OCS was honored to have WWII Army Veteran, Sergeant Edward Sobczyk, visit the squadron to recount his experiences during WWII. The 95 year old veteran is the great-uncle to one of the squadron’s cadet members, who was willing to invite Mr. Sobczyk to share his first hand account of the events he participated in during WWII, many of which went unrecognized for over 70 years.
Sobczyk recounted the early days following his enlistment, when the requirement for joining his special Army unit included running 10 miles, free-climbing a mountain, and swimming 1,000 yards. He was sent to the European theatre of operations, traveling through Belfast (Ireland), and Exeter, London, Plymouth (England) and finally arriving at Slapton Sands, where he took part in Operation Tiger, the training exercise and Mock Invasion of France by Allied forces. Unfortunately, the military training session was ambushed by German u-Boats and several ships were sunk. Over 700 men died in the ambush, and Ed Sobczyk helped save over 100 men by loading them aboard LST boats. For this action, he was nominated for the Silver Star, which was subsequently denied, as the Army Brass refused to officially acknowledge that the incident occured. Allied commanders feared that the Germans would have linked the exercise to the planned invasion of Normandy, and chose to bury the incident in secrecy in spite of the amount of lives lost on that day.
When Allied forces stormed the Coast of Normandy on D-Day, Sobczyk was part of the initial group that led the invasion on Utah Beach. Loaded with 70 to 80 lbs of gear, his mission was to take out the enormous, fortified German gun emplacements on the coast. Over 200 troops from his unit were lost on that day. Sobczyk’s helmet sustained a direct hit from a sniper during the assault, which penetrated his helmet liner, earning him the first of two Purple Hearts.
During actions across German lines, his unit was hit by an 88mm round, losing 6 of his fellow soldiers and knocking him unconscious. Two days later Sobczyk awoke in a cemetery surrounded by other dead soldiers. His personal belongings had been removed and the only item remaining on him was his dog-tag, having been presumed dead. His family had been notified of his death, yet he managed to survive and crawl out and find help. He was taken to London to care for his injuries. After agreeing to have his leg amputated, the decision was reversed after surgery -without anesthesia – determined that his leg could be saved. In spite of these injuries, he was returned to the front lines 38 days later.
Ed Sobczyk took part in the five major battles of WWII, including the Liberation of Paris (For which he received the Red Cord worn on his right shoulder), Battle of the Argonne Forest (Bronze Star), and the Battle of the Bulge.
After the War, Sobczyk returned home and was mistakenly arrested, believing that he was an Austrian, due to a case of mistaken identity on his birth certificate. Ed Sobczyk was privileged to spend an hour speaking with President Truman, who initiated the process to give him his long overdue recognition for his heroic action in Europe. This effort was eventually stone-walled, and it took another 70 years for him to receive the recognition due to him from a grateful nation. Click here for the story. In all, he received an additional 11 medals for his heroic efforts.
In April of 2014, Sobczyk, along with members of his family, returned to the site of the Slapton Sands memorial in honor of those lost during Operation Tiger. He was honored by civilian and military dignitaries from across Europe, including a personal representative sent by the Queen of England. He later visited the sites in France, where he once again paid a heartfelt visit to his long lost comrades buried there.
The Omaha Composite Squadron is extremely honored and proud to have hosted Sergeant Ed Sobczyk. The historical significance and the sacrifices endured by the greatest generation will never be forgotten. The Omaha Composite Squadron’s Cadet Commander presented Mr. Sobczyk with a Squadron patch and cap in appreciation for his service and dedication to the service to his country.
Photo credits: Mr. Bradley Brown