American Defense Philippine Defense American Campaign PTO Campaign ETO Campaign Philippine Liberation WWII Victory Occupation

Brightwood Boys, The History of the Men from the North End of
Springfield, Massachusetts, During World War II
by Christopher P. Montagna



Back in the Pacific, the Marines were preparing for another hard fight.  On May 14, 1944, Edmund Olbrych left Pearl Harbor aboard LST 226 as part of an invasion fleet bound for the island of Saipan.  The landings began at 07:00 on June 15, 1944. Edmund was one of more than 8,000 Marines who landed on the west coast of Saipan.   During the initial assault, Japanese gunners destroyed about twenty amphibious tanks.  The Japanese defenders strategically placed barbed wire, artillery, machine gun emplacements and trenches to maximize the American casualties. However, by nightfall the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions had a beachhead about 6 miles wide and 1/2 mile deep.  The Japanese counter-attacked later that night but were repulsed with heavy losses.

The Battle of Saipan was noted for the many hundreds of Japanese civilians who committed suicide in the last days of the battle, some jumping from "Suicide Cliff" and "Banzai Cliff". Efforts by U.S. troops to persuade them to surrender instead were mostly futile.  For Edmund Olbrych, an event on Saipan would haunt him for years to come.  One evening, Edmund and his platoon set out to search and destroy enemy positions.  As the platoon returned across the lines, a sentry cried out to the men to halt and requested the password from the men.  The lieutenant approached the sentry and returned his reply.  Unbeknownst to the lieutenant, the password reply had changed.  The tense moment was shattered by a single gunshot.  Unaware of the situation the sentry fired upon the returning platoon, killing the lieutenant.


The Japanese garrison on Saipan surrendered on July 9, 1944.  However, Edmund Olbrych would soon find himself once again in the heat of battle.  On July 23, 1944 Edmund embarked aboard LST 222 at Saipan and disembarked the next day on the island of Tinian.


As fighting continued in the European Theater of Operations, Allied forces were advancing against German held town and villages in France.  On July 2, 1944, Sgt. Wally Anderson was in the heat of battle as the fighting intensified.  During the firefight, a German bullet struck Wally in the upper shoulder.  Medics evacuated him to a first aid station for treatment.  As the aid station doctor began treating him, Wally’s great concern was that he would awaken with his arm amputated.  The attending doctor found the bullet had exited through his back with no major damage and was able to save Wally’s arm.