVT HQ/3 Bat KIA Biazza Ridge 7/11/1943 Hampden, MA 11061719

Sources:
Special Forces Roll of Honor, US Paratroopers of World War Two http://www.specialforcesroh.com/rolllist-68.html

Phil Nordyke’s 82nd Airborne in World War II website “All American All the Way” http://allamerican82nd.com (which has been down since March 2011), but almost all of the 82nd Airborne rosters from the site are available through Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s “Wayback Machine” Internet Archive at http://web.archive.bibalex.org/web/*/http://allamerican82nd.com.

I also have private copies of all of the 82nd Airborne rosters from World War II.

* Note:- Raymond Fiske’s photograph (located at http://www.specialforcesroh.com/gallery.php?action=view_image&id=8698) does not match the photo of Bill’s friend in Figure 1 above and so may not be the person in question.

If anyone has more information or photographs of any of these men, please contact me.

Please take a moment to honor all of our veterans this Veteran’s Day, 2011.

© Copyright Jeffrey Clark 2011 All Rights Reserved.

2 comments:

  1. Dear Mr. Clark,
    I am most interested in how to obtain the rosters from 82nd A/B WWII, as I have been reaearching my late father's Military History: PFC Roger A. Carlson 82nd Airborne Div 505th PIR HQ1. Any assistance in my research would be greatly appreciated.
    Sincerely,
    sally carlson-campagni
    sacamp@comcast.net

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mr. Clark I may have some answers to questions that you have. You can find me on FaceBook. Steve Zaley author of They Are Only Gone IF They Are Forgotten

    ReplyDelete