Biography: John Czajkowski was born on February 26, 1919, in Norwich, Connecticut. He was the son of Stanley Czajkowski and Paulina Golkowski, who were both born Poland and had immigrated to American in 1913. John attended Norwich Free Academy through the 10th grade and then went to work with his father, who was a barber, in the Greenville section of Norwich.
Service Time: John entered the service on February 10, 1942, at Hartford, CT, taking his basic training at Fort Devens. Massachusetts. He was then sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he was assigned to B Company of the 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion. They received additional training at other military facilities including Camp Hood, Texas, the Desert Training Center, Indio, California and Fort Pickett, Virginia.
Although John served as a gunner on a tank destroyer, it is believed that he also used his barber skills to cut some hair while he was at the various camps. All the men would have wanted to look sharp for their time on leave. It was while stationed at Fort Pickett, in November of 1942, that he married the former Jennie Margaret Zielonka. She was also born in Norwich and was the daughter of Charles Zielonka and Bronislava Kwiatkowski who were also born in Poland.
The 703rd would travel to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in Pennsylvania for training and final preparations before shipping overseas. They boarded ships and left the New York port on September 4, 1943, arriving in England on the 15th. They spent 10 months there before being loaded on transports and making their way across the English Channel, landing in Normandy, France, on July 1, 1944.
The unit first saw action near Hautes Vents on July 13th, participating in the Cobra breakout at end of month. Held in reserve during the Mortain battle in August, at some point during fighting in France, John received a shrapnel wound for which he received a Purple Heart. He was out of action until October, which was after the unit had crossed into Germany and converted to M36 tank destroyers.
They fought along the West Wall until mid-December, but were then transferred to the Ardennes after the launch of the German offensive. Fighting to reduce the Bulge in January, 1945, they joined the drive to Cologne in February and early March. Crossing the Rhine River on March 23rd near Honnef, they participated in the envelopment of the Ruhr River and slashed east to stop at Dessau by April 14th. The unit began occupational duties and awaited orders for shipment to Japan but after the Japanese surrendered, the unit shipped home.
The unit received credit for participation in the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. John left the service, at Fort Devens, at the rank of Technician 5th Grade.
John returned to home to Jennie and his former work as a barber with his father. After the death of his father, John kept the business going on his own. He and Jennie would have three sons, John, Charles and Stanley. In his spare time he enjoyed the outdoors and was an expert fly fisherman. He was also a member of the American Legion and very active in the reunions of both the 3rd Armored Division and the 703rd and the 703rd Battalion Association.
John passed away on February 5, 2005, at the age of 85. He was buried in the Saint Joseph Cemetery in Norwich, Connecticut. I want to thank John’s son, Charles, for providing the information and photos for this tribute.