Archive for March, 2015

Anson Croman and the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Fort Stedman

March 25, 2015

20thMarch231865

Orange arrow pointing to ellipse, upper center: March 23, 1865 position of the 20th Michigan at Battery Number 9 just north of Fort Stedman two days before the battle.

Click on image for larger version.

Original base map in the public domain with additions by The Siege of Petersburg Online

Since June, 1864, General Grant had been extending the Union siege lines southwest of Petersburg and north of Richmond. That had stretched the Confederate forces to the breaking point.

In January, 1865 the Union had captured Wilmington, North Carolina and closed the last major Confederate port. That cut off more of the few supplies that were still making it around the Union siege lines.

Robert E. Lee realized the Union siege of Petersburg and Richmond was about to result in the capture of both cities and his army.

He decided to launch an attack on the eastern end of the Union lines at Petersburg to open a gap for a break out to the south.

On the morning of March 25, Lee’s forces attacked and  captured Fort Stedman.

Union forces, including the 20th Michigan Infantry Regiment immediately counterattacked, closed the gap in their lines and recaptured Fort Stedman.


FortStedmanSidneyKing[1]

Sidney King’s mid-20th century painting of the March 25, 1865 Union counterattack at Fort Stedman.

The 20th Michigan would be at the edge on the lower right.

Public domain image from the National Park Service.

The 20th Michigan suffered five wounded.

The Confederate escape route to the south was now blocked and Confederate resistance to the Union siege was on the verge of collapse.


stedmantoday 

Fort Stedman today.

Public domain image from the National Park Service’s Petersburg National Battlefield

Links, sources, and more information:

1865: Anson Croman and the Civil War


If Anson Croman wrote letters home, none have survived. Therefore the best way to preserve the story of his service is by sharing the history of his regiment

Records document that Anson Croman was with his regiment from his 1862 enlistment until the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865.

The Musbachs and Robinsons are direct line descendants of Anson Croman and he is my 2nd great-grandfather-in-law.


Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-HA

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70 Years Ago Felix and the 45th Signal Company Cross the Rhine

March 24, 2015

Gorak_crossRhine1[1]

DUKW (amphibious 2½ ton truck) transporting a 105mm howitzer and men of the 158th Field Artillery Battalion, 45th Infantry Division over the Rhine. (See glossary below for meaning of DUKW.)

This may have been about the same place where the 45th Signal Company crossed and some of the DUKWs that transported them

No photos have been found of the 45th Signal Company crossing the Rhine.

Fair use of photo from the collection of Edwin Gorak

On March 25, 1945 the 45th Signal Company received a DUKW to use in the laying of communication cables across the Rhine.

Early on the morning of March 26 the construction section laid two cables across the Rhine. The telephone section crossed and established switching central on the east bank of the Rhine.

The conditions under which the men of the 45th Signal Company laid those cables were life threatening.

While the ground fighting had moved east, the Nazis were still firing artillery and rockets and launching air attacks at the Rhine crossings.

Along with the risk of drowning they also risked hypothermia, frostbite, or immersion (trench) foot. The water temperature was probably 32° F (0° C) and the March air temperature averaged about 41° F (5° C).  My late father Felix A. Cizewski would have been very aware of that as he had just returned to duty after recovering from severe frostbite 3 months earlier.

On March 27, the rest of the 45th Signal Company crossed the Rhine and set up the normal Command Post communications systems in Zwingenberg.

Several Nazi soldiers surrendered to members of the company.

The company reported that their trucks and other vehicles were in bad shape because of constant use. A jeep threw a rod.

I do not know in which section of the 45th Signal Company my late father Felix A. Cizewski served so I do not know if he crossed the Rhine on March 26 or 27.


Glossary:

What does DUKW mean?

D = built in 1942

U = amphibious 2½  ton truck

K = front wheel drive

W = rear wheel drive


Acknowledgements:

The detailed information about the 45th Signal Company’s crossing of the Rhine is from the March, 1945 Company History which Dave Kerr obtained from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

A discussion with free lance writer Anne Gafiuk resulted in the addition of details of the life threatening conditions under which the 45th Signal Company worked.

The details with links about DUKWs was in response to a question from Jeff Spitzer-Resnick.


Links, sources, and more information:

Felix A. Cizewski and the Central Europe Campaign


Revised: March 26, 2015

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-Ho

An Open Letter to Professor Waclaw Szybalski

March 2, 2015

WSzybalski1_thumb.jpg

Professor Waclaw Szybalski D.Sc. Professor Emeritus of Oncology


Anna Ferens’ documentary on the life of University of Wisconsin Professor Emeritus Waclaw Szybalski premiered in Madison, Wisconsin.

Professor Szybalski’s research contributed to an understanding of the genetic basis of drug resistant bacterial infections and the development of multiple drug therapies. His DNA research is used in the development of cancer treatments.

Both the film and discussion included Professor Szybalski’s life in Poland. He shared his love of his home of Lvov, Poland which before WWII was a diverse city with a Slavic and Jewish Polish majority along with Ukrainians and others. He spoke of the Nazis’ extermination the Jews of Lvov then the Soviets’ ethnically cleansing Lvov of Slavic Poles by expulsions and murder. Lvov is now the almost 100% Ukrainian city of Lviv, Ukraine.

Professor Szybalski participated in the resistance. The Soviets were allied with the Nazis from 1939 to 1941 and occupied about 1/2 of Poland. Trains crossed occupied Poland with Soviet supplies essential for their Nazi allies to wage war. On their return trip, the trains were often filled with anti-Soviet Poles being deported to Siberia. Among the earliest acts of resistance were attacks on those trains.

He also participated in resistance against the Holocaust which moved me to write this open letter.


Dear Professor Szybalski:

During the questions and answers after the December 8, 2014 premier of “The Essence of Life”, you shared how you helped gather information on the location and layout of one of the extermination camps. That information was smuggled out to the Allies with a plea to bomb the camps and their rail lines.

The Allies did not bomb the camps for reasons unrelated to the information you and others supplied.

The Nazi’s and Soviet’s conquests of Poland placed most of the victims of the Holocaust beyond the reach of rescue by military action for most of the war. After 1939, about the victims’ only hope was for the Allies to militarily defeat the Nazis as quickly as possible.

At great personal risk you succeeded in gathering intelligence on the Holocaust and sharing that with the world.

Professor Szybalski, you did not fail.

Yours, Leonard H. Cizewski


Links, sources, and more information:

WACLAW SZYBALSKI:  

soon“The Essence of Life” Trailer

McCardle Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health:

50 years of gene therapy: the contribution of Professor Wacław Szybalski to science and humanity, Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences

HOLOCAUST:

Martin Gilbert, Auschwitz and the Allies: A Devastating Account of How the Allies Responded to the News of Hitler’s Mass Murder

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Virginia Holocaust Museum

Assessing Atrocity


Acknowledgements:

My nephew-in-law Marshall Begel was my editor for my open letter. He reviewed this for accuracy and clarity along with spelling and grammar.


In depth historical background and context are occasional features of my family history blog.


Revised: September 7, 2015

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-Ha


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