Memorial Day is a day to honor those who died in the wars of our nation. It is a somber day of recollection. Many veterans march on this day. We march not for ourselves, but for those who never came home and are still missing in action.
Let me tell you about one such boy. He was 17 years old on his final day on Earth, Sept. 15, 1944. His name was Edward Fred Borowski from Massachusetts. On that day, Company K 3rd Battalion 1st Regiment 1st Marines would land on the island of Peleliu in the South Pacific around 8:32 a.m. By nightfall there would be four who made their way to the Company Command Post and nine who would be rescued from the trap and brought back to the beachhead.
These were the marines who fought at Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester in earlier campaigns of the war, but this was Eddie’s first such foray into battle. Eddie was a member of the 2nd Platoon. They landed much farther to the right of their objective, away from the other platoons of the company and under heavy enemy fire, unlike the uncontested landings at Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester.
Their platoon leader, Lt. Woodyard, was hit immediately after exiting the landing craft right in front of my dad. Dad describes the landing as “confused, with Marines dropping like flies.” They all moved inland and the platoon found itself in a deep trench or “tank trap,” which proved to be anything but safe.
Forty-five men made up the platoon when they landed. The deep trench, which they believed would provide cover, was zeroed in on by the enemy. One after another they were hit and wounded or killed. Many were hit as soon as they raised their heads above the top of the trench.
Joe Dariano, a member of the platoon, kept a meticulous record of platoon names for Peleliu. According to Joe, Eddie Borowski was in John Testa’s 1st squad. That unit was literally wiped out in the first few minutes of the battle. Of the five tentmates Eddie lived with on Pavuvu, all were killed on Peleliu. The survivors of Testa’s 1st squad were Sgt. Testa, Cpl. Culjac, Cpl. Laurino and Pfc. Earl McLaughlin.
In Howard Jenkins’ memoirs (corpsman, 2nd Platoon), he mentions taking some dog tags off the dead in the tank trap as mortar fire and foot traffic was starting to cover them up with sand. Jenkins didn’t want them going missing in action because of that. Dariano also mentions that Borowski was probably covered up from sand in the ditch and I believe that is exactly what happened to him and he remains there to this day.
Eddie is still listed as missing in action. His remains have never been recovered and are probably still in or around that ditch, a boy who gave his today for our tomorrows a long, long time ago.
Memorial Day is a somber moment in time and why we march.
Bob Bittner served in the U.S. Navy from 1970 to 1974 and in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1974 to 1980.