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A Tradition of Service Logo 75Thomas Goligowski

Submitted by: Lieutenant Colonel Steven Goligowski (USA, Ret.) {Grandson}

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Thomas Goligowski was born around 1888, Thomas Goligowski served in World War 1 with the United States Army . The enlistment was in 1918 and the service was completed in 1919.

Story of Service

 

My grandfather, Thomas Goligowski, was a 29 year-old farmer with a sixth-grade education living near Browerville, MN when he was drafted. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on 25 February 1918 and assigned to the 88th Division at Camp Dodge (Des Moines), Iowa for training. New soldiers were supposed to receive at least 3 months of training before deployment, but by April 20th he found himself at Camp Logan (Houston), Texas, assigned as an automatic rifleman in Company I, 130th Infantry Regiment, 66th Infantry Brigade, 33d Division. He was one of 6,080 soldiers transferred from Camp Dodge to the 33d Division to fill vacancies in the the 33d Division in preparation for deployment to France.

He was soon on the move again, traveling with his unit to Hoboken, NJ and departing on May 16th aboard the troop ship USS Agamemnon for France. They arrived at the port of Brest, France on May 24th.

After a short period of orientation and training the 33d Division conducted its first offensive action against German forces on July 4th, 1918 at Hamel, France. The division provided four companies of infantry fighting under Australian command. The division fought at the Somme (August-September 1918), Saint Mihiel (September 1918), and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (September-November 1918).

The worst day of the war for my grandfather was October 10th, 1918. His unit had been under almost constant artillery fire with poison gas and high explosives since it went into the line along the Meuse River on September 26th. After marching through freezing cold, rain and drizzle, and deep mud all day and night of October 9th, my grandfather’s unit (3d Battalion, 130th Infantry) arrived on the east bank of the Meuse River near the small village of Consenvoye at approximately 4:30am on October 10th. The unit had not eaten or slept for the previous 24 hours due to constant movement to reach their attack position.

Once again there was no time for food or rest as the attack was scheduled to begin at 6:05am. The mission was to attack across open ground to their northeast toward their objective, the heavily wooded hills of the Bois de Chaume and Bois de Chene. The battalion moved forward at the designated time. They had to slog through deep mud, first moving down and through a shallow ravine, then up and over the other side, past and through a small copse of trees, and finally across an open, gently sloping field before reaching the edge of the dense forest where the German machine-guns waited. To the unit’s right flank were other high, heavily forested hills also containing German machine-guns. The hills to the right flank were to be cleared by the U.S. 29th Division, protecting the flank of my grandfather’s unit.

The attack by the 29th Division stalled well short of their objective. My grandfather’s battalion commander, Major Edward Bittel, wrote in his after-action report:

“At this time, the enemy's. barrage came down and my troops were caught in it as they came over the crest of the hill in front of the Ravine. I double-timed across to the open space to the right of the woods to gain contact with the troops and was forced to go through the barrage from shell-hole to shell-hole. Upon arriving at the crest, I found that a machine gun nest was located on the right flank which completely swept the territory over which my troops were advancing. This annihilating fire from the right flank disorganized part of the battalion but Co. M. went forward to it's final objective. I rallied such portions of Co. K as I could find and sent them forward by detachments to the line … . The failure of the troops on the right to advance, enfiladed the right flank of our advance and the heavy machine gun fire disorganized Cos. I. and K., and it was not until the following morning that all units of these companies were re-formed, brought under control and moved into the supporting positions which they occupied until relieved … . On the morning of the 11th Oct, I re-organized my position in the line and caused all scattering detachments to be brought forward to rejoin their commands … . The Battalion was subjected to the most terrific artillery fire consisting of H.E., Shrapnel, and gas, during all of October 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th … . The morale of the troops was excellent and the Officers and Men conducted themselves with coolness and bravery under the most trying circumstances.”

My grandfather recounted to me what he experienced on October 10th as Company I was hit by German fire. As an automatic rifleman, he was carrying well over 60 lbs of equipment and ammunition, and his clothing was soaked through to the skin, as he struggled uphill through the deep clinging mud with his battalion. As they came over the far lip of the ravine, onto the more level field beyond, something knocked him heavily to the ground just as the German machine guns and artillery hit the advancing Americans. He was never sure whether he tripped in the mud, or an initial burst of fire hit his equipment and knocked him down. He was certain the fall saved his life.

His first thought was to stay as low as possible to avoid the torrent of steel just above him. Eventually, when the fire slackened slightly, he tried to communicate with others around him to decide what to do next. He soon discovered that everyone else near him was killed or seriously wounded during the initial burst of enemy fire. He lay in the open field, in the rain, face down in the mud, alone, under fire, for the entire day. He was able to move forward and rejoin the remnants of his unit only after darkness fell that night. That day, face down in the mud, expecting to be killed in the next instant, stayed with him for the rest of his life.

My grandfather continued to serve with his regiment through the remainder of the war, and during post-war occupation duty. He returned to the U.S. with his regiment aboard the troop ship USS Siboney. They departed Brest, France on May 11th, 1919, and landed at Hoboken, NJ on May 20th. On May 22d he and his regiment boarded trains for Chicago, IL to march in a victory parade through downtown Chicago. The 33d Division was initially organized from units of the Illinois National Guard. He paraded with his regiment through the streets of Chicago on May 27th. Following the parade, division troops were hosted to a free lunch at Chicago’s finest restaurants. After lunch the troops boarded trains for the short trip to Camp Grant, IL, for demobilization. Thomas Goligowski was officially discharged from the U.S. Army at Camp Grant on May 29th, and boarded one last train that would carry him home.

The year 1919 held one more momentous event for my grandfather. On December 31st, 1919, Thomas Goligowski, age 31, wed his fiance, Gladys McCartney, in her hometown of Windom, MN. She had been waiting for his return since his induction into the Army in February 1918. As my grandmother told the story, they were unable to arrange an earlier date for the wedding due to financial hardships, and she refused to marry in 1920. She demanded they marry in 1919, or wait until 1921, as 1920 was a leap year. She was concerned because rural custom allowed women to propose marriage to men during a leap year. My grandmother was 21 years old in 1919, well past the age when all of her peers were married and raising families. She always told me, and I believed her, that she refused to marry during a leap year for fear neighbors would gossip that she had been forced to propose to my grandfather to avoid becoming an “old maid”. She wanted there to be no room for doubt that he had proposed to her.

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