The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, SSG Joseph P. Mraz, 33171309, who died in the service of his country on February 1st, 1945 in Luzon. The cause of death was listed as KIA. At the time of his death Joseph was 24 years of age. He was from Chester County, Pennsylvania.
The decorations earned by SSG Joseph P. Mraz include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
From the Chester County (Pennsylvania) "Hall of Heroes" --Joseph P Mraz was born in 1920to Joseph and Anna Mraz who lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Joseph P. was the second oldest of four children; George, Joseph P., John Michael, and sister Francis. His parents immigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1900 to begin their new family. Joseph's father worked at a steel mill. He moved his family to 220 Walnut in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania after 1930.
Joseph attended Sacred Heart School in Phoenixville located on Hall Street, between Main and Starr Streets, for grades 1-8. He then went on to attenhd Phoenixville High School, then located on Nutt Road, where the hospital stands today.
Joseph was employed at the Ehert Magnesia Company. The Erhert Magnesia Company manufactured asbestos insulation. It was a critical industry for defense as steam pipe insulation greatly increased the effiecncy of steam power plants on Navy ships. The plant was located at Port Kennedy, near where Route 422 crosses the Schuylkill River and is part of the Valley Forge Historic Park today.
Joseph entered the Army on March 2, 1942. He received basic training at New Cumberland, Pennsylvania then further training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia.
He was shipped to Hawaii where he was assigned to the 35th "Cacti" Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry "Tropic Lightning" Division, the same Regiment that hero john Toth and Frank Pinter served.
The 25th Division was shipped to Guadalcanal in January 1943 to relieve the 1st Marine Division.
After the Japanese gave up and evacuated Guadalcanal in the summer of 1943, Joseph's Division made plans to move to the Solomon Islands capturing key islands in that chain, including Kolombngara, New Georgia.
The Divison mounted an amphibious assault on Vella Lavella in the northern Solomons on August 15th. Joseph also saw service on New Hebrides.
His Division received well deserved rest as well as replacement of equipment in New Zealand in February 1944. In a letter Joseph sent from Auckland, he says he finds it a nice place and the people there are very friendly. He was in good health and wrote he has plenty of everything "especially food". He also said that some of the local men from Chester County were with him. They were Mike Meklos, John Romen, and Paul Moryak.
Joseph's Division was then sent to New Caledonia for additional training through the summer and late fall, preparing for the liberation of Luzon, Philippines.
Staff Sergeant Joseph P. Mraz was Killed in Action on Luzon, on February 1, 1945.
He was buried at the St. Barbara Military Cemetery, on Luzon.
Joseph never was able to to return home during his service, since the time he entered the Army.
His remains were returned to his home country for reburial on board the Lt. George W.G. Boyce (a Victory ship of the Army Transportation Corps AK-251) with 4459 other heroes being returned home.
High Requiem Mass was held on Tuesday June 22 (1949) at the Sacred Heart Church, followed by burial with full military honors. (Note he is buried in the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Phoenixville)
His Mother received Joseph's last letter, written the day he was killed, part of which reads:
"I am well, but busy. Don't worry if you don't hear from me often. We are doing a good job over here; the Japs are on the run and the quicker we do our job, the sooner I will come home."