PFC PETER J. PIECHOROWSKI, JR., USMCR
Peter J. Piechorowski, Jr., was born on 19 February 1925 and hailed from South Bend, Indiana. His dad served for many years on the South Bend Fire Department, and his mom was a homemaker. The Piechorowski had thirteen children, six of whom survived into adulthood. Pete joined the Marine Corps on 13 February 1943, just five days short of his eighteenth birthday. After boot camp, he received orders for parachute training at Camp Gillespie, near San Diego, California. He made his first parachute jump on 17 May 1943.
After earning his jump wings, Pete was assigned to the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment at Marine Corps Base, San Diego. When the 1st Parachute Regiment was deactivated in 1944, Pete was sent up the road to Camp Pendleton, California, where he joined the newly formed Fifth Marine Division. His home there was to be Item Company, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines.
The 26th Marines was a tough outfit that trained to a high standard prior to heading west to Hawaii in the summer of 1944. On arrival on the big island of Hawaii, the Spearhead Marines settled into their new home at Camp Tarawa. Training continued there under austere conditions. Gritty volcanic dust penetrated everything and the Marines trained some more. But they also found time for leisure activities, like going to the beach for swim call, and drinking beer with their buddies.
But the Fifth wasn't in Hawaii for a vacation and soon, the orders for combat came. Under the commander of Col Chester B. Graham, the 26th Marines was soon bound for the infernal island of Iwo Jima, and a rendezvous with destiny. Pete's battalion commander was LtCol Tom Trotti, who was destined to die leading his Marines in combat. D-Day, 19 February 1945, was coincidentally Pete's 20th birthday. On that fateful day, the 26th Marines landed late in the afternoon across Iwo's Red Beach 1. Under heavy shellfire, Pete and his buddies worked their way forward and spent their first night on the island on their division's right flank just below the southern portion of Motoyama Airfield #1.
The next day, and every one following until Iwo's last organized resistance was crushed after 36 awful days of grinding combat, was a nightmare of steel and fire for the Marines who had to go forward into it. Turning northward into the teeth of the Japanese defenses on the Motoyama Plateau, our forces were pummeled by enemy guns of every caliber. Rain fell, turning Iwo's black sands into a cold and lumpy mess that chilled Marines to the bone. On 22 February, LtCol Trotti and his executive officer were both killed when an enemy mortar round exploded near them at around 0940.
On D+5 (24 February 1945), the fight was on to capture Motoyama Airfield #2. The 26th Marines attacked at 0930 with all three battalions abreast, and tied in with the 21st Marines (Third Marine Division) on their right flank. Under a rain of enemy defensive fire, the exposed Marines made slow progress. By 1000, Item Company's commanding officer was dead. The advance continued throughout the day though, in the face of determined resistance. With flamethrowers and grenades, rifles and machine guns, and the blood of many good Marines, the 26th Marines were able to secure the sector northwest of Motoyama #2. The regiment halted the attack at 1600 to set up night defensive positions.
On this day's fighting 21 officers and 332 enlisted Marines of the 26th Marines were either killed or wounded. Among them was Pfc Peter J. Piechorowski, Jr., who was killed in action. He was subsequently buried in Grave #675, Row #4, Plot #3, in the Fifth Marine Division Cemetery. In 1947, Pete's family requested that his remains be returned to them for private burial. He was laid to rest in Cedar Grove Cemetery, Notre Dame, Indiana. His dad died in 1974, and his mother in 1977. Both are buried in Cedar Grove. Like the families of more than 25,000 Marines who died in the Second World War, the elder Piechorowski's kept paying the price for victory until the end of their lives.
The families of fallen service members in the war received a certificate signed by the president in honor of the sacrifice made by their loved ones. The certificate read: ""He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live, and grow, and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives–in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men."
SOURCES USED FOR THIS PAGE:
History of USMC Operations in World War II, Volume V, (1971) by George Garand and Truman Strobridge
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