Kenneth J. Swiatowicz
U. S. Marines
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 05/1943 - 11/10/1945
Rifleman, 4th Marine Division

A resident of Houghton, Louisiana, Kenneth was born in Waterbury, Connecticut as one of two sons and a daughter of Joseph John Swiatowicz, a molder at Yale Locks (a steel foundry) and Glenna Beach Swiatowicz. He grew up in Stamford, Connecticut. "I stayed there all my life until Uncle Sam says, `Come here.' I never went back," he remarks. Kenneth liked to fish and as a young child accompanied his father to Long Island Sound. Joseph developed tuberculosis and died when Kenneth was eight years old in 1933. His widowed mother took over care of the family and went to work where her husband was employed at Yale Locks. The single-parent family lived in a six-family house, a two-story house, a five-family house, then back to a six-family, six-story house. "But we never did own a home at all. We had no way of owning a home," Kenneth remarks. Despite the hard times, the family, he says, never went hungry, although they went on welfare briefly. "They'd give us surplus food," he says. "One time you go down there they'll give you eight or ten grapefruit. The next time they give you a couple pounds of butter. You're supposed to survive on it, which we did," he recalls. Kenneth played at a nearby park, and joined football and baseball games and other sports with neighborhood children. The family enjoyed picnics and the beaches, which were "only about a mile and a half away," he recalls. He rarely ventured any farther than New York City, about "45 minutes from us," The family attended services at a Catholic church on Sundays and Wednesdays. While in high school he was working with Ratheon, a company making military equipment, such as the gauge blocks for the Norden Bomb Sight. With World War II underway, he was anxious to join the U.S. Marine Corps. At Stamford High School the senior boys ` physical education training concerned a miniature obstacle course and running cross-country three days a week--all training that would help him get into the marines. Kenneth, who was six-foot, one-inch tall and 180 pounds, graduated from Stamford High School in 1943. Joining the marines, he was sent for training at Parris Island, South Carolina where he learned to fire an M1 Garand rifle, the Reising sub-machine gun and the Browning Automatic Rifle. "That was my baby," he says of the BAR, "but it was a heavy sucker." In addition he carried ammunition for the weapon--about twelve magazines around his waist. From Parris Island he was shipped to Boston, Massachusetts Navy Yard for guard duty and more schooling. While there he met his future wife, Leslie Watts. He took additional combat training at a naval station at New River, North Carolina, then boarded an LST, a flat-bottom tanker, and once at sea learned he was bound for Iwo Jima as part of the 4th Marine Division. He went ashore on Iowa Jima from a Higgins boat, as part of the first landings on February 19, 1945. It wasn't long before he took a round in his right upper arm. He left his position before the Japanese took another shot and ran "zig-zagging" on the beach. "It was all confusion. I run down the beach and the next thing I remember I woke up the next day aboard the hospital ship," he says. He was aboard the medical ship (actually another LST) "four or five days" until the famous flag raising at Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi. Aboard a hospital ship Kenneth was taken to Saipan where he had surgery, and was shipped back to Newport, Rhode Island. He intended to remain in the marines "until the love of my life come along," he remarks of first wife, Leslie, whom he married in June of 1945. (They would have two children, Judith Ann and James.) Kenneth finished his tour of duty on November 10, 1945 and moved to Massachusetts where his wife was living. He began working in a gas station, then in an airline parts factory. In 1970 he went to work at the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston where he wrapped coins and shipped them throughout the bank's northeast district. He also destroyed money, often two and a half million dollars a day--all bills that were too tattered for further circulation. Leslie passed away in 1987. On February 24, 1991, he married Ella June Waits. Ella June has one child from a previous marriage, Sheila Shewmake, and two adopted children, Cheryl Taylor and Steve Taylor.