CHESTER M. MACKOWIAK

Radioman 3d Class | United States Navy

 

Throughout history, the life of a sailor has been revered with a sense of romanticism - far from his home and at the mercy of the sea; storming shores of foreign and exotic lands; a boy will find after a time that he no longer has a desire to be at sea!  Though he joined at seventeen with his parents' consent, Chet's desire to be in the Navy was overshadowed only by his love for Lorraine who filled his thoughts constantly.  He wrote to her and about her whenever possible and throughout his odyssey always promised he would return and marry her. 

The second senior to leave Bartlett High School for the service in late February 1943, Chet went through boot camp and radio school before transfer to the U.S.S. Wyoming at Norfolk, Virginia at the end of the year.  He made Radioman Third Class, but with the amount of work and training occupying his time, the novelty quickly wore off.  After a few months he was transferred to the newly commissioned Destroyer Escort U.S.S. Maloy, a much smaller ship than the massive Wyoming and something he expected to be used to shortly, but dealt with a bout of seasickness during the journey from the East Coast to the Canal Zone.  Despite the rough journey down, the tropical area and promise of liberty swelled his spirits as well as the crews.  An order sending the Maloy back to Norfolk would surely have put a damper on morale, so Chet took it upon himself to change the message.  After all, who would ever know?  They sailed to New York harbor and the cheers from the crew were more pleasing to Chet than seeing the Statue of Liberty.  This joy was soon dampened within about a week when the Maloy departed the United States for service through dark waters across the Atlantic.

From the Azores to Londonderry to Portsmouth it seemed the Maloy's stops were becoming less endearing at each port.  Chet was thoroughly disappointed to spend his nineteenth birthday in Portsmouth, which he felt was a terrible place with dirty girls and no mail that day to make it all worse.  The next stop, Plymouth, he hoped was nicer, but assumed with the quantity of landing craft that they were prepping for the invasion of France and despite knowing better, still hoped the Maloy was not slated for that duty.  Constant escort duty and no shore leave filled the days up to June 5 when the Maloy left England to sail through the Channel to France.  On board was the commanding general of the 29th Infantry Division along with Commodore Edgar, the escort commander.

The next few days were endless after the start of the invasion, at first without significant events save the major operation underway, but during the night of June 6 a number of JU-88s attacked the Maloy.  The anti-aircraft battery claimed one craft and quickly rescued the downed pilot.  A few days later, as Chet was about to take a break and meet his buddy John Futchko another attack came, this one claiming casualties.  Futchko was hit, along with Ernest Van Diver and Paul Lockhart, who was in the worst shape of the three.

The attacks continued the next day and the crew was quick to take cover without hesitation.  Chet dashed below decks and made it to his bunk where he promptly fell asleep for a five hour nap - his first sleep in six days.

    EXHAUSTING & DIRTY WORK - THE RCM COLLECTION

    • Facebook
    • Instagram

    Copyright © RCM Collection 2020