Platoon Sergeant Anthony P. Malanowski, Jr.

anthonymalanowski2
Sergeant Malanowski, around 1941.

All photos of Anthony Malanowski
are hosted by Jamie Malanowski via True/Slant

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NAME:
Anthony P. Malanowski, Jr.
NICKNAME:
Andy
SERVICE NUMBER:
238894
HOME OF RECORD:
Baltimore, MD
NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Rozalia Malanowski
DATE OF BIRTH:
January 31, 1915
ENLISTED:
July 25, 1933
DATE OF DEATH:
September 27, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal A/1/7 Platoon Sergeant KIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Unknown
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Navy Cross, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Platoon Sergeant
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Unknown
MEMORIAL:
Holy Rosary Cemetery, Dundalk, MD
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.


Birth and Early Life:
In the year 1900, a nineteen-year-old Polish shoemaker named Antoni Malanowski left his home in Przedpelce and traveled to the United States. He settled in Baltimore, where he married Rosalina Polanowsi in 1909; despite the long hours they worked as a shoe repairman and saleslady, they began building a large family. Three boys had been born by the time Antoni and Rosalia became naturalized American citizens, and their fourth – Anthony Malanowski Junior – was born on January 31, 1915.

“Andy” Malinowski grew up at 234 South Chester Street, surrounded by brothers.  The house was crowded, and the family solidly blue-collar – with the country in the depths of the Depression, as many of the boys as possible were sent out to work. Andy was the first – though not the last – of the brothers to join the armed forces. (*)

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Malanowski enlisted on July 25, 1933. After two months of boot camp at Parris Island, he received his deployment orders – first to the Naval Operating Base at Norfolk, Virginia, and then to MCB San Diego, via the venerable USS Henderson.

Service Prior to World War II:
Private Malanowski arrived in San Diego on October 2, 1933. He was accepted to sea school – an honor reserved for the most capable and impressive-looking Marines – and for his first assignment was sent to the USS Saratoga, moored at San Pedro, California. As  one of the more junior Marines on board, Malanowski was assigned one of the less glamorous duties – cleaning up after the company in addition to learning the trade of a seagoing fighter.

Malanowski’s first cruise at sea took him back through the Panama Canal, through the Caribbean, and returned him to the East Coast. He was taken off cleaning duty in July, 1934, while off the coast of Norfolk – just after a year in the Corps – and for his diligence, he was rewarded with a promotion to Private First Class on September 2.

Being so near his home town of Baltimore, Malanowski petitioned hard for a furlough, and was approved. A young boy named Joseph Seborowski described seeing the twenty-year-old Marine, resplendent in his uniform:

For Joe, there was a singular event during that enchanted summer of boyhood in 1934, which ordained him to his journey. He looked up one day from his boyish games, and saw striding toward him down Chester Street a rare Being of blue and gold and shining brass. A United States Marine.

Marines do not simply walk. They march. They might even strut, or even swagger, but they never merely walk. This one strode in Dress Blues, coming home to the old neighborhood where he was born. Women turned their heads to see him better. Ordinary men watched with pretended disinterest, and envied him in their hearts.

Joe knew him. He was Anthony P. Malanowski Jr., who had become in the eyes of a ten year old boy, a god of battle. Maybe Joe was not entirely sure what marines did, but he resolved to someday wear that excellent uniform. (1)

Malanowski would remain aboard the carrier until October 21, 1935, at which time he joined Guard Company #1, Puget Sound Navy Yard, in Bremerton, Washington. This duty, consisting mostly of guarding ammunition and other military installations in the infamous Northwestern weather, was a far cry from the glamour of life aboard a fighting ship at sea. No wonder that he soon put in for a transfer, traveling down to California in July, 1936 and then boarding the familiar USS Henderson for another voyage. This time he would not land on American shores, but rather in one of the most legendary locales where a Marine of the 1930s could serve – Shanghai, China. Malanowski was granted a furlough within days of landing – a welcome relief after the weeks-long voyage, and an excellent opportunity to see the sights of a foreign city.

“China Marines” gained a great deal of “salt” – the currency of experience in the Marine Corps – very quickly. Malanowski reenlisted for a second hitch and made corporal on August 23, 1937. As was almost expected of a seasoned NCO, he was as tough on liberty as he was on duty. The good corporal enjoyed himself a bit too much on February 21, 1938; for “being under the influence of intoxicating liquor and thereby incapacitated for the proper performance of his duty” he was clapped in the brig for four days, and placed on twelve months probation by his commanding officer. Malanowski kept his nose clean until September, when another incident of drunkenness resulted in his reduction all the way to private.

In the end, this disciplinary action had little effect on Malanowski’s career – indeed, it was probably regarded as something of a rite of passage into the ranks of the “old salts.” Though he was sent back to the States in January, 1939, Malanowski’s time spent at sea and at an “Asiatic station” made him an object of admiration among the enlisted men at Mare Island, California; he regained his PFC stripe in May at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and by mid-October was a corporal once again. This was no doubt due in part to the opinion of his commanding officer, Colonel Harry L. Smith. “Malanowski is an excellent man and is re-enlisting” he wrote in July, 1940, while recommending the corporal for a Good Conduct Medal despite his former indiscretions. (2) Malanowski was placed in charge of the yard’s fire department, and was soon sporting the stripes of a sergeant.

Sergeant Malanowski’s re-enlistment picture.

In the spring of 1941, Anthony Malanowski was transferred to Company A, First Battalion, Seventh Marines. With his long experience, he was quickly advanced to Acting Platoon Sergeant of the company’s First Platoon. He would hold this position for the remainder of 1941.

Sergeant Malanowski in his dress blues. In addition to his sergeant’s stripes, he has the badge of a rifle sharpshooter and a hashmark on each sleeve, denoting four years of service.

Wartime Service:
When Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States entered the war, Malanowski was officially advanced to the rank of Platoon Sergeant, serving as second-in-command to Lieutenant Zach Davis Cox of the company’s First Platoon.

Lieutenant Zach D. Cox.
Lieutenant Zach D. Cox.

Although Cox was advanced to company executive officer, the two probably maintained a close relationship through the months of training at New River, North Carolina, especially after Malanowski received word of his father’s death in February, 1942. That spring, the regiment was assigned to perform garrison duty in Samoa; Malanowski assisted a new platoon commander, a young lieutenant named Regan Fuller.

As a senior NCO, Malanowski was allowed a runner – PFC Leland DeRocher. “I can honestly say that my platoon sergeant was the finest man’s Marine I ever met during my four years in the Corps,” DeRocher recalled years later.

I never heard him swear; he did not smoke or chew. He had one close friend, the company’s 1st Sgt. [Joe B.] Ford. They had both served together in China. Sarge was always neat in appearance, setting a fine example for us all. The best I can recall is that he was 180 pounds, 5’8’’, barrel-chested with very strong arms and legs, and without any facial hair on his round face, and none on his head. He always wore a cap or helmet. His carriage was that of a military man.  He was not inclined to talk unless there was a need to. While I am not sure, I think he went to Mass when available. (3)

It seems that Fuller and Malanowski ran a tight ship as far as First Platoon was concerned.

Duty on Samoa was light – as 1942 went on, the threat of a Japanese invasion lessened, and the troops settled into garrison life. DeRocher recalled their camp on a former polo ground – “Pineapples and coconuts were plentiful and also fresh water to bathe in. We played baseball and were allowed two cans of beer a day. The friendly natives spoke fluent English and we got along well.” (4) This suited some of the old salts just fine – it was reminiscent of pre-war days in China or the Philippines – but there was one Marine above all that was anxious to get into the fight. His name was Lewis Puller, and he commanded the First Battalion. Called “Chesty” as much for his bellicose manner as for his stature, Lt. Colonel Puller was a decorated veteran of Central America who believed that light duty was a Marine’s worst enemy. (5) His feelings were exacerbated by the news of the landings on Guadalcanal, which had been effected by the 5th and 1st Marines in 1942 – these were sister regiments to his own 7th Marines; together they made up the newly-formed First Marine Division. It was much to Puller’s relief when orders came down for the 7th Marines to prepare to move to Guadalcanal, and the sentiment was shared by many (if not all) of the men of his command. PFC DeRocher was one who long remembered the elaborate farewell luau hosted by the Samoans on the eve of the Americans’ departure. (6)

The 7th Marines arrived on Guadalcanal on September 18, 1942. They were shelled by Japanese warships their first night ashore, resulting in their first casualties and considerable nervousness on the line. Their tendency to open fire on shadows led to catcalls from the veterans of ‘Canal fighting, and a string of furious invective from Puller. After a few days of duty on the line, used mainly to conduct small patrols and get the men acclimated to combat conditions, 1/7 set out on its first serious operation – pursuing the remnants of a Japanese force, presumed broken in the attacks on Edson’s Ridge, through the jungle towards the Matanikau River. Company A, under the command of Captain Tom Cross, was at the head of the column.

The Marines slogged through the jungle from dawn on September 24 until near dusk. Exhausted, thirsty, and irritable, the Marines began to search for a suitable bivouac spot. Captain Regan Fuller, whose platoon was on point, accompanied a squad to investigate a ridge that seemed abandoned – only to stumble across a pair of equally surprised Japanese soldiers, cooking their evening rice. The flurry of gunfire brought Puller hustling to the scene, where he congratulated Fuller and Corporal Harold Turner on dispatching the enemy. As curious Marines from Company A gathered around, Puller – never one to disappoint an audience – made a show of bending over to sample the Japanese cooking. (7) As he did, the Japanese opened fire.

Five Marines – including Puller’s runner, PFC Richard Wehr – fell dead or wounded in the first burst of gunfire. Platoon Sergeant Malanowski, not far from Captain Fuller, had his own close call. There was the high-pitched, flat crack of a Japanese Arisaka rifle, and then the thud of a slug striking home. The sniper had missed Andy Malanowski, but hit the man next to him – Malanowski’s faithful runner, PFC Leland DeRocher – with a bullet in the hip. (8) Moving quickly, Captain Fuller swung his platoon around to take a hill on the right flank. From there, they dropped mortar and machine-gun fire on the Japanese. Despite this, the Marines were brought up short by the sudden shock of the Japanese attack, and only nightfall brought an end to the fighting.

Company A disengaged and fell back, carrying a handful of wounded and leaving at least three dead on the field. (9) Total casualties amounted to sixty-eight wounded and thirteen dead, including the commander of Company B, Lieutenant Alvin Chester Cockrell; Malanowski’s former boss, Captain Zach Cox, took over. Puller instructed Captains Cross and Cox to return to the perimeter with the wounded the following morning. (10) It was hardly an auspicious start to a campaign, but Malanowski would have been glad to see Leland DeRocher safely on his way to a hospital.

While Puller and C/1/7 remained in the jungle, trying to determine how to cross the Matanikau and strike back at the Japanese, the remainder of the battalion – led by the executive officer, Major Otho L. Rogers – spent a relatively calm two days in reserve.

Date Of Loss:
On Sunday, September 27, 1942, Captain Fuller sent for his platoon sergeant. The battalion was to prepare to move out immediately, if not sooner. Putting on his best parade-ground voice, Malanowski called out the names of his squad leaders, sending them hustling after their men. Breakfast was abandoned, church services interrupted, weapons and ammo hastily packed. Soon, the 500 troops of Companies A and B, plus a mortar team from Company D, were assembled on a beach on Guadalcanal’s north coast.

Major Rogers, still dressed in his clean church-going uniform, made a brief speech, wishing the men luck and ending with “I hope every man here gets the Navy Cross.” Then the men about-faced and boarded a small fleet of Higgins boats, which took them out to sea. During the brief journey, Fuller and Malanowski reviewed the few details of the plan to which they had been made privy – follow B Company inland, regroup, and wait for the signal to attack a lightly-held Japanese position from the rear. It sounded easy enough in theory, and the men were eager to hit back – they believed they would be attacking the same enemy unit that had killed and wounded their friends earlier in the week.

The operation quickly became a fiasco. Company B landed first, as planned, and moved about 500 yards inland before halting on a low ridge designated as Hill 84. Rogers summoned the company officers; Captain Zach Cox had just reached the major when a Japanese mortar shell dropped directly on the command post, killing Rogers instantly and incapacitating many of the Marines around him.

Platoon Sergeant Malanowski had just landed on the beach when the mortar fire began. His first platoon scrambled up the hill, ducking enemy projectiles, but not before someone spotted a strong-looking Japanese force moving around their flank. Captain Cross sent a machine-gun team to slow the Japanese down; they did, for a time, but were overwhelmed.

Hill 84 quickly became untenable. The Marines were outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and fighting for their lives. With only 50 rounds of mortar ammunition, they couldn’t press their original objective – and with no radio, they couldn’t communicate with the units they were supposed to meet. Desperate Marines stripped off their white undershirts and spelled “HELP” to attract the attention of friendly pilots – fortunately, Lt. Dale Leslie spotted the message and set in motion a chain of events that would rescue the trapped men.

The surviving officers – most in their early twenties, with nine days of combat experience – were beginning to debate the likelihood of spending the night on the hill. Just then, an American destroyer hove into view off the coast, and began firing on the Japanese. An old-timer sergeant sent corrections by semaphore, they were received and interpreted by none other than Chesty Puller, who had virtually commandeered the USS Monssen and was directing her fire. In the distance, the Marines could see the flotilla of boats that had dropped them off several hours earlier rallying and proceeding nervously to the beach. Their intention was clear – an evacuation by sea – but the Marines had to get safely to the beach. As the Monssen continued to fire and Lt. Leslie strafed overhead, the infantry began to fall back in an orderly fashion, but the Japanese were close on their heels.

Regan Fuller’s first platoon was one of the farthest from the beach; as they tumbled back down the hill, the Japanese were close on their heels, popping out of hiding, seemingly everywhere. As they reached a clearing near the beach, Platoon Sergeant Malanowski collared Fuller. “Take Doc Schuster and the wounded on down,” he yelled. “I’ll handle the rear and be with you in a few minutes.” (11) As Platoon Sergeant Stan McLeod of Company B reached the clearing, he saw Malanowski settling in behind a log with an abandoned Browning Automatic Rifle. “You okay, Ski?” asked McLeod. “Yes, Mac, you go on down! I’ll just be a few minutes.” McLeod didn’t need to be told twice; Japanese bullets were buzzing through the air around him and he ran down the hill as Malanowski turned and began shooting back.

With the Americans in retreat, the sound of Malanowski’s BAR stood out above the higher-pitched Japanese weapons. McLeod and Fuller both heard the steady, controlled bursts as the veteran Marine calmly picked his shots, making every round count. As they hit the beach, they heard a last, sustained burst which was abruptly cut off. Hoping that their friend had managed to disengage and was following, both Marines hustled their wounded onto the boats, then piled in with the rest of their enlisted men. A last Marine burst from the woods, shouting in terror at being left behind, and splashed out to a moving boat to be hauled aboard. He was the last American from 1/7 to leave Point Cruz alive. The operation had been a fiasco from beginning to end, and when they returned to bivouac, 1/7 sent 23 men off to the hospital and tried to determine what had happened to the 24 men that had been left behind.

Corporal Donald Dillard of Company D knew exactly what had happened to one of them. “I was the last marine to see [Malanowski] at Point Cruz,” he said in a letter many years later. “He was slumped across a log. I rolled him over, took what was left of his ammo, and ran for it.” (12)

For more on this action, see Little Dunkirk.

Anthony Malanowski’s remains, if recovered, have never been identified. When the story of how he volunteered to remain behind reached Chesty Puller, the colonel recommended  Malanowski for the Medal of Honor. Later that year, he was awarded the Navy Cross.

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Sergeant Anthony P. Malanowski (MCSN: 238894), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism and conspicuous devotion to duty while serving with First Platoon, Company A, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, FIRST Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces near Point Cruz, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 27 September 1942. With utter disregard for his own personal safety, Platoon Sergeant Malanowski, in the face of heavy machine gun, rifle and mortar fire, valiantly covered the withdrawal of his company, inflicting severe losses on the Japanese, until he, himself, was overrun and killed by the enemy. His heroic fighting spirit and unyielding loyalty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

To read a description of the area where Anthony Malanowski fell, please visit Jamie Malanowski’s excellent website about his uncle.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Rozalia Malanowski

Status Of Remains:
Unknown

Memorial:
Holy Rosary Cemetery, Dundalk, Maryland.
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

_____
NOTES:
(*) The Malanowski boys were Benedict, Edward (died in a car accident in 1924), Leon, Clemens, Alphonse, Stephen, Edmund, and twins Clifford and Joseph.
– Alphonse joined the Marine Corps in 1937 and rose through the ranks as an antiaircraft gunner with Marine defense battalions until 1946, when he retired as a captain.
– Edmund served in the Army from 1943 to 1946.
– Cliff and Joe both enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1945.
The six who served in the military adopted suitably American-sounding names – Andy, Babe, Mooney, Steve, Cliff, and Joe.

(1) Malanowski, Jamie. “Andy Malanowski, USMC.” Posted to http://www.jamiemalanowski.com March 9, 2010. Seborowski would indeed go on to join the Marines when he came of age, and went on to have a distinguished career.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.
(5) 
Chesty Puller was, and is, a legend in the Marine Corps; a study of his decorations alone would make for a decently-sized book. He was an impressive figure in his battalion, not only for his postion as commander, but for his combat experience which was unmatched by any in his regiment. Chesty was only slightly less famous for his gruff and aggressive nature – a favorite quote, uttered in 1943 when shown a new flamethrower, was “Where do you put the bayonet on the damn thing?”
(6) Malanowski.
(7) Hoffman, Lt. Col. John T.
 Chesty: The Story Of Lt. General Lewis B. Puller. Excerpt from Leatherneck magazine.
(8) Malanowski. DeRocher eventually recovered from this wound and returned to the company, but a second battle injury on Bougainville sent him Stateside and led to his eventual discharge. He passed away in February, 2000.
(9) Corporals John Edwinson, Manuel Pimentel, and Private Willie Rowe were never recovered.
(10) Able Company’s commander, Regan Fuller, was awarded
the first of two Silver Stars for his part in this action.
(11) Malanowski. “Doc” was Lieutenant Lawrence Schuster, battalion medical officer.
(12) Ibid.

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