Sgt. Joseph Kirwelewicz
Falls to Death Stateside
(July 17, 1942) -- Sgt. Joseph Thomas Kirwelewicz, first Nutley soldier to lose his life during
this war, only a few months ago stood guard in the bedroom of Prime Minister Winston Churchill when England's great man took mercy on the youth and two mates on a rainy night.
Sgt. Kirwelewicz died July 12, 1942, when, it is reported, he plunged from a cliff near Mentone, Ala.
Stationed at Ft. Myer, Va., Kirwelewicz, a bicycle trainer who once worked in Berlin, was selected as one of 150 personal troops for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
It was at the time of Churchill’s first wartime visit to the United States and Roosevelt assigned troops to guard the famous guest day and night.
One bleak rainy night the sergeant, then only a private, was standing outside of the Prime Minister’s window in Washington, shaking with cold and hoping the duty hours would speed by.
Suddenly the window shot up and the chubby, cigar-chewing No. 2 man of the world himself stood there and beckoned for the soldiers to come inside.
Abashed, but obedient, the trio did and passed the rest of the night only a few feet from the sleeping form of the author-soldier and statesman who but a short time back stood almost alone in the path of Hitler and his conquest of the globe.
The story has never been revealed before, but was told by his brother Wednesday night when Joe’s body was brought home.
Sgt. Kirwelewicz was killed instantly last Sunday when he plunged 90 feet from a cliff into a shallow lake near Mentone, Ala., where he was practicing on lower Lookout Mountain with companions from Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.
Although always afraid of cliffs, he had climbed to a ledge to take snapshots and lost his footing, the brother, A. Edward Kirwelewicz said.
Local soldier in President’s
Escort On Armistice Day
Pvt. Joe Kirwelewicz,
Stationed At Fort Myer,
Writes About Cavalry Life
(Nov. 28, 1941) A local boy, Joe Kirwelewicz, had the honor of being one of the 50 soldiers from Fort Myer, Va., to be in President Roosevelt’s personal escort on Armistice day when the nation’s chief placed a wreath on the tom of the unknown soldier at Arlington national cemetery overlooking the Potomac.
Joe writes to the Sun’s service column this week from Fort Myer where he is a private in G troop, 3rd U.S. Cavalry. A one time amateur bike rider, the blonde-haired youth was a familiar figure at the Velodrome for some years, and later, worked as a trainer in six-day bike races. In a detailed story which Joe will tell himself he writes about life and his advancement in the army from the time he was inducted.
“After being inducted on June 17,” Joe writes, “I was at Fort Dix for tight days while the wheels of classification were determining my fates. I then found myself on a train going to Fort Riley, Kan., to the cavalry replacement training center.
“This was going to be quite an experience, as previous to my entrance in the service, I had never ridden a horse. But, things are learned quickly in the army and three days after arriving at Fort Riley, I found myself astride a horse.
“In learning to ride, we had only a blanket on the horse’s back, and although it proved to be hard on certain parts of the human anatomy, it was very beneficial in learning balance on a horse. Within a week we were issued McClellan saddles, which are the official army saddles and quite different from the Western saddles.
“It is much more difficult to ride this type than the Western saddle, as I tried a Western saddle on a Sunday off. But the McClellan type is easier on the horse and the rider.
“We rode about an hour and a half each day and I was soon quite a horseman. In addition to our horsesmanship training, we received infantry drill, a course in chemical warfare and naturally, experience with weapons. We were fully instructed in the use of Garand and Springfield rifles, pistols and light and heavy machine guns.
“The greatest thrill of all, though, was when we shot a revolver while riding our horses at full gallop. We shot at targets 25 yards away from the path we were to ride and shot at 14 targets.. Though dangerous, it was a true test of our horsemanship.
“After 13 weeks of this training in a heat that often went over 110 degrees, we had our graduation day which signified our earning our spurs and which you might have seen in the newsreels.
“As the last and feature of the graduation we put on a full and mounted charge as if in a real battle. This was also exciting and fortunately no one was injured.
“Over Labor Day weekend I received a three-day pass and journey to Boys Town of Nebraska which is about 250 miles from Fort Riley. I had the extreme pleasure of meeting and having a chat with Father Flanagan. He is my opinion of one of our great Americans and there should be a Boys Town in every state of the union.
“In October, I was transferred to Fort Myer, Va., which is one of the desires of any solder. It is her that the president’s personal troops are stationed. I am proud of the fact that I am in the president’s troops. Fort Myer is across the Potomac two miles from Washington and one of the nicest forts in the country.
“Aside from being the president’s troops, the soldiers at Fort Myer have this high honor of guarding the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In connection with this, only last Tuesday, it was my honor and privilege to be in the president’s personal escort as he placed a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in commemoration of Armistice day. Fifty soldiers composed his escort and I was one of them. I am the only Nutleyite at Fort Myer.
“The cavalry unit here also has a great and honorable history. It is directly descended from Teddy Roosevelt’s famous Rough Riders of Spanish American war fame. Here, we ride about 15 miles each day and stage a horse show every other Friday.
“To anyone coming into the service, it’s not bad. It’s great experience and it’s lots of fun. Naturally, it’s not home but the friends formed in the service will be valued for many years to come.”
From The Nutley Sun, July 17, 1942:
CHURCHILL AIDE KIRK, 1ST LOCAL SOLDIER TO DIE
Snail Mail: PO Box 110252, Nutley NJ 07110
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