Private Adam S. Adamowicz (1921–1944)

Adamowicz in his winter tank uniform. The back of the print is captioned: “This is out combat suit. The pants come always [sic] up to our shoulders and they are very warm.” (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
Home StateCivilian Occupation
DelawareUnknown or unemployed
BranchService Number
U.S. Army32481416
TheaterUnit
MediterraneanCompany “B,” 760th Tank Battalion
Military Occupational Specialty (Presumed)Campaigns/Battles
2736 (medium tank crewman)Naples-Foggia and Rome-Arno campaigns

Early Life & Family

Adam Stanley Adamowicz was born at 818 (North) Church Street in Wilmington, Delaware, shortly after midnight on November 1, 1921. He was the son of Jan (John) Adamowicz (a blacksmith, 1888–1955) and Teofila (Tillie) Adamowicz (née Stankewicz, 1884–1963). His parents were Polish. Both were born in Grodno—then part of the Russian Empire—where they married in 1908 before immigrating to the United States.

Adamowicz grew up with an older sister, Mildred Adamowicz (later Mildred Cianfarino, 1909–1972), an older brother, Wladyslaw (William, 1918–1968), and a twin brother, Frank (born ten minutes after Adam, 1921–1995). At least two and as many as four older siblings died before his birth. Adamowicz was Catholic.

The Adamowicz family was recorded on the census on April 3, 1930, living at 730 East 11th Street in Wilmington. By the time of the next census, on April 15, 1940, the family had moved to 1031 West 2nd Street in Wilmington.

The 1940 census stated that Adam Adamowicz had completed three years of high school. His entry in Young American Patriots stated that he “Attended Wilmington and St. Hedwig’s H. S.” He and Frank were on the Wilmington High School football team in the fall of 1941. The Wilmington Morning News reported that “Adamowicz, [co-]captain of the Wilmington High School football team in 1941, was one of the most brilliant athletes of the school, having also excelled in basketball.”

When Adamowicz registered for the draft on February 16, 1942, he was unemployed. The registrar described him as standing approximately five feet, eight inches tall and weighing 150 lbs., with blond hair and hazel eyes. However, later military paperwork described him as standing five feet, 5 inches tall and weighing 140 lbs., with brown hair and hazel eyes.

His brother, William Adamowicz, served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.


Military Training

Adamowicz was drafted and joined the U.S. Army in late November 1942. According to his sister’s statement to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, Private Adamowicz began his training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. She wrote that he moved to Camp Campbell, on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, and then to Greenville, Pennsylvania, before shipping out for Casablanca, Morocco. She indicated that he was in North Africa by April 1943.

A summary of Private Adamowicz’s movements in his Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.) is similar: Fort Dix (November 1942–December 1942), Fort Knox (December 1942–March 1943), Camp Campbell (March 1943), and then Transfer, Pennsylvania (March 1943–April 1943). Transfer was the site of a replacement depot known as Camp Shenango, and is very close to Greenville, as mentioned in Adamowicz’s sister’s statement.

A tired tank crew standing in front of an M4 medium tank at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in June 1942 (Photo by Alfred T. Pamer. Office of War Information photo, Library of Congress)

Private Adamowicz apparently joined Company “B,” 760th Tank Battalion in North Africa during the spring of 1943—at least, it was the only unit listed by his sister.

The 760th Tank Battalion had been activated at Camp Bowie, Texas, as a light tank battalion on June 1, 1941. The unit became a medium tank battalion on November 27, 1941. Before going overseas, most of the unit was equipped with the M4 medium tank, popularly known by its British nickname, the Sherman. The battalion boarded the transport John Ericsson at the New York Port of Embarkation on January 13, 1943. Sailing as part of Convoy UGF-4, the John Ericsson arrived in Casablanca on January 26, 1943. The unit did not see combat in North Africa nor Sicily.

As was customary in many units, Company “B” tanks had nicknames beginning with the letter B. In his book, To Rome and Beyond, Colonel (then Captain) John E. Krebs (1916–2009)—then the Company “B” commanding officer—recorded some of them: “Big Bertha, Bama, Babe, Bayu, Bono, Berlin and Back, Berlin or Bust, Burlingame, Beaumont, Big John I and II, Battlewagon, Blue Devil, Burlington, Big Boy, Bonnie Gay.” However, he added that “After three or four months in combat, most tank became casualties and by this time there were no names imprinted on their sides.”


Combat in Italy

Company “B” arrived at Bagnoli, Italy, on October 26, 1943, with the rest of the 760th Tank Battalion arriving by October 30. The 760th was one of the so-called separate tank battalions, meaning that it was not permanently assigned to any single division. The unit’s records reveal numerous short-term assignments during the grueling Italian campaign.

The Germans made full use of Italy’s geography—a narrow peninsula with numerous mountains—to build defensive lines to bog down the Allies. The 760th Tank Battalion entered combat near the Gustav Line, south of Rome. Krebs wrote that Company “B” saw action for the first time on December 27, 1943, at Mt. Maggiore, near Cassino. The winter mud, landmines, and enemy fire all took a toll.

In early January 1944, the 760th Tank Battalion supported the 6th Armored Infantry Regiment’s assault on Mt. Porchia. It is unknown if Adamowicz was a member of his crew yet, but as of January 6, 1944, Sergeant Clyde R. Silcox’s crew was operating Burlington. After Captain Krebs’s tank, Big John, became mired in mud, he took over Silcox’s tank. In turn, Silcox and his crew got Big John back into operation after a tank recovery vehicle arrived. The following day, Big John was hit by enemy fire while trying to cross a stream. The crew abandoned the tank, but the crew’s gunner was killed and two other men wounded.

The 760th Tank Battalion was subsequently attached to the 34th Infantry Division for an assault on Cervaro. In mid-January, the unit supported the 135th Infantry Regiment’s assault on Mt. Trocchio. The battalion was then attached to the 36th Infantry Division for its infamous assault across the river Rapido. The 760th Tank Battalion tried to knock out German positions on the far side of the Rapido, but the infantrymen still took devastating casualties and the assault failed.

February and March 1944 were quiet months for the battalion, as they saw only limited action during combat at the Gustav Line near Cassino while attached to the 1st Tank Group (later known as the 1st Armored Group). The unit shelled German positions and stood ready to exploit any breakthroughs, but none were forthcoming. Krebs wrote that Company “B” sometimes “found ourselves ‘dueling’ with German tanks and self-propelled guns[.]” Opponents included the vaunted Tiger tank. The 760th Tank Battalion M4A1s were equipped with a 75 mm cannon which was totally ineffective against the Tiger’s armor. At the same time, the Tigers’ powerful 88 mm cannons could easily destroy an M4 at any combat range.

On March 25, 1944, the battalion, less Company “A,” was ordered back to a rest area. Krebs wrote that between January 3, 1944, and March 26, 1944, the 760th Tank Battalion had suffered nine men killed, 13 men missing in action, and 94 men wounded, while losing 33 tanks.

The battalion was assigned to support the 88th Infantry Division on the night of April 7, 1944. One month later, on the night of May 11, 1944, the Allies launched Operation Diadem, a powerful offensive that finally broke through the Gustav Line. The 760th Tank Battalion supported elements of the 88th and later the 85th Infantry Divisions during the breakthrough. On May 12, 1944, battalion drove on Santa Maria Infante, which fell early on May 14, 1944. During the coming days, the 760th Tank Battalion advanced along the coast, helping take Formia, Gaeta, Itri, and Fondi. Terracina, Priverno, and Lariano fell soon after, though the retreating Germans slowed the Allied advance by demolishing bridges.

M4A1 tanks of the 760th Tank Battalion near Tufo, Italy, on May 12, 1944 (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo, courtesy of Pierre-Olivier Buan)

To the west, on May 23, 1944, the Allied force at the Anzio beachhead, long bottled up by German forces, began their own breakout. The race to Rome was on.

760th Tank Battalion casualties for the month of May 1944 were its heaviest yet: 11 dead, 73 wounded or injured, and one captured, with 18 tanks disabled or destroyed.


Battle Near Rocca Priora

If not before, by June 1944 Private Adamowicz was a member of 3rd Platoon in Company “B,” 760th Tank Battalion, serving in a crew led by Sergeant Clyde R. Silcox (1919–1976). Adamowicz was most likely the tank’s assistant driver (bow gunner). In that role, he would have sat in the front right of the tank and operated the hull .30 machine gun. Less likely, he may have been the loader (assistant gunner).

An M4A1 tank from Company “B,” 760th Tank Destroyer Battalion in Formia, Italy, in mid-May 1944 (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo, National Archives)

Company “B” continued to move north and west through the Alban Hills in support of the 339th Infantry Regiment of the 85th Infantry Division. The battalion history recorded that on June 3, 1944, Company “B”

advanced from their night assemble position near Mt. Fiore toward Rocca Priora which was captured without opposition.  “B” Company tanks then proceeded westward from Rocca Priora on the road leading to Frascati.  Three enemy Mark III tanks were firing from this road.  They withdrew after being shelled by the “B” Company tanks.  Throughout the move westward from Rocca Priora the tanks received heavy artillery fire.  The tanks went to Mt. Salomone at coordinate 950556 [41° 47’ 49” North, 12° 44’ 11” East] and assisted the Infantry in taking their objective there.  The tanks then moved around to the left of M. Salomone and fired into the valley at German tanks in the vicinity of Mt. Croce di Tuscolo.  An A.P. [armor piercing] Shell from one of the German tanks hit Sergeant Clyde R. Silcox’s tank near this position and three of the crew members, Corporal Lemuel Day, Corporal Joseph A. Murr, and Private Adam S. Adamowicz were killed.  The enemy tanks withdrew again after being fired at by “B” Company tanks.

In his book, To Rome and Beyond, Private Adamowicz’s company commander, John E. Krebs, wrote:

          The following afternoon [June 3, 1944], we moved no more than a quarter of a mile to a cluster of farm houses where we encountered resistance from two SPs [self-propelled guns] and a Mark VI “Tiger” tank. Sergeant Clyde Silcox’s tank was knocked out, and his driver and assistant driver were killed.

Later in the book, Krebs discussed the day’s events in greater detail. He wrote that 1st Lieutenant Elmer R. “Kelly’s platoon moved northeast and took the town of Rocca Priore along with 35 prisoners.”

Krebs added that once again, his command tank needed rescuing when it became stuck in a gully. He explained:

Fortunately, Sgt Silcox’ and Sgt. Roger’s tanks from Lt. Kelly’s platoon were nearby.  With two heavy tank cables hooked together, it took about 20 minutes to pull the tank out of the gully. […] We began the attack by fire and maneuvered towards the road and quickly destroyed two SPs with one retreating into Tuscolo.  We advanced cautiously at first, smashed enemy foxholes and then shot up several mortar positions.

There was a huge stone fence—more like a 6 foot high wall—that ran over several hundred feet east to west.  Our tanks pulled up behind the wall for cover and fired all guns at about 1000 yards distance.

The next part of Krebs’s narrative is somewhat unclear. He switched gears from the attack to discussing how mismatched Sherman and Tiger tanks were. His narrative does not actually mention that a Tiger had appeared, though it can be inferred that Krebs intended to write that one did. After all, earlier in the book, he indicated that two self-propelled guns and/or a Tiger were involved in Private Adamowicz’s death. Krebs continued:

Armor piercing shells had burrowed through the stone wall and crumbled it to bits. I looked to my left less than 100 yards away.  Sergeant Clyde Silcox’s (the coal miner from Tennessee) tank was hit and started to burn.  He was on the back deck of his tank and frantically tried to extricate the remaining crew.  Ammunition started to explode and the tank exploded into a huge ball of fire.

Krebs recalled: “The fear of burning up in a tank was always with everyone.  We knew it could happen at any time.”

Although both the contemporary battalion history and Krebs’s narratives stated that Private Adamowicz and the two others in his crew were killed in action on June 3, 1944, the battalion casualty list for the month and all other known military records list them as being killed in action on June 4, 1944.

After action report mentioning Private Adamowicz’s death (National Archives)

On June 4, 1944, the 760th Tank Destroyer Battalion was among the U.S. Fifth Army units that entered Rome. There was some fighting with the enemy rear guard, but the main body of German forces had already abandoned the city.

The Wilmington Morning News reported on June 21, 1944, that the night before, Adamowicz’s parents received the telegram with news that their son had been killed in action. The paper also reported that “A memorial mass will be said in St. Hedwig’s Church at 8:30 o’clock Monday morning” June 26, 1944.

The 760th Tank Destroyer Battalion lost a total of four men killed, 14 wounded, and 3 captured during June 1944, with six tanks disabled or destroyed.

Graves registration personnel were unable to recover any bodies of the three men killed in the tank. After the war, the Army searched the vicinity where the tank was destroyed and interviewed local civilians about whether they were aware of any fallen Americans. A letter dated July 12, 1949, informed the Adamowicz family that the Army had determined that Private Adamowicz’s body was non-recoverable.

Adamowicz’s name is honored on the Tablets of the Missing at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy, at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware, and on his parents’ headstone at Cathedral Cemetery.

As of December 17, 2021, Private Adamowicz is one of 105 Delawareans whose bodies remain unaccounted for following World War II, according to a list compiled by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.


Notes

Grodno

Grodno changed hands many times during the 20th century. After World War I, it became part of the new Republic of Poland. Then, following the Germans and Soviet invasions of Poland in 1939, Grodno became part of the U.S.S.R. Eventually it became part of Belarus after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Siblings

Adam and Frank Adamowicz’s birth certificates were filled out incorrectly, stating they were the third and fourth children in the family and their mother’s seventh and eighth children. However, birth certificates for older siblings clearly show that Adam and Frank’s parents had six children together before the twins were born.

The person filling out the birth certificates (who left Adam’s name off entirely!) apparently mistook the first question as being the number of living children, suggesting four of the Adamowicz children were already deceased by 1921. Records confirm at least two girls died at an early age: Stanslawa (1913–1915) and Helena (1917–1918). Helena’s birth certificate listed her as her parents’ fifth child. There is also a Frank Adamowicz buried at Cathedral cemetery who died on November 14, 1919. I was not able to find birth or death records that listed his parents, but it was not unheard of for parents to give a later child the same first name as a child who died very young. I have found no records at all for the fourth deceased child, who potentially could have been born in Europe, as Mildred was.

Induction Date

Adamowicz’s enlistment data card was lost or could not be successfully digitized. However, according to a statement that his sister wrote for the Delaware Public Archives Commission, Private Adamowicz joined the U.S. Army on November 24, 1942. The Wilmington Morning News reported the date as November 26, 1942, while Young American Patriots stated that he joined the Army on November 27, 1942.

Combat Career

His sister wrote that Private Adamowicz first went into combat in North Africa in April 1943. However, though the Tunisian campaign was underway at that point, the 760th Tank Battalion was not involved in the fighting there. She also wrote that her brother fought in Sicily, though the 760th did not participate in that campaign either.

If Private Adamowicz did fight in North Africa and Sicily, it was with another unit. However, I think it likely that his sister was mistaken about him entering combat in April 1943 or she was confused by the wording on the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission questionnaire, which had a space for “First went into action”—which she may have taken to be asking when her brother arrived in the theater of operations.

As for the mention of his participation in the Sicily campaign, I have frequently seen Sicily mentioned in newspaper articles about men who I knew for certain did not fight there. The simple fact is that because of operational security, families often did not know exactly where their loved ones were beyond the theater of operations the soldier was in. Given the progression in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations: North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, there seems to have been an assumption back home that all units present in the Mediterranean participated in all three campaigns, but that was often not the case.

M4A1 tanks of the 760th Tank Battalion near Tufo, Italy, on May 12, 1944 (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo, courtesy of Pierre-Olivier Buan)

Silcox Crew & Adamowicz Duty

It seems certain that the tank’s driver and gunner were killed based on the tables of organization. Both were corporals. The tables of organization establish that the gunner was to be a corporal and the driver a technician 5th grade, which was equivalent to corporal. That means that Adamowicz had to have been either the assistant driver or loader. Each of those duties was typically performed by a private or a private 1st class.

Krebs wrote that the driver and assistant driver were killed. That would strongly support the notion that Adamowicz was the assistant driver in question. Of course, with the information available, it cannot be entirely ruled out that Adamowicz was serving as loader. Krebs wrote that account years later, so it’s possible he was mistaken. After all, he recalled two men being killed rather than three. The loader was also more likely to become a casualty in the earlier M4 tanks, because he did not have his own escape hatch.


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Pierre-Olivier Buan of the Sherman Minutia website for providing Signal Corps photos of the 760th Tank Battalion in action in Italy. Thanks also go out to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photo of Private Adamowicz.


Bibliography

Cianfarini, Mildred. Adam Stanley Adamowicz Individual Military Service Record, c. 1946. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/17466/rec/1

Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1817–1990. Record Group 21, Records of District Courts of the United States. National Archives at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/61336/images/47292_302022005448_2037-00374

Delaware Birth Certificates. Record Group 1500-008-094, Birth certificates. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-D147-3T6, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-D14Q-BX5

Delaware Death Records. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1674/images/31297_212498-00133

“Fortress Gunner, Soldier Killed; Two Are Injured.” Wilmington Morning News, June 22, 1944. Pg. 1 and 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/90895028/adamowicz-kia-pg-1/, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/90895155/adamowicz-kia-pg-2/

Krebs, John E. To Rome and Beyond: Battle Adventures of Company ‘B’, 760th Tank Battalion Italy 1943 – 1945. Revised ed. Trafford Publishing, 2007.

“Memorial Mass for Soldier.” Wilmington Morning News, June 24, 1944. Pg. 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91973550/adam-adamowicz-memorial/

“Operations in Italy April 1944.” Headquarters 760th Tank Battalion. https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4013coll8/id/3422/rec/1

“Operations in Italy February 1944.” Headquarters 760th Tank Battalion. https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4013coll8/id/3422/rec/1

“Operations in Italy January 1944.” Headquarters 760th Tank Battalion. https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4013coll8/id/3422/rec/1

“Operations in Italy June 1944.” Headquarters 760th Tank Battalion. https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4013coll8/id/3422/rec/1

“Operations in Italy March 1944.” Headquarters 760th Tank Battalion. https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4013coll8/id/3422/rec/1

“Operations in Italy May 1944.” Headquarters 760th Tank Battalion. https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4013coll8/id/3422/rec/1

Packard, Reynolds. “Nazi Tanks Came With White Flags Flying, Then Opened Fire.” The Herald-News, January 10, 1944. Pg. 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91970726/clyde-silcox-adam-adamowicz-tank/

Stanton, Shelby L. World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division 1939–1946. Revised ed. Stackpole Books, 2006.

“Table of Organization and Equipment No. 17-27: Medium Tank Company, Tank Battalion.” War Department, November 18, 1944. Military Research Service website. http://www.militaryresearch.org/17-27%2018Nov44.pdf

“Twin Captains Named by High.” Journal-Every Evening, December 2, 1940. Pg. 16. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/90896110/adamowicz-co-captain/

United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4295770-00786    

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531894_00767

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00552-00058

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940–3/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_05_00001-00268

Young American Patriots: The Youth of Maryland and Delaware in World War II. National Publishers, Inc., 1950. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/8941/images/md_de1-0236

Zaloga, Steven J. US Army Tank Crewman 1941–45: European Theater of Operations, 1944–45. Osprey Publishing, 2004.


Last updated on February 11, 2022

More stories of World War II fallen:

To have new profiles of fallen soldiers delivered to your inbox, please subscribe below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s