The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, SGT Stanley J. Ciemiega, who died in the service of his country on April 17th, 1945 in Kapintalan Ridge, Balete Pass. The cause of death was listed as KIA. At the time of his death Stanley was 25 years of age. He was from Lowell, Massachusetts.
The decorations earned by SGT Stanley J. Ciemiega include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Phillipine Liberation Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Stanley was a member of the 1st Platoon, C Company, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He joined the army December, 6 1940. Stanley was a Pearl Harbor Survivor, fought at Guadalcanal, Vella Lavella and was KIA on April 17th, 1945 near Balete Pass, a place called Kapintalan or Kapintalan Ridge.
Holy Trinity Cemetery
Stanley received the following decorations which are not listed above:
Pearl Harbor Survivors Medal
Expert Infantryman Badge
One Bronze Star on the American Defense Service Medal
Four Bronze Service Stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon for Central Pacific, Guadalcanal, Luzon and Northern Solomons Campaigns
Bronze Arrowhead for landing on Vella Lavella, New Georgia Islands, on 15 August 1943
Good Conduct Medal
Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar
Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star
THE STORY OF ONE UNSUNG HERO
DEAR BROTHER STANLEY
The obsession started in earnest on December 3, 2000. That was the morning I received a phone call to come to the hospital. My Grandmother, "Bucka", wasn't going to make it. I made it to the hospital too late. That morning my Grandmother, Anne Carver, died, and my last link to Stanley Ciemiega died with her. Or thats what I thought.
Stanley J. Ciemiega Jr. was Buckas baby brother, and when she died all I knew was that Stanley died in World War II somewhere in the Pacific. Because of her obvious pain about her brother's death, I only asked my Grandmother about Stanley once. That one time occurred in 1991 when I compiled an oral history about the Carver family during WWII. When I did ask about Stanley, Bucka showed me a picture of him with her writing on the corner, which said Dear Brother Stanley." She also gave me a letter that had been sent to her father, Stanley J. Ciemiega Sr., notifying him that his only son was killed in action on April 17, 1945 in the Philippines. That letter stayed put away in a file until Bucka got sick.
THE SEARCH FOR THE TRUE STANLEY CIEMIEGA
Stanley J. Ciemiega Jr. was born in the mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts on February 3, 1920. Stanleys parents were both employed in the garment business at the local factories. Stanley was the only boy in a family with three sisters, so needless to say he was the central interest of all the girls. Stanley enlisted in the United States Army on December 6, 1940.
Stanley was in C Company of the 35th Infantry Regiment under the command of the 25th Infantry Division. At first I didnt realize how important that was until I found out that the 25th Division was stationed at Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu during the sneak Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On that infamous day, the 25th Infantry Division became one of the first American Divisions in combat during WWII. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 35th Infantry Regiment was assigned to shore protection until the summer of 1942. For the remainder of 1942 the entire 25th Division participated in a vigorous training program in preparation for offensive combat to include jungle warfare training and amphibious exercises for the upcoming battle for Guadalcanal.
In December of 1942 the 35th Infantry Regiment arrived on the island of Guadalcanal. The 35th's job was an initial offensive action against Japanese fortifications around Mount Austin. For its gallantry in driving the Japanese off of Mount Austin, the 35th Infantry Regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. After the capture of Guadalcanal the 25th Division, also now known as Tropic Lightning for how swiftly it accomplished its missions, spent the spring and summer of 1943 in defending the island against possible Japanese attacks and improving the facilities as a base for future operations.
The next mission for the 35th was the seizing of the island of Vella Lavella. On August 15, 1943 the Cacti made an amphibious assault landing on the island. The 35th advanced steadily meeting light resistance and by September 18 the responsibility for the island was turned over to New Zealand forces. For its assault landing on Vella Lavella the 35th received the bronze assault landing arrowhead device.
In November of 1943 the 25th Division returned to Guadalcanal and then to New Zealand for rest and refitting and to receive personnel replacements. In February 1944 the 25th moved to New Caledonia for extended training. The training lasted throughout the summer and into late fall. Maneuvers and amphibious landings were conducted with the 35th Infantry playing the role of opposing forces in preparation for the anticipated invasion of the island of Luzon in the Philippines.
The 35th Infantry Regiment then participated in one of the largest battles in the Pacific during WWII, the battle for the Philippines. The 25th Infantry Division set a record for the longest amount of days in continuous combat for their fighting in the Philippines: 165 days of continuous combat on Luzon. The battle for the Philippines started in January 1945. Stanley made it until April 17 of that year. According to military records Stanley and his company were clearing a ridge near the town of Kapintalan, just southeast of Balete Pass, when Stanley was killed instantly by machine gun fire. The battle for Balete Pass continued with fierce fighting until May 6, 1945 when the pass was declared open. On July 4, 1945 the Luzon campaign was officially declared over.
THE SEARCH BEGINS
Whether out of sadness or guilt in regard to my Grandmother's death or maybe it was just my lack of interest for so many years, I started to research the life of Stanley. All the information Bucka had about her brother was a picture of Stanley in Hawaii with a friend prior to December 7, 1941, a chalk portrait, and a picture of Stanley somewhere in the Pacific in 1943. With the pictures and the 'killed in action' letter I started a search that would forever change my life.
The search started with the name of Stanley's unit on the notification letter home: C Company, 35th Infantry Regiment. Being a novice to military nomenclature, I had no idea where to start.
I began by contacting the Captain, James G. Shanahan, who had written to Stanley's father in 1945. I sent letters to all of the men in the United States with the name James G. Shanahan I could find on the Internet. On this long shot I came in contact with the Captain's wife, Mrs. James G. Shanahan. She told me that her husband, General James G. Shanahan (Ret), passed away in 1997, but that I should check out the 25th Infantry Division Association's web site for more information regarding the 35th Infantry Regiment and its parent unit, the 25th Infantry Division.
I typed in the 25th Infantry Division with a common search engine on the Internet and was directed to the 25th Infantry Division Association's web page. There I searched for a few key terms from the letter home. The letter stated that Stanley was killed outside of Balete Pass on Luzon, in the Philippine Islands. Within moments I saw a picture of Balete Pass, the place where Bucka's baby brother died for his country. That was June 2000, and I felt from that moment on a duty to tell Stanley's story to anyone who would listen.
In order to find someone who would listen, I signed a guest book on the 25th Infantry Division's web page to tell people what I knew, and that I was searching for anyone who might have known Stanley 57 years ago. On the web page I included the company, regiment and division Stanley was a member of.
While waiting for someone to find me, I continued searching and found books, stories and histories about the division and its battles, but I still wanted to know about the man. How on earth would I ever do that?
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
Out of pure kindness, a man named William Barber sent me a letter in the mail. He saw my message, and wanted to talk. Bill was also in the 35th Infantry Regiment; he shed blood for our country, sacrificed, and made it home. He felt a duty to Stanley too, I guess, not to let the brave men of the "greatest generation" be forgotten. "Ask me anything you want to know about the war," said Bill. Bill also shared with me what some of Stanley's experiences might have been like. Bill shared with me only things a veteran of those bloody battles could: The fear, anger towards the enemy, and the kinship with his brothers in arms. For the entire year of 2001, Bill and I corresponded almost on a weekly basis. Whenever I found out any new information in my search, I always shared it with Bill. In a way, I feel that a part of Stanley will always live on in my friend Bill. After sharing info and hearing of Bills experiences, I think I know what Stanley would have been like. Stanley would have been like Bill, a man who is dedicated to making sure the sacrifice of those 57 years ago is never forgotten.
During my continued research, I came in contact with Mrs. Nancy Kovell around June of 2001 through the 25th's web page. Nancy's father had also been in the 35th, and she said she had a list from the 35th Infantry Regiment that included the men from the entire regiment who earned the Expert Infantryman Badge for the year of 1943. Later in the month she mailed the list to me. Low and behold, Stanley's name was on the list. I searched the Internet for every name on that list from C Company. I sent out over 600 letters to every person in the United States with the same name as those on the list.
Shortly thereafter, I received a letter from a man named Philip DiMaria who was stationed with Stanley in Hawaii before the attack. He sent me a short letter about his relationship with Stanley. Phil actually knew Stanley, and said that Stanley was "a friendly man, a good man and a good fighter." Phil remembered that Stanley was killed. Phil himself was injured in Guadalcanal in 1943. Phil also gave me the surprise of a lifetime in the letter he sent. He gave me a C Company picture from October 1941 at Schofield Barracks that had Stanley in it. Phil and I continue to correspond on a monthly basis.
Later that month I also received a letter from the daughter of a man on the list named Theodore Trop. Mr. Trop died in the early 1990s. His daughter, Marian Seevers, sent me a Good Conduct Medal list from 1945. On the list were 26 more names of men from C Company. The search started again. I sent out another 150 letters to the men with the same names on this list as well.
During the Thanksgiving holidays I received another gift from a stranger. Bob Harrison, a man I found from the Good Conduct list, e-mailed me a list with almost 50 names of men from C Company. Bob had compiled the list from a C Company reunion in 1997. I then proceeded to send out another 50 letters in the hopes of reaching my goal.
Once again a list from a friendly stranger paid off. On a rainy weekend in November, I received a large package in the mail from C Company member John Hosfield. In the package was a story about the battle of Balete Pass, a book given to all members of the 25th Division during the war, C Company rosters from 1941 and 1942, and a C Company photo taken in Auckland, New Zealand on December 12, 1943. John had numbered the men in the photo, and had sent a list with the names of the men he remembered. Of all the men in the photo, only one is turned away from the camera and it appears to be Stanley.
After I received the package with all of the new information about Stanley, I thought the search couldn't get any better. Once again the kindness of strangers and the power of the Internet surprised me. In October 2001 I had searched the Internet for more information about C Company, and came across a web page devoted to a man named Marion Hyder of C Company. The biography about Marion included his sister's name, as well as a brief history about his military service as well as a more in depth history about his post-war life, up to his death in 1983 at the age of 63. On a long shot I searched for the address of Marion's sister, Herma Lee Fife, to seek more information about Marion. After I found her address, I sent out one letter, and waited.
Two weeks later I received a letter from Mrs. Fife, but the news didn't seem too promising. Mrs. Fife didn't have any information about her brother, but she did have her nephew's last known address. That day I sent a letter to Marion's son, Kenneth Hyder and waited once again. On November 30, 2001 I looked through the mail and there it was a small envelope from Kenneth. Inside were five photos, all containing Marion. Although Kenneth didn't know the names of any of the men in the photos, what I saw in one of the photos almost knocked me to the ground. In one photo was Marion, an unidentified soldier, and Stanley! There was Stanley, smiling with friends and enjoying a seemingly happy moment in the middle of a chaotic world.
On December 3, 2001 I met with a man who was in C Company with Stanley that I found off of the Good Conduct List. Adrian Markle met me at a Denny's restaurant at 6pm. For three hours that night we looked over photos, through books, and Adrian spoke of the horrors of war, and even some of the good times. During our conversation, Adrian said he thought that he might remember seeing Stanley around camp, but to his and my disappointment, he didn't know him personally. Adrian also gave me his 165 Days on Luzon book that he has had for the past 55 years to look at until we meet again. I was touched that he entrusted this sacred book to me after only knowing me for a short time. That book was a symbol of what he and the men of the 25th Infantry Division had endured.
STANLEY COMES HOME
When Bucka died we found the obituary for Stanley in her things. On one last long shot I thought I would try to locate the Sgt. who had escorted Stanley's body back home to Lowell. All that the obituary said was his name, Sgt. John L. Moehle. On December 10, 2001 I mailed out five letters to all of the John Moehles I could find. On December 15, 2001 I received the phone call of a lifetime. The man on the phone was John Moehle, and he was indeed the right man. Mr. Moehle said he remembered bringing Stanley home, because it was the largest delegation he had seen for a dead hero returning home. Mr. Moehle stayed with my Grandmother and Grandfather for a few days during the ceremonies, a time my Dad even remembers.
And to prove that he was indeed a member of the "Greatest Generation", Mr. Moehle sent me the original Army orders, with Stanley's name, he was issued when he escorted Stanley home.
I end Stanley's story in the most appropriate way I can think of, with the man who finally brought Stanley home.
Stanley was awarded the following medals and awards for his service in the Army; Purple Heart Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Pearl Harbor Survivors Meda, Expert Infantryman Badge, American Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Star, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with four Bronze Service Stars for Central Pacific, Guadalcanal, Luzon and Northern Solomons Campaigns, World War II Victory Ribbon, Bronze Arrowhead for landing on Vella Lavella, New Georgia Islands, on 15 August 1943, Good Conduct Medal, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar and Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star
As of February 19, 2002 I have located 40 men from C Company.
On June 2, 2002 I received E-mail from the son of a man from C Company. John Riley told me that his father, Tom Riley, joined C Company on April 14th, 1945 only 3 days before Stanley was killed in action. I sent Tom a letter in the mail and waited. Later in June I received a letter that stunned me. Tom did remember Stanley, and even better, he remembered the battle in which Stanley was killed, because that was Tom's first combat action!
When Tom joined C Company on either the 15th or 16th of April, he was assigned to a platoon, and spent his second night in the jungle. "Scary-Spooky." said Tom. The next morning Sgt. Yeager told Tom, a few other new recruits and others they were going to "rescue" a group of men that were pinned down. From all of my research, and Tom's recollection of that day, it was Stanley and members of his squad that were to be rescued!
In his letter, Tom said that with out a doubt, one of the bodies they carried out that day very well could have been Stanley. Tom knows that he recognized Stanley from his picture, and the date and events only lead us both to one conclusion: Tom was there the day Stanley died. The date was right; the place was right as well as the names of the men who Tom remembered.
Two years ago I requested Stanley's deceased Individual Personnel File from the Department of Defense. On July 22, 2002 I received what has been the biggest surprise to date. I came home from work and on the counter was a manila envelope containing over 40 pages of documents relating to Stanley. The package contained everything from the request letter my Great-Grandfather sent to the army to have Stanley's body brought home, to the items Stanley had in his possession at the time of his death. The information was very overwhelming, and included many details that I wish I didn't know. I am glad to have the information, but at the same time I still don't know how to digest it all.
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVORS
On October 20th I was invited to share this story with the San Diego Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. I had the pleasure to speak to over 55 Survivors as well as 50 of their family members. I found this experience to be one of the most rewarding of my search. I was able to share the life of Stanley with a group of men who understood Stanley"s sacrifice.
OTHER FINDINGS AND INTERESTING FACTS
Throughout the past 30 months other interesting things have occurred. The search for information about Stanley has also resulted in other findings.
As mentioned previously, Nancy Kovell gave me a list of names at the beginning of my search. Nancy's father was a member of the 35th Regiment as well, but not of C Company. Her father's name was Stephen Sheba, a fact I was unaware of until I noticed only a few months ago the name of Stephen Sheba in faded writing on the top of the roster Nancy had sent me.
The name of Stephen Sheba struck me as familiar. Months before noticing his name, I had received a document from Marian Seevers, whom I found from Nancy Kovell's roster. On that document were numerous names, including Theodore Trop, Marian's father, as well as the name of one Stephen Sheba.
The document was a restricted communication from the 25th Division Headquarters. The document was a list of names as well as descriptions of how the men from the 25th Division earned their Bronze Stars for Valor during the war.
I contacted Nancy and asked if Stephen Sheba was her father, and asked about his Bronze Star. Yes, he was indeed her father, was still alive and was still searching for proof of how he earned his Bronze Star. The story was that Mr. Sheba had never been told what he did to earn the Bronze Star. It had taken over 50 years to get the medal he earned for risking his life so many years before in the Battle of Lupao.
On September 3, 2002 I received a package in the mail from Thomas Gragg, the historian for the 35th Infantry Regiment. In the package was a fifty-six-page list of 2079 names of men who served in the 35th from 1941 to 1947. Thomas had taken the time to list the men alphabetically, and listed their company, as well as their current status, be it alive of deceased.
As a result of my search for the true Stanley, I have made many new friends. I have also developed a deeper appreciation for the sacrifice the men of the 35th Regiment. I have yet to meet a man that was not injured in some way from the war, be it physical or emotionally. Those of us who have never seen combat CANNOT understand what they went through. All I want people to understand from all of this is simple: these men sacrificed their youth for our freedom, and in Stanley's case, he sacrificed his tomorrow for our today!
Scott Carver Nephew of Stanley Ciemiega