b. 25/03/1925 Buffalo, New York. d. 23/02/1945 Manila, Philippines.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 23/02/1945 Manila, Philippines.
PFC William J. Grabiarz was the younger son of Kazmierz and Agatha Grabiarz, Polish immigrants who made their home in Black Rock. Along with his five sisters and older brother, the family lived at 59 LaForce Place where they were parishioners at St. Florian’s R.C. Church and attended Public School #79. Bill then attended Riverside High School and graduated from Boys Vocational High School.
In 1943, less than a year after the U.S. entered WW II, Bill enlisted in the Army at the age of 17. He wrote home often sending postcards to his parents, brother, and sisters – always with his usual greeting to tell Mom and Dad, “I love them.” A few weeks before the Battle of Manilla, Bill wrote home saying that he had only one more “campaign” to complete before he comes home. He was right. Also included in the letter was a message for his mother “Thought you’d like to know if I go to church. The answer is ‘yes’ it seems I go more than ever before.”
On February 23, 1945, during the Battle of Manilla, PFC Grabiarz intentionally sacrificed his own life as he attempted to save the life of his wounded commanding officer, Captain John Gregory of Worcester, Massachusetts. As Bill’s unit advanced along a street in Manilla, CPT Gregory was hit by enemy fire and laid wounded and exposed in the open road. PFC Grabiarz voluntarily ran from behind a tank to carry Gregory to safety, but was himself wounded. Unable to drag his commander any further, Bill covered the officer with his own body to form a human shield. Bill was only 19 years old. Because of his selfless act, Captain Gregory survived his wounds and thankfully returned home from the war. After a temporary burial in Manilla, PFC Grabiarz was permanently laid to rest in St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Buffalo.
For his courage and sacrifice, PFC William J. Grabiarz was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was the first Buffalonian to receive the Medal of Honor in WWII. Thanks to the efforts of countless veterans, family, and friends, the PFC William J. Grabiarz School of Excellence at 225 Lawn Avenue was dedicated in his honor on November 9, 2000.
He was a scout when the unit advanced with tanks along a street in Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands. Without warning, enemy machinegun and rifle fire from concealed positions in the Customs building swept the street, striking down the troop commander and driving his men to cover. As the officer lay in the open road, unable to move and completely exposed to the pointblank enemy fire, Pfc. Grabiarz voluntarily ran from behind a tank to carry him to safety, but was himself wounded in the shoulder. Ignoring both the pain in his injured useless arm and his comrades’ shouts to seek the cover which was only a few yards distant, the valiant rescuer continued his efforts to drag his commander out of range. Finding this impossible, he rejected the opportunity to save himself and deliberately covered the officer with his own body to form a human shield, calling as he did so for a tank to maneuver into position between him and the hostile emplacement. The enemy riddled him with concentrated fire before the tank could interpose itself. Our troops found that he had been successful in preventing bullets from striking his leader, who survived. Through his magnificent sacrifice in gallantly giving his life to save that of his commander, Pfc. Grabiarz provided an outstanding and lasting inspiration to his fellow soldiers.
BURIAL LOCATION: ST STANISLAS RC CEMETERY, CHEEKTOWAGA, NEW YORK.
AMERICAN LEGION SECTION, GRAVE 13
LOCATION OF MEDAL: BUFFALO & ERIE COUNTY NAVAL AND MILITARY PARK, BUFFALO, NEW YORK.