Monday, May 08, 2017

Private First Class Paul Kasuboski: an inspirational military leader

The most inspirational military leader, in my opinion, is someone whose name you’ve likely never heard: Private First Class Paul N. Kasuboski. Private Kasuboski was a Combat Infantryman in the Anti-Tank Platoon, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, 8th Division. He took part in the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, and Central Europe Campaigns during World War II.
            In March of 1945, Private Kasuboski and the 1st Battalion of the 28th Infantry managed to cross the Roer River and advanced 33 miles to the Rhine River. They performed this feat under constant enemy fire. During this operation, they also moved and placed anti-tank 57-mm guns which were able to hold back the enemy tank forces. For his outstanding work during this operation, Private Kasuboski was given a written commendation by Louis J. Dughi, Major of the 28th Infantry.

            The month of April 1945 found the 1st Battalion continuing to advance their position. Many enemy towns were cleared, and close to 5,000 prisoners were taken throughout the month. Mid-month, upon reaching the industrial section north and west of Schwelm, the 28th Infantry faced strong enemy resistance. Enemy tanks, snipers, and self-propelled guns made for extremely dangerous crossfire. During this exchange with the enemy, Private Kasuboski’s Jeep was hit by enemy tank fire. Many of his comrades were killed in the explosion, and Private Kasuboski was gravely injured by shrapnel. It was the 12th of April, 1945.
            Private Kasuboski was taken to a military hospital, where he recuperated for over four months from his injuries. The 8th Division and 28th Infantry carried on forward, continuously defeating the enemy and blazing a trail further into Germany. They were met with less and less resistance as they went on. By the end of April 1945, German troops were surrendering in large droves to the passing American vehicles. They brought in more than 80,000 captives at that time. The amount of captured war materials was massive; a V-bomb assembly plant was found, which was capable of destroying everything for 20 miles around. In Wobbelin, a concentration camp was found with more than 2,500 starving political prisoners and hundreds already deceased. During 10 months of combat, the 28th Infantry managed to capture over 115,000 prisoners of war.
            Private Kasuboski was honorably discharged and returned home to the United States. He was decorated with a Good Conduct Ribbon, European African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon, Four Bronze Campaign Stars, a Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, American Defense Ribbon, American Theater Ribbon, and Victory Ribbon. When he returned to civilian life, Private Kasuboski walked with a pronounced limp. Due to the injuries he had sustained, one leg was significantly shorter than the other. At 5’7” tall, Private Kasuboski was never a tall man to begin with. After the war, he was several inches shorter.
I had the pleasure of knowing Private Kasuboski in his later years; he was my grandfather. Grandpa Kasuboski never once talked to me about the war. He never talked to my dad about the war. In truth, my grandpa never talked about much of anything. In today’s world, they would call my grandfather a PTSD sufferer Back then, they just said he “had a hard war.”
As a child, the only thing I knew about Grandpa and the war was that he had been in it, and he hurt his leg. I learned of my grandfather’s heroism only after his death, when I inherited his honorable discharge paperwork and his letter of commendation. I researched his service, and found out he had been in one of the most dangerous campaigns of the war. Many, many of his comrades didn’t make it. I can only imagine the things my grandfather had to see, and the memories he must have had every time he looked at his mangled leg.

To me, Private Paul N. Kasuboski was the kind old man who taught me how to prune roses, the benefits of having a rain barrel, and the best way to grow rhubarb. He loved baseball and he loved to play dice. He was the man who always had a toothpick in his mouth, and whose eyes sparkled with mischief whenever he pretended he couldn’t hear my grandmother complaining about this or that. To history, he was a man who risked his life in ways I can’t even imagine to protect his country from an enemy so evil we rarely utter the name. He died with few ever recognizing his sacrifice. He was truly an American hero, and a true leader.