WWII Marine Veteran plans to help honor fallen

As a U.S. Marine who served during World War II, St. Casimir, Canton, parishioner Emil Kozlowski found that serving with valor means supporting fellow brothers in arms despite ones personal feelings of the conflict itself.

It’s a notion he will keep with him during the Memorial Day Mass, breakfast and reflection ceremony as he and his fellow Catholic War Veterans raise the flag at their parish and pay tribute to the men and women who have died during military service.

Though his thoughts will most definitely be with the fallen men and women he served with in the Pacific Theater during WWII, the 85-year-old retired Baltimore City police sergeant will also be grieving for 3,000-plus U.S. troops who have perished during the Iraq War that continues to stir passionate debate.

“This (Iraq) war has been a big mistake from the beginning,” the spry Mr. Kozlowski said as he shook his head from side to side. “We need to make the leaders of that country do more for themselves.”

As passionate as he is about his opposition to the continuing war in Iraq, he is just as ardent that U.S. military forces serving in that nation are owed support and President Bush should be respected as commanding officer of the armed forces.

“He has less than two years left in office,” said Mr. Kozlowski, as he sipped lemonade at the kitchen table in the Canton row house he has called home for more than 60 years. “When Hillary Clinton becomes president, we’ll respect her decisions as commander in chief.”

Though he was officially discharged from the Marine Reserves in 1950, Mr. Kozlowski stays involved with military affairs as commander of the St. Casimir Catholic War Veterans Post 1764, and as a member of both the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Knights of Columbus.

Born July 22, 1921 in a Patterson Park row house, he attended St. Stanislaus Kostka School in Fells Point, graduated from City College High School in 1940, worked in the stock room at Bendix during the early years of U.S. involvement in WWII, and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves in 1943.

“My mother liked to drop dead when I told her,” Mr. Kozlowski said. “My older brother (who was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge) was already serving in Europe.”

With his unit called to action almost immediately, he trained at Parris Island, S.C., was stationed in the Caribbean, then trained as a specialist in water purification and distillation in San Diego in 1944, before shipping off to the Pacific Theater in early 1945.
His mission was to transform 1,500 gallons of sea water into fresh water daily for use in the military equipment and as drinking water.

As they prepared to invade Japan, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, prompting the Pacific Island nation to surrender.

“That bomb may have caused death and destruction,” Mr. Kozlowski said, “but it ultimately saved a lot of lives.”

After witnessing from afar the signing of the peace treaty in 1946 that officially brought the war to a close, he returned to Baltimore, married Lillian and joined the Baltimore City police force in 1947, and over the years watched his family grow to include two sons, one daughter, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Widowed in the early 1980s, Mr. Kozlowski married the former Anna Gianpaolo – widow of a Navy WWII veteran who also served in the Pacific Theatre – and the two pride themselves as U.S. patriots who believe it isn’t unpatriotic to disagree with their nation’s military actions.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.