ISSUE 17  - MAY 23, 2019

By Nadia K. McConnell

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, began in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War where the most ever number of U.S. soldiers died, 620,000. It was a day to pause and recall all those sacrifices by placing flowers on the graves.

Today it is a day for remembering and honoring all who have died while serving in the US Armed Forces. 

In some countries, similar occasions are used to display their military might, the latest in weapons.  We in the U.S. mark these days of remembrance and honor for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we enjoy by gathering as families as citizens, laying flowers at grave sites, or wreaths before monuments as well as holding parades, religious services and concerts to remember and honor the human sacrifices. 

With this newsletter, we will begin to tell the stories of the people of Ukraine, be they Ukrainians or Ukrainian Americans who are, and who have been, on the front-line defending freedom, independen ce and democracy throughout history and around the world. 

An Abridged History of Ukrainian Americans in the US Armed Forces
Leonid Kondratiuk
Historian of the Ukrainian American Veterans Association
   Ukrainian Americans have a long history of service in the US Armed Forces.  A few Ukrainians served in the Civil War; a few may have served in earlier wars as well. With the immigration of large numbers of Ukrainians to the US in the 1890s, several dozen Ukrainians enlisted in the US Army in 1898 during the Spanish American War. They were largely from Pennsylvania and all had been born in Ukraine. Their service was brief but significant to our history.
   In 1917 there was a substantial Ukrainian population in the US. There is no official record of how many Ukrainians served in World War I. The conservative estimate is around 30,000; but I believe that as many as 50,000 or more served. Most were born in Ukraine and immigrated as children or young men. Most were living in Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania. At least 24 were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross; the Army's second highest award for valor. All were enlisted men since they did not have the education to be appointed as officers. Nevertheless, they fought well for their adopted country.
   In the 1920, Ukrainian Americans began enlisting in the Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard. At least three National Guard units in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit were composed largely of Ukrainians
   Large numbers of Ukrainian American either enlisted or were drafted during World War II. Most were born in the US. Estimates are as many as 200,000 of use served during the war. A number served as officers. For the first time, Ukrainian American women entered military service as well.
   During my service with the Department of Defense 50 th Anniversary of World War II Committee, I had the opportunity to visit a number of overseas US military cemeteries. I noticed dozens of headstones with Ukrainian names. Many of our young men made the supreme sacrifice to help keep this country free.
   During the Korean War, thousands of men from our community served on active duty. A number of recent immigrants found themselves drafted into the US Army. They served with honor in Korea and other theaters.
   Many from our community served during the Cold War. Nicholas Krawciw graduated from West Point in 1959. He achieved the grade of major general and served in a number of important positions in the Army and Department of Defense. He played a major role in reforming the Ukrainian Armed forces.
   Several thousand Ukrainian Americans served in the Vietnam War. In the Ukrainian community it was expected that every young man would serve his country. It was our patriotic repayment to America....   On the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC are etched dozens of Ukrainian names.
   Ukrainian Americans continued to serve in the US Armed Forces through the years. There have been a number of generals, colonels and sergeants major. In the 1990s Ukrainian American servicemen and women, mostly reservists, played an important role in fostering close relations between the Ukrainian and US Armed Forces.
   A number of our men and women have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; many serve there today. Several have been killed in action. We honor their service and sacrifice.

SPOTLIGHT ...  Sgt. Maj. John Bodnar 

Veteran Was One  of Only Four  U.S. Marines that  Held-off Nazi Forces in  Europe During World War II

These 4 Marines killed so many Germans, the Nazis thought they were an allied battalion

On Aug. 1, 1944, less than two months after D-Day, Marine Maj. Peter J. Ortiz, five other Marines, and an Army Air Corps officer parachuted into France to assist a few hundred French resistance fighters known as the Maquis in their fight against the Germans. Ortiz had already worked and trained with the Maquis in occupied France from Jan. to May 1944.

The mission, Operation Union II, faced a rough start. Due to the danger of the Marines being spotted or drifting away from the drop zone, the jump was conducted at low altitudes.

"Because of the limitations, we had to make this jump at 400 feet," said Sgt. Maj. John Bodnar in a  Marines.com interview. "As soon as we were out of the aircraft our chutes opened and the next thing I remember is I was on the ground."

One Marine's parachute, that of Sgt. Charles Perry, failed to open. At such low altitudes, using a reserve wasn't an option, and Perry was killed when he hit the drop zone. Another Marine was injured too badly to continue. The four Marines able to perform the mission were Ortiz, Sgt. Jack Risler, Sgt. Fred Brunner, and Bodnar who was also a sergeant at the time.

The Marines, some of the only ones to serve in the European theater in World War II, would make good use of the personnel they had. First, they  recovered 864 supply crates of weapons and ammunition that were dropped after the men parachuted in. Then, they linked up with the Maquis and began training the resistance fighters ...  CLICK to read more 

A man salutes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as he takes part in the Immortal Regiment march during Victory Day celebrations on May 9, 2019 in Kyiv. (Volodymyr Petrov). 

On May 8-9, the people of Ukraine along with the entire world commemorated the victims of  WW II who fought against the Nazis.
The Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation for Those Who Lost Their Lives during the Second World War (May 8 and May 9) is an annual international day of remembrance designated by Resolution 59/26 of the United Nations General Assembly on November 22, 2004.  The resolution urges 'Member States, organizations of the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations and individuals' to pay tribute to the victims of World War II. 

At least 6.5 million Ukrainians were killed in the Soviet-held part of the country during the war, according to historian Timothy Snyder's book "The Bloodlands": 3.5 million civilians and 3 million combatants.  

Across Kyiv, thousands of people have taken part in Victory Day rallies on May 9 to mark the 74th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Over the recent years, on  May 8, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States,  Valeriy Chaly,   pays tribute to the memory of those who gave  their lives to  defeat Nazism during  World War  II. He honors their sacrifice during the wreath laying ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.


"The people of Ukraine express their sincere appreciation that our American partners, including many veterans and their international allies, honored Ukraine's tremendous contribution to the victory over Nazism and, together, stand in solidarity with Ukraine, mourning over the loss of more than ten millions Ukrainians who perished in World War II." 

Contact Information

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