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Interview with Edward Polski [8/22/2002]

Ellen L. George:

Today is Thursday August the 22nd, 2002, and this is the beginning of an interview with veteran Edward Polski at the VA Chicago Healthcare Facility Lakeside Medical Center at 333 East Furon (ph) in Chicago, Illinois, where he is a volunteer. Mr. Polski is 80 years old, having been born on November the 5th, 1921. He presently resides at 2159 North Peyton, Chicago, Illinois 60647.

Edward Polski:

West Peyton.

Ellen L. George:

My name is Ellen George, a fellow volunteer; and I'll be the interviewer. Ed, can you state for the recording what war and branch of service you served in?

Edward Polski:

Okay. I was in World War II, drafted in 1943 -- or was it '42? What difference does it make? I got into the service.

Ellen L. George:

What was your rank?

Edward Polski:

I came out a T/5; I went in as a civilian.

Ellen L. George:

Where were you living at the time?

Edward Polski:

Let me think 1314 North Balbrook (ph), Chicago, Illinois.

Ellen L. George:

Do you recall any of your first days in the service?

Edward Polski:

Yeah, I was scared for the first day -- for the first couple of days, I think. I think I had a physical here in the city. And then come back, we went straight to South Carolina or Georgia; I just can't remember which one.

Ellen L. George:

Tell us about your boot camp training.

Edward Polski:

We didn't have the type of training that the infantry got or the Tank Corps got. We were more of a service outfit. I mean, we went into the service outfit and ended up in the Air Corps.

Ellen L. George:

Do you remember any of your instructors? And how did you get through this boot camp training?

Edward Polski:

Well, it was mostly marching, exercising, some standard rules that we should follow, and how to follow and -- nothing exceptional no.

Ellen L. George:

You stated you served in World War II, where exactly did you go?

Edward Polski:

Meaning when we left the States? We went on the Queen Elizabeth; one of her first or second -- I was going to say marriages. And I think we had 22- or 23,000 men on that ship that day -- on that voyage. Well, we landed in Glenelg, Scotland -- Now I remember; Glenelg, Scotland we landed into. And then we road over to Glasgow, Scotland, and across the way was good old Ireland, the Irish point. And then from there we went to outside of Ipswich to an airbase. Now, I can't recall the exact name of this airbase; but we stayed there for about one month and it was right outside of Ipswich _____+. And from there we went to a multitude of places in England just kept jumping from one place to another.

Ellen L. George:

What was your job assignment?

Edward Polski:

Actually, I was just a clerk.

Ellen L. George:

Did you do combat?

Edward Polski:

Later on. This was -- we were in England our combat didn't start till we got out of comp training; but airbase combat, yes.

Ellen L. George:

Were there many casualties in your unit?

Edward Polski:

I think we only lost two men because we were more of a service squadron.

Ellen L. George:

Tell us of a couple of your most memorable experiences.

Edward Polski:

Under what conditions do you -- memorable?

Ellen L. George:

What you consider memorable.

Edward Polski:

____ that was a good one. Let's see. The first, oh -- the "buzz bomb." Did you people ever hear of the "buzz bomb"? The flying bombs that the Germans invented. We were in London -- stationed in London at that time, I can't remember the station -- the district across by the station. We looked out the window -- we had occupied private homes and offices and we hear this siren go off _____+. The Germans usually came over at night. And you can hear the machine guns go and the anti-aircraft. And we look out the window and here comes this plane, a small plane. And right behind it comes this spitfire shooting machine guns and all of a sudden, "boom," exploded. And later we found out it was the first flying bomb they had -- not the first one, but the first attack of flying bomb the Germans had on London. That was one of the big experiences, in that sense.

Ellen L. George:

That was memorable.

Edward Polski:

Oh, yeah. I remember that one very well.

Ellen L. George:

Were you ever awarded any medals or citations?

Edward Polski:

Just the unit stuff. Nothing personal.

Ellen L. George:

How did you stay in touch with the family?

Edward Polski:

While I was in the States, it was mostly by letter once a week. Overseas we were told that we couldn't mention certain items, so naturally, there was a few things -- the letters became smaller and smaller. So we started using post cards.

Ellen L. George:

How was the food like?

Edward Polski:

I found it good. Depended on the cook ______+. If you had a company cook that was good -- just like a restaurant in the city. If it's no good, you went to another restaurant. In the Army if it's no good, you still stayed there.

Ellen L. George:

Did you have plenty of supplies?

Edward Polski:

At the beginning, yes, before the invasion of Europe.

Ellen L. George:

Did you ever feel pressure to _____?

Edward Polski:

Under what circumstance? I mean, just being in the service?

Ellen L. George:

Any kind, yes.

Edward Polski:

Well, like I said about the bomb exploding. After that whenever sirens went off and there was an air raid, we knew what they could do; so we did duck into the air-raid shelter. Before that we just sat or laid in bed -- "the heck with it." That was _____. On the continent, yes, there was pressure. You never knew depending how close you were to the line. You could be under artillery and naturally dive bombers. And most of their work was done at nighttime because they were afraid we'd shoot back too much.

Ellen L. George:

Uh-huh. Well, how did people entertain themselves?

Edward Polski:

What do you mean? What people? We -- soldiers?

Ellen L. George:

Yes.

Edward Polski:

Most of us -- writing letters, if there was any -- in England especially, going to town any chance we got. Naturally, you're trying to find a girlfriend or something; going dancing -- that's in town. And many English -- Many English people -- many English people would run dances for soldiers; but that was not a _____ town. I can't remember every town; but this is -- Ipswich was the big city that we first went to; but I don't remember the small town that's connected to the airfield.

Ellen L. George:

Did the men ever pull pranks on anybody?

Edward Polski:

At the beginning during the training over there which the sergeant used to say, "Are you guys menace children" -- used to push each other, hit each other with the elbow when they're walking by. Just the general -- what children do in kindergarten; that's what our sergeant used to say and he really ran it to us.

Ellen L. George:

Do you have any photographs?

Edward Polski:

I have some photographs, but, I haven't got the ones that you wanted, you know, near the action spots and things like that. But, I do have some of most of the soldiers. I was with our personal _____+ were divided into six men.

Ellen L. George:

What did you think of the officers and the fellow soldiers?

Edward Polski:

Well, this being the first time away from home, so to speak, it's difficult to try and give an opinion just with that; but after a while you begin to find out and that's _____+ what this watch out for this officer, watch out for this Sergeant, and then on your own you got to the point where you were like, "I like that guy." To be honest with you, officers were okay because they're a little aloof of us which they're supposed to be.

Ellen L. George:

Did you ever keep a personal diary?

Edward Polski:

No.

Ellen L. George:

Do you recall the day that your service ended?

Edward Polski:

Service ended when we came back to the States. Let's see. That was in the fall, I think, September -- October; whenever it was -- What was the question again?

Ellen L. George:

Do you recall the day that your service ended?

Edward Polski:

Not the particular day, no.

Ellen L. George:

Where were you? Do you remember that?

Edward Polski:

Where was I when?

Ellen L. George:

When your service ended.

Edward Polski:

Technically it -- _____+

Ellen L. George:

What did you do in the days and weeks afterwards?

Edward Polski:

After what? Coming back home? Well, the first thing was catching up on a lot of sleep; and eating mother's cooking; and then seeing some of the guys where we used to hang out before we left; and see who came back. And we were pretty fortunate; I think we only lost two guys that I knew. And then the first, we started having parties. And after that we started building an athletic club; and then we start having a softball team, a volleyball team; and I think those where the two main teams because they were easiest in government. And going dancing with some of the American girls for a change.

Ellen L. George:

Did you work or go back to school?

Edward Polski:

No, I went back to school.

Ellen L. George:

Was your education supported by the GI bill?

Edward Polski:

Yes.

Ellen L. George:

Did you make any close friendships while you were in the service?

Edward Polski:

Yes, I had two or three guys. Unfortunately, they both have passed.

Ellen L. George:

Did you continue any of those relationships after you got out of the service?

Edward Polski:

Those two guys, yes. We exchanged phone calls weekly, then monthly ______+. And then after these guys got married, which I happened to be at their wedding, the time space became longer.

Ellen L. George:

Did you join a veterans' organization?

Edward Polski:

Yes, I'm in the _____ I'm in the _____, and I'm contemplating joining all of them.

Ellen L. George:

What did you go on to do as a career after the war?

Edward Polski:

Well, I intended to be an accountant; but seeing what happened lately with accountants, I'm glad I didn't get into it.

Ellen L. George:

Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?

Edward Polski:

How do you mean influence? Can you repeat that question, please?

Ellen L. George:

Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?

Edward Polski:

Oh, yes, it influenced me. I had to be more rigid than it actually was. Going back to my father who was in the First World War, I guess, they had different officers and different conditions mostly trench warfare _____+. I was lucky I was in the service outfit. We were always on the alert. Naturally, the only time we were alerted was when the bombers were over and there was heavy shelling.

Ellen L. George:

In the veterans' organization, what kind of activities does your post or association have?

Edward Polski:

Well, we have most there -- they volunteer for educational purposes for children, running dances for funds, and raffle prizes, punch bowls and things like that.

Ellen L. George:

How has your services and experiences affect your life?

Edward Polski:

I think it really helped me because I was going no place before the war broke out. I was the oldest in the family; and my dad had died when I was about 15 years old; and I had two younger sisters. So it really helped me for when I got back to stick my nose into being a family person.

Ellen L. George:

Is there anything that you would like to add that we have not covered in this interview?

Edward Polski:

The funny thing, the places I was in, in the battle of the bulge area -- I was looking through my dad's stuff and I remember that he was in exactly the same three places that I was in. That is a coincidence. And the one time I tried to find the name, I sent my mother something that beginning with a C in Belgium and I went looking for that town; but I couldn't find it.

Edward Polski:

Ed, I'd like to thank you very much for sharing some of your moments of memories. Thank you so much. And you should be very proud of what you've done.

Edward Polski:

During the peacetime of the activities, it was worth it.

Ellen L. George:

Thank you so much.

 
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