Endless Mountains War Memorial Museum

Preserving Military history for tomorrow!

Corporal Francis Pastusic

Francis Pastusic enlisted in the U.S. Marines at Philadelphia, Penna. On the 28th day of September 1943.

He was born October 13, 1925 in Lopez, Penna.

When enlisted he was 68 inches high, with blue eyes, brown hair, and Ruddy Complexion.

 

Rank at the time of discharge:  Corporal

 

Special military qualifications:  Dog Handler, Combat.

 

Service:  Pacific Area 26 June 44- 4 Dec. 45.

1st Marine Divison

 

Participated in action against the enemy at Peleliu, Palau Islands: 15 Sept. 44- 4 Oct. 44; Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands 1 Apr. 45-21 June 45.

Issued Hon Ser Lap Button at Camp Lejeune, N.C. 11 Feb. 46.

Inducted, discharged and enlisted in MCR on 28 Sept 44 and assigned to active duty 29 Sept. 43.

Good Conduct Medal

 

December 16, 1944

Marine War dog Rex and his handlers Cpl. Francis Pastusic of Dushore and Pvt. First class Arthur LeaMond of Maplewood, NJ. were commended by their commanding officer for their bravery during the recent Battle of Peleliu Island.  They were cited as doing a magnificent job through out the campaign.  It was noted that "While they were on duty, not one Jap infiltrated through the line.

After the war he returned to Mildred, Pa.  Worked in the coalmines.  Married Alberta Pedro and they had two daughters, Tina and Patricia.

Leonard Kratcoski

 

 

He’s Done It All!

By Nancy Coleman

 

Army! Navy! Air Force! Marines!

 

Good services each and every one.  Which would you join?

How about all for?  That’s what Leonard Kratocoski did.

Over nearly three decades, the Mildred veteran served with each branch.   He fought in three wars.  He’s been on land in the air, on foreign soil, in the U.S. to the east; and to the west, and yes, he’s shed his own blood.

He’s done it all.

 

Cheerful with a sweet-little-grandpa voice.  Leonard doesn’t fit the image of a retired Army sergeant, which he is.  He shares his house with a kitty named Calico.  He likes to shoot scenery photos.  He’s .. well.. a Teddy bear waiting for a hug.  Yes, most un-sergeant-like.

 

But make no mistake he’s proud.  He has career keepsakes around his living room.  A fleecy Navy jacket.  A framed honorable discharge. The old sandbag photo from Nam. A picture of him in a helmet Kwaiaiein Atoll.  Legion, red “retired riggers” caps.

And out front on a pole in the year his huge U.S. flag.

It wasn’t the easiest career he says but still.  I’m proud that I could serve honorably.”  It was his job.

 

Leonard- “Jumpin Joe”, as his airborne pals call him grew up in Mildred.  His dad, Pete, worked the mines, and he and Leonard’s mom, Frances, raised six boys and a daughter; Joe, Leonard, Pete, Frank, Dolores, John and Eugene.  All the boys except Frank served in the Marines.  (Frank was burned as a child and couldn’t enlist.) Dolores married a Navy Man.

Perhaps it was the way they were raised.  To do your job, Leonard went to Cherry Township High School.  He played baseball, and ice-skated in the winter, but in those Depression days, a kids’ hobbies were working.  He served as a busboy at the Eagles Mere Hotel, and Pete was a lifeguard.  Leonard brought home a respectable $25 a month, he remembers.

“It was a long ways,” from Eagles Mere to Laporte, Leonard says, and no rides!

Joe joined the service in 1939 and Leonard liked to wear part of his brother’s uniform.  Then in 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

 

“Everybody else was going off to war,”  Leonard remembers.  Well, he had to go and see things, too!  He knew that if he didn’t enlist, he’d be drafted and… “I guess you had to do your duty.”

So he left high school in March 1943, at 17, to join the Navy.  (He got his diploma in the service e.) “Nobody else would take me! He claims- he’s color-blind.

He trained a t Camp Perry, in Virginia, then Camp Pendleton, in California, He went overseas Jan. 13, 1944, with the 20th marine Engineers, Third Battalion, 121st Sea Bees, part of the fourth Marine Division.  In just weeks, he’d be a combat veteran.

They went to the Marshall Islands, about 2, 500 miles southwest of Hawaii,.  There they found places with names like Enewetak, Kwajalein Atoll, Ratak Chain. And 3,000 or 4,000 Japanese, hanging onto a couple of airstrips.

 

The first day was “so confusing,” Leonard remembers.  But the Americans quickly booted the enemy out.  “We surprised them! He says.

Leonard simply kept low and prayed.  It was horrible.

So now he’d seen combat.  “I guess you was just scared,” he says.  But that’s the way it was.

“Just doing your job.”

But they got through it.  Leonard’s outfit went to Hawaii, and later headed out toward an island nearly 2,000 miles beyond the Marshalls, Saipan.

Leonard was carrying a Browning automatic rifle that first day on the beach, protecting the supply-bearers.  He saw a Japanese in front of him.  He aimed.  Suddenly it hurtled toward him the grenade, from a Japanese hiding in roots by a tree.  It hit Leonard on his left eyebrow, the fell on the ground, it exploded.

“I was too young to die,” Leonard remembers thinking in those seconds.

He spent three months hospitalized on the transport ship.  He had shrapnel in his right thigh, and his brow’s sill scarred.  He got a Purple Heart.

And then he went right back.

 

He ended  up on nearby Tinian for the next year, Leonard helped build eight runways for 300 B-59s.  In a scratched old black and white photo, a young, puffy-cheeked Leonard smiles as he stands by a tent.  His shirt’s unbuttoned in the South Pacific heat.  A white tropical bird perches on his shoulder.

Leonard was seeing the world.

And whether he knew it or not, he was digging and scraping and smoothing history itself the planes that later dropped the atomic bombs on Japan took off from Tinian.

 

Next, Leonard returned to Saipan, to again prepare for history:  There, men trained for the invasion of Japan.  They would have gone in during November 1945, when Japan surrendered after the U.S. dropped those bombs.

By building those runways, by digging and scraping and smoothing Leonard may have saved his own life.

He was never proud of killing.  “I never hated nobody!” He declares.  But in the military, it’s “kill or be killed”  Again, he was simply doing his job.

 

And his friends helped.  They boosted his spirits and watched over the “baby” in the bunch.  They got through together.

 

Leonard came back to the States in December.  He served on the JSS New York in Philadelphia for six months, then got out as a carpenter’s mate second class.

Next, he “loafed around,” he claims.  He attended machinery school, but there were few jobs and “I still had it in my blood” so he joined the Army Air corps.  Wanted to try and Army and wanted to fly.

Leonard took basics in Texas and went to radio school at Scott Field, Illinois.  IN three months, he made sergeant.

But he left after 11 months because of his mom’s illness and went into the coal mines.  He laughs what an experience! He drove mules, working with a hard-of-hearing, nasty, one –armed guy.  Leonard stuck it out three years.

  

Finally he left home with $3.25 in his pocket and hitchhiked to California.  He got there with 15 cents.  He took a job working 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Douglas Aircraft.  Another person at Douglas then or around that time was an attractive young woman named Norma.   The world would later know her as Marilyn Monroe.

 

Alas, Leonard never met her. In the meantime, he heard stories about soldiers who parachuted.  Hey, that sounded good! He joined up, starting over as a private.  “I was ready to move on.”

He took basics at Ford Ord, Calif., then advanced infantry training, then went to Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Lee, Va. Along the way, he had airborne training, and schooling in parachute jumping (LEAPING out of airplanes) and maintenance and aerial delivery (THROWING things out of airplanes)

 

Leonard went to Japan with the 8081, 549th Aerial Supply Co. the Korean War was on and he ended up flying C-119 missions to drop supplies to troops.  Leonard earned his second Purple Heart after a mechanical accident on a plane.

 

Back in Japan, between missions, he packed and took care of parachutes.  He remained in Japan awhile after the war.

In the meantime, he met a lovely young Japanese woman named Yoko.  They  got to know each other and fell in love.

Leonard and Yoko married on July 18, 1955.  She took the name Stephania.  Growing up, Steph attended a Methodist school, and had hoped to later study at a Catholic university, before World War II had ruined her plans.  She would have lived in Nagasaki.

Had she gone to that college anyway, the same bomb that might have saved Leonard’s life… that he helped send to Japan… might have killed her.

 

“I’ve always been proud of her,”  Leonard says.  “She served with me tow wars, right there.”  Steph later became a U.S. citizen.

 

His wife has passed away, but she’s still part of Leonard’s home.  Japanese-style windows look onto the front yard.  A big Japanese doll stands in a case in a corner.  And in a photo, Steph wears her white wedding gown.

 

After three years in Japan, and again making sergeant, Leonard went to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he served with the famed 82nd Airborne.  In 1958 he returned to Japan as part of the 549th Aerial Supply Unit and helped train the Taiwanese.

 

Though these were peaceful years, servicemen had to prepared for war.  “You’re always ready for combat, right there,”  Leonard states.  You can be called up anytime.

 

And they had to prepare a move to new homes.  The soldier’s life is a nomad’s life, and for Leonard and Steph, the wheels kept rolling.

 

In 1960, Leonard moved on to Fort Carson, Colo, where he served as a parachute rigger with the Second Missile Command.  In 1961, he became an infantry tactics instructor there.  Next, he moved on to Fort Bragg, N.C., the ooh-la-la France.  He served with the NATO 557th Aerial Supply Unit and helped drop supplies around Europe.

 

One day, he got new orders.  Leonard still has the letter.  There was no doubt about what was coming: “…Plague immunizations are required for all personnel to travel to…”

Vietnam.

 

Well, he had buddies serving there, Leonard says and laughs.  “it was part of Army life.”

In the 1950’s Leonard’s unit had helped the French in Southeast Asia; in 1954, the U.S. sent in supplies (two friends were captured then); in 1959, they airdropped medical workers.  In those days, the fuse was burning.  Now came the explosion.

 

Leonard served with the Fifth Special Forces the famed Green Berets.  Again, he dropped supplies to other berets, the fellows training the natives and doing reconnaissance spying and so forth, the stuff of movies.

 

“They are special people.”  Leonard says.  But they still needed supplies, the same as everyone.  Leonard took them in.

 

He was based at headquarters and met Gen. Westmoreland.  “He was a nice gentleman,” rather quiet, Leonard says.  They came under attack just once, right after a truce ended.  “Everything else is more routine,” he says.

 

Suffering from ear trouble, he came home after a year, as a sergeant first class.  He went to the Valley Forge military hospital, then Fort Dix, N.J. to work in supplies.

 

Leonard believes they were in Vietnam to stop communism, and was disappointed to see many Americans resented their efforts.  The media whipped up a lot of the bad feelings, he believes.

 

But it didn’t bother him too much.  He laughs.  “Had to go to work the next day!”

 

Finally, it was time for one last assignment one last trip across the ocean.  He went to Korea, to serve in a military adviser group.  Then in 1970, he retired.

 

And he took with him more than a few souvenirs:  IN the Navy and Marines, he earned the Pacific Theater Ribbon with two starts, American Theater Ribbon, Commendation Ribbon, Victory Medal, Purple heart and Presidential Unit Citation with one star.  And in the Army: the Purple Heart; Good conduct Medal, with silver clasp and six awards; Korean Service Medial (two bronze stars); Vietnam Service Medal (two bronze stars); Armed Forces Expenditionary Medal (two bronze stars); Parachute Badge Senior Wings; RVCM w/Dev/60; National Defense Service Medal with Oak Leaf; National Defense Service Medal; and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.  He also received the United Nations Service Medal.

 

Leonard returned to Sullivan County, and worked 13 ½ years as a ranger at Worlds End State park.  It wasn’t easy.  Overseeing security, he toiled from 4 a.m. to midnight.  He took in receipts, closed the office at night.  For 9 ½  years he never had a July Fourth off.

 

But 3 million people visited the park during his time there, and Leonard believes they thought he did a good job.  “I guess I enjoyed the people,” he says.

 

But he can’t forget his first career.  Today, both his legs bother from the injuries.  He’s considered 70 percent disabled.  He still goes to unit reunions and volunteers at the Endless Mountains War Memorial Museum, in Sonestown,  He helps with local military ceremonies.

 

A copy of Army Times sits in the living room.  A photocopied paper holds shots from a reunion; a past commander, and older men walking along; “Veterans march,” the caption reads, “some in wheelchairs, but they keep marching.”

 

Leonard has Washington shots, too; of him beside the Korean War Memorial, of him pointing to a panel at the Vietnam War Memorial and of him by the headstone for his brother Eugene (and Eugene’s son Frank) at Arlington National Cemetery.

Leonard will be buried at Arlington someday.  He’s earned it.

“it’s not a very easy road to follow,”  he says of the service.  “You have to give up a lot of things.”  He spent 11 of his 22 years overseas.

“You spend a lot of your life, right there, protecting your country,” he says.

“you give your best.”

And in Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines he did his job.

 

 

Robert Pidcoe

Paul Pastusic

Paul Pastusic, Mildred, spent four years in the U.S. Army and three years in the Reserve. 

He was a combat infantryman in the Big Red One, the 1st Infantry Division with the rank of sergeant.

He served in Algeria, French Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, Apennines, and Central Europe.

He received the following medals:  Bronze Star, Good Conduct, Distinguished Unit Badge; European African Middle Eastern Service Medal with eight Bronze Starts and one Bronze Arrowhead.

Pastusic says, "There were only nine men left from our original company that returned home."

After discharge, he operated coalmines.  He and his wife, Emma, ahd three children:  A son, Peter "Corkey" deceased; and two daughters, Toni, deceased; and Kathy.

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