Casimir Andrew Leszczynski was born on 3 January 1925, in LaSalle, Illinois, to Andrew and Stella (Rydz) Leszczynski. Casimir was the eighth child born to the couple. At the time of his birth his family was living at 337 Buck street on the southeast side of LaSalle. His father, Andrew, was working at the zinc factory. Both of his parents and his oldest siter, Antoinette, were born in Poland. Andrew left Poland for the U.S. in 1912; he was 22 years old. His wife and Antoinette followed the next year; at the time, Stella was 21 and Antoinette was 18 months.
Casimir’s parents had at least five more children after he was born—three girls and two boys, one of which was stillborn. Their last child Evelyn was born in 1935 when Casimir was 10 years old. A few years after the birth of his last child, Andrew Leszczynski signed a Declaration of Intention on 4 May 1938 to become a U.S. citizen. In 1940, the family was still living at 337 Buck and Andrew was still at the zinc works making $1,250 a year. Eight of Andrew’s children were living with him and his wife including 15-year-old Casimir.
On 1 July 1941, Casimir’s brother Andrew registered for the draft in LaSalle. He was working at Westclox—a local clock factory. Andrew joined the U.S. Army the next year on 20 February 1942. Casimir jointed the U.S. Navy in the summer of that same year on 11 June 1942. Their brother Stanley registered for the draft a couple weeks later on 30 June 1942. He also joined the armed services on 12 November 1942, becoming part of the U.S. Coast Guard. By the end of 1942 all three Leszczynski brothers were serving in the war.
On 12 August 1943, Ship’s Cook 3C Casimir was received on board the LCI (L) 365. He had been with the U.S. Naval Reserves, his last station being in Boston, Massachusetts. On 21 October 1943, he was noted as a Ship’s Cook 2C on a muster roll for that day. Other records also note he was the ship’s cook.
By mid-January of 1944 the ship was moored in the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor “undergoing conversion to Close in Fire Support gunboat.” Upon completion of this work, the ship left Hawaii on 19 January 1944, for the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands as part of Operation Flintlock. When it arrived on January 31st, the ship began supporting the landings of troops and tanks by firing into the island at the enemy. This operation continued over the next few weeks as ships and men moved from island to island. By February 22nd, the ship had sustained enough damage it had to moor to the USS Cambria for repairs. For at least four days while the ship was being fixed, Ship’s Cook 2C Leszczynski was transferred to and spent time on the USS Cambria.
A few months later in July, Ship’s Cook 2C Leszczynski was on board his ship, now known as LCI (G) 365, steaming towards the Marianas Islands as part of Operation Forager. The fleet’s mission was to capture the islands from the Japanese. Early in the morning on 21 July 1944, they were sitting just off the beach at Guam. The rain was coming down hard and visibility was low. But the weather eventually cleared by 8:00 a.m. when the first wave started towards the beach.
LCI(G) 365 immediately began taking hits from the enemy. Within a half hour the ship was “down by the bow and listing badly to starboard. There were fires in the bo’s’n locker and No. 2 Troop Compartment. As ship swung to starboard a heavy burst of machine gun fire caught the pilot house and conn from astern. The helmsman was mortally wounded, and the ship yawed wildly toward the reef. A seaman seized the wheel and swung the ship around.”
At 9:00 am the crew managed to bring the ship along side the USS Fayette. All casualties—6 dead and 24 wounded—were transferred to that vessel including Ship’s Cook 2C Leszczynski. The muster roll for the USS Lafayette show he was received on board July 21st for treatment and then died the same day of “wounds received in action against the enemy.” The damage reports for the LCI(G) 365 note a “shell entered galley at frame 75, 3 ft above main deck leaving hole 24” x 18” in skin of ship and damaging frame 75 and 76. Destroyed all cabinets and dishes on starboard side. Destroyed 2 coffee urns. This shell then entered the refrigerator” behind 75 making a 5” hole. As the ship’s cook, Ship’s Cook 2C Casimir Leszczynski may have been in the galley so it is quite possible this shell caused his death.
Ultimately, the invasion of Guam resulted in victory, and the same day Casimir Leszczynski gave his life for his country is now celebrated as Guam Liberation Day. Ship’s Cook 2C Casimir Leszczynski’s name is engraved on the Honolulu Memorial. He was awarded posthumously the American Campaign Medal, the WW2 Victory Medal, and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal.
Both of Casimir’s brothers survived the war. Andrew was discharged on 26 October 1945; Stanley was discharged on 15 April 1946. Casimir’s mother Stella did not survive long after her son’s death. She passed away on 1 March 1946 due to complications from diabetes.
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 421,000+ of the US WWII fallen saved on Together We Served and Fold3. Can you help write these stories? These stories will be accessible via smartphone app at any war memorial or cemetery.
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SBTS Historian Pam Broviak
You can also access this story at the following sites:
1930 U.S. Census, Andrew Leszczynski, Ancestry.
1940 U.S. Census, Andrew Leszczynski, Ancestry.
New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957, SS Zeeland, 24 July 1912, Andrej Leszczynski, Line No. 6, Ancestry.
New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957, SS Graf Waldersee, 17 Oct 1913, Stanislawa Leszczynski, Line No. 1, Ancestry.
“Illinois, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1998,” Andrwe Leszczynski, No. 4801, FamilySearch.
U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, Andrew Joseph Lesyinski, Ancestry.
U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, Stanley Lesyinski, Ancestry.
U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Stanley Leszcynski, Ancestry.
U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Andrew J. Leszcynski, Ancestry.
U.S., World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949, Casimir Andrew Leszczynski, line no 15, LCI(L) 365, 1943, Ancestry.
U.S., World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949, Casimir Andrew Leszczynski, line no 24 and 25, USS Cambria, 1944, Ancestry.
U.S., World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949, Casimir Andrew Leszczynski, line no 10 and 11, USS Fayette, 1944, Ancestry.
U.S., World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949, Casimir Andrew Leszczynski, line no 8, LCI(L) 365, 1944, Ancestry.
USS LCI(L) 365 – War Diary, 1/1/44 to 3/11/44, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1875 – 2006, Record Group 38.
USS LCI(G) 365 – Rep of Ops During Landings on Guam Is, Marianas, 7/21/44, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1875 – 2006, Record Group 38.
David Vergun, “Battles of Guam: From Defeat to Victory,” U.S. Department of Defense.
“Guam, Operations of the 77th Division,” War Department.