Tag: navy


Richard & Mary Jane Zalewski

Ok, back to it. The tenth ancestor in my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 2017 project is my paternal grandfather, Richard ZALEWSKI. I noticed after updating a handful of biographies and sources over at WikiTree recently that I haven’t really written much about my close ancestors, besides my maternal great-grandfather and my maternal grandfather’s war biography. He is related to me through my father → his father (Richard ZALEWSKI).

My grandfather was part of the reason I started on this genealogical journey over the last 18 years (wow, 18 years.) When he passed away in April 1999, it coincided with the launch of FamilySearch’s first website. One thing led to another, and here we are.

Richard was born on 9 Dec 1921 (one day after my son’s birthday) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Joseph & Emily (TROKA) ZALEWSKI. He was the 2nd child of three after his older sister Irene and before his younger brother Robert. He was also a middle child, like me and my father, and his father. The family was living at 826 Bremen St in Milwaukee at the time. His middle name was actually Melvin at birth (not sure where that came from), but it was changed to Joseph a bit later on.

US Navy

In October 1940, Richard joined the US Navy. He was stationed in Pensacola, Florida in Spring 1941 as an Aviation Support Equipment Technician when his mother suddenly passed away on 1 May 1941 of a stroke. The story goes that he could not afford the trip home for her funeral and just happened to find a $20 bill on the  ground that he was able to use for his ride home. I have a few letters that his mother wrote to him in April 1941, so these would be the last words he had from her, which is probably why he kept them.

During most of World War II, Richard was stationed with the US Navy in Hilo, Hawaii where he was a Aviation Machinist’s Mate, 3rd Class. They were responsible for “maintaining aircraft engines and their related systems, including the induction, cooling, fuel, oil, compression, combustion, turbine, gas turbine compressor, exhaust and propeller systems” and many other things.

Milwaukee

When Richard returned from the war, a young woman named Mary Jane CORRIGAN was living with her aunt and uncle, Edy & Ethel (CORRIGAN) STRELKA in Milwaukee. Edy Strelka was Richard’s first cousin, so Richard and Mary Jane met and after some time were married on 11 October 1947 at St. Gall’s Church in Milwaukee.

The family lived in Milwaukee where their first two children were born, including my father. In about 1955, the family moved north to the “suburbs” in Cedarburg, Ozaukee, Wisconsin where they lived for the rest of their lives and had one more child.

Richard worked with the US Postal Service in Milwaukee for many years, retiring in 1978. On 18 April 1999, Richard passed away from a quick bout with Pancreatic Cancer. His death was my first loss of a grandparent and it hit me a bit hard at the time, which I’ve written about a few times. Every year since his death and the beginning of my journey into genealogy, his Zalewski line was, and is still, my most difficult line to research. I’ve only recently pushed back one more generation. He is buried at St. Francis Borgia Cemetery in Cedarburg.

In terms of DNA, I definitely share DNA with him. Probably 25% based on how DNA recombines. My father and my paternal cousin has also tested, so I can see a lot of the DNA I know I got from them.

Hawaii (or Hawai’i) is the next state on my Genealogy of the States series. I have no direct ancestors that were born in the state, but my connection to it is that my grandfather, Richard Zalewski, was stationed there for many years during World War II.

Richard Zalewski, Waikiki Beach, October 1944
Richard Zalewski, Waikiki Beach, October 1944

He spent most of his time in Hilo, on the island of Hawai’i stationed there with the US Navy. From the looks of it, he did a lot of mechanical stuff with the Navy’s airplanes. He also did a bit of work with the US Coast Guard and he was at Hilo during the 1946 Hilo Tsunami caused by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands. I have a copy of an article from April 2, 1946 talking about the US Navy rescuing some men who were lost out at sea due to the Tsunami.

Along with the stories, I have a collection of dozens of photos he took during his time in Hilo. Most of them are even labeled with the names of the men in the photos. I have put them up on Flickr, among other places, hoping to possibly get copies of the photos to the families of the men in the photos. Not a lot of luck, yet.

Ancestry just recently add a massive collection of U.S. Navy Muster Rolls from 1938-1949. My grandfather, Richard Zalewski, served with the Navy from about 1940 to 1946. Here is their description:

This database contains U.S. Navy muster rolls and associated reports of changes for U.S. Navy enlisted personnel who served on U.S. Navy ships or in other naval activities between 31 January 1938 and 31 December 1949. Over 33 million records are contained in this database.

I ran a search on my grandfather and found many records. Most of them don’t contain any surprising information, but they can be used to track his movement through the Navy during WWII.

First Navy Sighting

He is first found on 31 Jan 1941 at the U.S.S. Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. It says he enlisted in 23 Oct 1940 in Chicago, which is close to his hometown of Milwaukee. His “rating” at this time is listed as “AS,” which in naval terms stands for Aviation Support Equipment Technician. It also notes on the page that he transferred from US NTS (probably Naval Training Station) Great Lakes, Illinois.

The next listing is from 28 Feb 1941, where he is still located at Pensacola. This listing mentions that he has a change in rating (CR). It specifically says, “Rating changed from AS, to Sea2c in accordance with Art. D-5108(1) BuNav Manual.” “Sea2C” is listed as Seaman 2nd Class.  He is listed again in Pensacola in 31 Mar 1941, still rated as S2c (Seaman 2nd Class.)

The next listing on 31 May 1941 has two entries. The first entry is from Pensacola which mentions that he was transferred to the NAS (Naval Air Station) in Miami, Florida on 23 May 1941. The next entry is from Miami stating that he was received from Pensacola on 28 May 1941. He is again listed in Miami on 30 Jun 1941, though no changes were made, still a Seaman 2nd Class.

Promoted

His next change in rating came on 1 Jul 1941 at Miami, written as “to Sea1c. AUTH: BuNav Cir.Ltr. No. 27-41 corrected by BuNav Cir.Ltr. No. 66-41.” Not sure what all of that means, but he did get a promotion somewhere in there. He is still a Seaman 1st Class on 30 Sep 1941. According to Wikipedia, Sea1c is now called Petty Officer Third Class.

On 1 Dec 1941, Richard gets his next promotion from Sea1c to AMM3c, which during WWII stood for Aviation Machinist’s Mate, 3rd Class in his case. They were responsible for “maintaining aircraft engines and their related systems, including the induction, cooling, fuel, oil, compression, combustion, turbine, gas turbine compressor, exhaust and propeller systems” and many other things. The last muster roll entry for Miami is on 31 Mar 1942 where he is still listed as an AMM3c.

Ships

There are two entries I also found on ships that are more than likely my grandfather. The “Service Numbers” on the entries match up from the earlier entries. I know the earlier entries were him due to records and photos I have. Though, he never saw combat, he may have been on a ship while it was docked in America. The first entry was on the USS Orizaba on 10 Jul 1944. Though, the ship is listed as travelling from San Francisco to “FRAY.” I’m not sure what “FRAY” is. This matches up with the history of the Orizaba as it says, “Back at San Francisco in June [1944], she underwent repairs; completed a run to the Marshalls and Marianas; and then sailed north to the Aleutians.” He is now listed as AMM1c, so he has been promoted to 1st Class since 1942.

The next and final entry I have found was for the USS Shangri-La on 1 October 1946. Again, the “Service Number” matches and this record matches up with the historical record of the ship, “she made a brief training cruise to Pearl Harbor, then wintered at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.” He is still rated as an AMM1c. This entry contains some information that I can’t quite figure out at the moment. I’ve browsed through the whole muster roll and can’t find explanation of the abbreviations and acronyms they’re using or what the columns mean.

US Navy Muster Roll Snippet
USS Shangri-La, 10 Oct 1946. Ancestry.com. U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949 (database on-line).

His entry says:

Zalewski, Richard J — AMM1 — 2FFT WC DISCH — 28 — 30022228
Zalewski, Richard J — AMM1 — 1PEARL HARBOR — 20 — 30022228

The first entry may mean something like “For Further Transfer (FFT) Work Completed (WC) Discharge (DISCH)” I know he finished his naval work in 1946. Maybe this was the ship he took from Pearl Harbor back to the contiguous 50 states after serving in Hawaii.

While I was aware of a lot of my grandfather’s navy duties during WWII, it’s neat to see them written in government documents. Though, there is no information from his time spent in Hilo, Hawaii from which most of the photos I scanned a put online were from.

Hilo, HawaiiFor Wayback Wednesday, I’m going to give you more than just the one photo shown here. I’m going to give you a whole collection of 119 photos. I recently uploaded my grandfather’s Navy photo collection to Flickr. I was hoping that maybe somebody from the photos, or their families, will find them. It would just be nice to let them see the photos. He has a lot of photos of his fellow navymen from when he was stationed in the Hilo, Hawaii area from about 1942 to 1946. There is also a lot of Hawaiian history in some of his photos, like of old Honolulu.

I’d love for you to visit the Flickr photo set and enjoy the history.