WW II HEROES: Photographs by Zach Coco
Joseph “Doc” Kadziel
02/06/1925 Newark, NJ Navy
“Doc” Kadziel’s day had already been long, and an even longer night loomed. Having boarded the landing craft pre-dawn, the young Navy Corpsman and “his” Marines circled for hours before finally coming ashore in the third wave on Guam. In less than an hour, a Marine was brought to Kadziel who had mortar shrapnel in his buttocks. Kadziel treated the Marine and carried him to the beach and then returned to the lines in time to find and treat 3 more injured Marines. Finishing with his patients, Kadziel finally had the chance to prepare his position for the night when a sergeant came walking jauntily down the line tossing K-Rations to each position and cheerfully telling all to prepare for the “Banzai attacks” sure to follow the sun. July 21, 1944 just became longer. Born on February 6, 1925, Joseph Edward Kadziel grew up in Newark, New Jersey. The son of Polish immigrants, Joseph grew up stocking the shelves and making deliveries for his father’s corner grocery store. Earning a dime an hour, Kadziel always had money to spend, and, despite lean times through the Great Depression, Joseph considered his family fortunate. On December 7, 1941, Joseph was watching a football game in New York City. Unaware of the Japanese attack, Joseph noted that the game was continuously interrupted by announcements for service members from various units to report to their bases and stations immediately. Leaving the game and seeing the first newspaper shocked him with the news: his country had been attacked! Kadziel watched as the whole nation seemingly volunteered. The inclination and desire of everyone was to serve in whatever capacity, as the nation went to war. Joseph would be entering the military services—of that he was sure—and he had no intention of evading service. But, if he could, he would rather join the Navy! Graduating from high school at 17, he was still too young to be drafted, but he knew that if he enlisted, he would have the choice as to which service and maybe assignment, so he continued working at the family store. Biding his time, his parents signed for him to enlist the day before his 18th birthday and before his eligibility for conscription. He would be able to join the Navy and not have to risk the Army! After induction and processing, Seaman Kadziel was sent to Newport, Rhode Island for basic training. During the nine-week course, Kadziel was introduced to the rudiments of naval service, customs, courtesies, and drill. Completing his training, he was scheduled for Advanced Training at New London, Connecticut for training either in Patrol Torpedo (PT) Boats or submarines. Fortunately, Kadziel suffered a broken foot soon after completing his basic training, and when healed was sent to Newport, VA for training as a Pharmacist Mate (Corpsman). The medical training he received was basic with on the job training at his duty station expected to fill in the gaps since it was unknown what specific duty he would be assigned. Arriving at Charleston, South Carolina, Kadziel quickly discovered he was not interested in regular hospital ward duties and volunteered for duty as a corpsman in the Marine Corps. When Kadziel reported to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for Field Medical Training, he was in for a whirlwind of change. Medical training consisted of “stop the bleeding, put sulfa powder on the wound, give a shot of morphine and find someone to take him to the beach.” As a corpsman, he was responsible for routine health and hygiene and control of disease and injury, but had to be prepared to treat combat casualties under all conditions and that is his most vivid memory from his medical training. With the Marines, Doc Kadziel discovered that he was no longer expected to walk through a door and treat a patient but was going to be awakened at midnight to practice with his weapon and go to (and remain) in the field with “his” Marines. Routine was gone; safe, antiseptic medical treatment rooms were a memory. Kadziel was now a Field Medical Corpsman with the Marines and would live and train with the Marines he would treat in combat. Shipping first to California, then to the French colony of New Caledonia, Kadziel was unsure where he would be assigned, but knew he would “be in the field with the Marines,” no matter where he found his eventual home. Sent to Guadalcanal, Kadziel was assigned to the newly reconstituted 4th Marines Regiment and immediately began training for amphibious assaults. Kadziel never knew where he would assault or when, but in the summer of 1944, he loaded aboard amphibious shipping with his Marines and set sail for combat. After landing on Guam and treating his first patients, combat was a blur of jungle actions and treating patients. The first memory of post-combat normalcy was setting up a regular aid station, and the Marines, stuck in the field mopping up Japanese holdouts, coming in for sick call. A “cough” was being spread contagiously through the Marine units. The treatment was an alcohol-based cough suppressant, but the “contagion” spread so rapidly that the sick bay ran out of medication in three days! As the cough subsided, the 4th Marines returned to Guadalcanal for rest, refit, and retraining before their next combat action at Okinawa. Doc Kadziel did not make the Okinawa landing. Instead, he was rotated back to the United States after 200 days overseas. The end of the war found Kadziel attending college at Seton Hall after his discharge in February 1946. After a year in college, he moved to California where he eventually retired after a 35-year career in sales. Having been married for 65 years and having a son play college and professional football, he suggested that success in life involved teamwork and accepting that sometimes it is necessary to give to your teammates. Having been a combat corpsman with the Marines, he also added that occasionally it’s necessary to “keep your mouth shut and listen.” His advice for life, marriage, and success would seem wise counsel for anyone willing to listen.