The dwindling number of World War II veterans grew even smaller on Nov. 23, 2019, with the passing of Matthew J. Rozycki of Schenectady, N.Y.
The 96-year-old died from a long illness at his home with his wife, Theresa, at his side.
Matthew, Matt to his friends, was born on June 13, 1923, in Schenectady to Polish immigrants Stephanie and Stanley Rozycki. He attended St. Adalbert’s School in the Mount Pleasant section of the city and later McKinley Junior High School. He studied at the Vocational School on Broadway where he played on the basketball team. After finishing school he worked at the General Electric Co.
Several years ago, he wrote out in longhand, his experiences in the war that he never really talked about. Like a lot of his generation, he was modest; although he tongue in cheek said in his foreward, “This is my Great Story – All Truth no BS.” He titled his story “Memoirs of My Army Life in the 821st Tank Destroyer Battalion.”
Matt was going to enlist in the Army Air Corps in November 1942, but since it was so close to Thanksgiving and Christmas, his mother asked him to delay until after the holidays. Obliging his mom, he told her he would wait until January. However, he received notice from the draft board on Dec. 5 that began, “Greetings, you have been selected…” The irony he said had not gone unnoticed. He passed his physical on Jan. 5, 1943, and was immediately sworn into the U.S. Army. He shipped off a week later and landed at Camp Bowie in Texas where he was assigned to the 821stTank Destroyer Battalion. Its motto was “Seek, Strike, Destroy.” It was basic and combat training until March 1943, when the battalion was moved to Camp Hood, Texas. More training, including the ability to identify an enemy plane from a friendly one. (That was a tough one, Matt said; he thought they all looked alike.) From there it was on to Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, learning to fire 3-inch cannons. In April 1944, it was an excruciating nine-day voyage on a “victory ship” named “Sea Porpoise” from Boston to Bristol, England. To the north, in Whitby on the North Sea, Matt practiced firing a 50-caliber machine gun at a drogue fabric sleeve pulled on a long cable by a plane. (And who piloted these planes? Matt said they were Englishwomen “with a lot of nerve.”) He and his fellow soldiers knew little of what was ahead for them on a beach named Omaha in the Normandy region of France.
For his duty in the war, Matt earned four campaign stars: Normandy, Omaha Beach; Northern France, Port of Brest; Central Europe, Belgium and Holland; and Rhineland, Germany. He also was the recipient of two Purple Hearts for injuries sustained, including shrapnel in his back.
He was discharged on Dec. 9, 1945 at Fort Dix, N.J.
Afterward he attended Troy Institute of Technology where he became an engineering technician and designer. He worked at the Watervliet Arsenal until he retired due to a disability.
He enjoyed golf and was an active member of the Watervliet Arsenal Pitch & Putt Club and the YMPA golf club.
He was a lifelong member of the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Order of the Purple Heart, the Young Men’s Polish Association, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and St. Adalbert’s Church.
In addition to his wife, Matt is survived by two sons, Michael of Schenectady and Robert of Wappingers Falls; a daughter-in-law, Laura Rozycki; and two granddaughters, Lesley Rozycki of Wappingers Falls and Carolyn Rozycki of Boston. He was predeceased by a sister, Helen.
The family would like to thank all the women at the Department of Veterans Affairs Home Based Primary Care to help Matt die in dignity at home in his last days.
Thanks also goes to staff of The Community Hospice of Schenectady for their kind and understanding help in making him as comfortable as possible.
The funeral service will be private.
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