Technician 5th Grade Steven Oboryshko (c. 1920–1944)

Steven Oboryshko, presumably on furlough in Wilmington prior to going overseas (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
Home StateCivilian Occupation
DelawarePennsylvania Railroad brakeman
BranchService Number
U.S. Army32367640
TheaterUnit
EuropeanCompany “E,” 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Purple HeartNormandy

Early Life & Family

Steven Oboryshko was born in Wilmington, Delaware, likely on September 22, 1920. He was the son of John Oboryshko (Jan Oboriszko in some records, 1893–1971) and Anna Oboryshko (née Muciak, Maciak, or Mocak, 1898–1947). His parents, ethnic Ukrainians, had been born in what was then known as Galicia, Austria-Hungary. According to John Oboryshko’s naturalization paperwork, he was born in Lacko (today Łącko, Poland) and his wife in Dobromil (now Dobrómyl’, Ukraine). Both immigrated to the United States shortly before World War I and married in Wilmington on June 10, 1916. Various records recorded John Oboryshko working as a laborer, then as a helper in a machine shop, and finally as a machinist for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Steven Oboryshko had two older brothers, two younger brothers, and five younger sisters. The Oboryshko family was recorded on the census on April 3, 1930, living at 1025 Church Street in Wilmington. Oboryshko was recorded again on the census on April 24, 1940, living with his family at 515 East 8th Street in Wilmington. It appears he was unemployed at the time, with his last job being as a laborer in soil conservation for the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.).

When Oboryshko registered for the draft on February 16, 1942, he was still living at 515 East 8th Street but was now working as a freight brakeman for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The registrar described him as standing about five feet, 8½ inches tall and weighing 173 lbs., with brown hair and eyes. An alteration to the draft card indicated that he moved to 501 West 4th Street in Wilmington prior to entering the service.

By the time of the 1940 census, he had completed one year of high school. The Wilmington Morning News reported that Oboryshko “was graduated from the Bancroft School and Brown Vocational High School.” His enlistment data card stated he completed one year of college. He was Catholic according to his military paperwork. Two of his brothers served in the U.S. Army and one in the U.S. Navy during World War II.


Military Training

After he was drafted, Oboryshko was inducted into the U.S. Army at Camden, New Jersey, on October 22, 1942. According to his father’s statement to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, Oboryshko went on active duty on November 6, 1942, at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He wrote that his son was originally assigned to Company “K,” 389th Infantry Regiment, 98th Infantry Division at Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky. Had Oboryshko remained with that division, he would have ended up stationed in Hawaii. The 98th Infantry Division did not see combat during the war.

Oboryshko’s father wrote that his son was stationed at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, from September 1943 through January 1944, when he was reassigned to Company “E” of the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion in England. (Journal-Every Evening reported that Oboryshko went overseas in March 1944.) John Oboryshko added that his son was promoted to technician 5th grade in February 1944.

The 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion was activated at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, on September 1, 1943. (It seems to be a remarkable coincidence that Oboryshko was also at Camp Forrest at that time. Though it is plausible that he joined the Rangers sooner than his father and the newspaper indicated, there is no hard evidence to support it.) The Rangers went to amphibious training at Fort Pierce, Florida, in November 1943. Later that month, the battalion transferred to Fort Dix, New Jersey. On December 20, 1943, the unit transferred to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, a staging area for the New York Port of Embarkation. On January 8, 1944, the unit shipped out aboard the ocean-liner turned troop transport R.M.S. Mauretania, arriving in Liverpool, England, ten days later. The unit resumed its training at Leominster, England for the upcoming Normandy invasion (Operation Overlord). The Rangers trained in Scotland during May 1944 and then moved to the Assault Training Center in Braunton, England, in early April. After participating in the Fabius exercises during late April and early May 1944, the Rangers spent several weeks training to climb cliffs.


Combat in Normandy

On June 1, 1944, the 5th Ranger Battalion embarked at Weymouth aboard two British ships, H.M.S. Prince Leopold and H.M.S. Prince Baudouin. Before dawn on June 6, 1944, Technician 5th Grade Oboryshko and his comrades from Company “E” boarded L.C.A.s (Landing Craft, Assault). The 5th Rangers would perform one of two missions on D-Day. They would reinforce the landings at the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc (the famous assault by Companies “D,” “E,” and “F” of the 2nd Ranger Infantry Battalion) if signaled to do so by radio or flare no later than 0700 hours. In the event, the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc were fighting for their lives and unable to get any signal out.  

The contingency plan was for half of the Headquarters 5th Rangers along with Companies “A,” “B,” and “E” to land at sector Dog Green at Omaha Beach, though they ended up landing at Dog White instead (around 0745 to 0750 hours depending on the source). In the battalion after action report, Captain Hugo W. Heffelfinger explained: 

The L. C. A. ‘s slowly threaded their way through gaps in the lines of obstacles and at H+75, 0745, the first wave consisting of one half Battalion Headquarters, Companies A, B, and E, landed on Omaha Dog White Beach at a point approximately 800 yards East of Exit D-1 [Vierville draw].  The Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Max F. Schneider, had ordered the flotilla commander to touch down his craft east of the intended landing point, Dog Green, because the tremendous volume of fire which covered that portion of the beach was inflicting a large number of casualties on the preceeding [sic] wave. 

The first wave [of Rangers] crossed the beach in good order with few casualties, halted temporarily in reach of the sea wall, and immediately reorganized. 

Lieutenant Colonel Schneider’s astute assessment of the battlefield saved many lives. In his book, Sand & Steel: The D-Day Invasions and the Liberation of France, Peter Caddick-Adams wrote about the 5th Rangers’ landing point: 

This was opposite the demolished villas at Le Hamel-au-Prêtre, and between two strongpoints, WN70 and WN68, something of a blind spot in the defenses and less well defended. Consequently both Company ‘C’ [of the 116th Infantry Regiment] and the Rangers reached the sea wall with far fewer casualties, the defenders’ attention being focused on the draws. 

Shortly afterward, a famous exchange took place on the beach between Lieutenant Colonel Schneider and Brigadier General Norman Cota, assistant division commander of the 29th Infantry Division, which concluded with Cota’s order: “Rangers, lead the way!” 

This photo was taken on Omaha Beach in Normandy as a machine gun team covers men building a road, suggesting it was taken soon after D-Day. The original caption does not identify the unit, but helmet markings clearly identify at least three men as members of the 2nd Ranger Infantry Battalion, sister unit to Technician 5th Grade Steven Oboryshko’s 5th Rangers (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo 111-SC-320894, National Archives)

The next wave brought in the rest of Headquarters 5th Rangers, Companies “C” and “D,” and one platoon from Company “F.” The Rangers and 1st Battalion of the 116th Infantry Regiment went over the seawall, penetrated enemy barbed wire, passed through a minefield, and advanced up the hill, neutralizing German positions along the way. 

Captain Heffelfinger continued: 

Company B advanced toward Vierville-sur-Mer receiving heavy sniper and machine gun fire.  Several direct hits from enemy artillery on the rear of the battalion column caused numerous casualties.  Company E attempted a penetration to the South but was halted by intense machine gun fire.  An 81 mm mortar concentration fired by Company C knocked out several of these positions but they were rapidly replaced and the advance remained halted. 

The weight of the attack was shifted toward Vierville-sur-Mer and, after overcoming considerable sniper resistance, the battalion advanced through the village to its western outskirts where it was again held up by a large volume of concerted machine gun and sniper fire. […] Dusk was falling and the battalion was ordered to dig-in a perimeter defense for the night. […] The results for the first day were about 100 prisoners taken, 150 enemy dead, and approximately 60 Rangers killed and wounded. 

Units inside the perimeter consisted of the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion, elements of 1st Battalion of the 116th Infantry Regiment, three companies from the 2nd Ranger Infantry Battalion, and some tanks from the 743rd Tank Battalion. 

The 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion journal reported that on D+1, June 7, 1944, Companies “B,” “E,” along with elements of Companies “A” and “F” and supported by four tanks “left to clear Vierville and area south” while the rest of the 5th Rangers moved to assist the 2nd Rangers at Pointe du Hoc. Curiously, the account of the day’s events in the battalion after action report does not mention Company “E” for most of the day: 

Company B resumed the attack to the southwest from the western edge of Vierville-sur-Mer at 0630.  This unit was not able to advance far but did knock out several machine gun nests and numerous snipers. 

The remaining platoon of Company A and the remaining platoon of Company F supported by four tanks of the 743rd Tank Battalion attacked South from the town wiping out snipers, machine gun nests, and several enemy combat patrols.  Approximately 25 of the enemy were killed and 85 were captured. 

During the night snipers had infiltrated back into the town so Company E cleaned out the town again. 

There are no known specifics about how Technician 5th Grade Oboryshko met his death, beyond that he was killed in action. No cause of death was listed in either his hospital admission card (which were filled out for all casualties, not just those who survived to reach medical care) nor in the burial report.  

Curiously, records are inconsistent about Oboryshko’s date of death. The burial report (filled out on June 17, 1944) gave his date of death as June 6, 1944. It is unclear if the officer filling that report out had any specific information establishing that or simply assumed that the death occurred on the bloody first day of the invasion. On the other hand, the Adjutant General’s Office death report gave his date of death as June 7, 1944, the day he was reported missing in action. The battalion journal listed known casualties as of midnight on D-Day and D+1, but Oboryshko was not mentioned. It is unclear if June 7, 1944, was the day he was killed or whether that was just the day that recordkeeping caught up in the chaotic aftermath of the invasion. However, it appears clear that he was killed in the vicinity of Vierville-sur-Mer. 

Technician 5th Grade Oboryshko was initially buried on June 13, 1944, at the U.S. Military Cemetery St. Laurent, France. Journal-Every Evening reported that the War Department informed Technician 5th Grade Oboryshko’s parents that their son was missing in action by telegram on June 25, 1944. The following day, a letter arrived “dated May 25, and postmarked somewhere in England.  In the letter he asked his family not to worry about him and also requested some candy to be sent to him.” The paper confirmed Oboryshko’s death on August 1, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. 

After the war, on June 13, 1947, Anna Oboryshko requested that her son’s body be repatriated to the United States. Unfortunately, she died two months later on August 17, 1947, before her wishes were carried out. Technician 5th Grade Oboryshko’s body was disinterred on October 6, 1947, and returned to the New York Port of Embarkation aboard the U.S.A.T. Robert F. Burns

The Wilmington Morning News reported that on December 14, 1947, “Services were held in the McCrery Funeral Home and in St. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Church with members of the American Legion serving as the guard of honor.” Oboryshko was buried at Gracelawn Memorial Park in New Castle, where his mother had been buried several months earlier. He is also honored at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle and on the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. 


Notes

Date of Birth 

Oboryshko’s draft card and various military records listed his date of birth as September 22, 1920. Curiously, a pair of headstone application forms filled out by his father listed September 21, 1921, and September 21, 1922. It has been common during my research to find discrepancies in various documents about a soldier’s year of birth (even in documents submitted by a soldier’s parents!), although discrepancies in the actual birthdate are rare. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate a copy of his birth certificate or a Wilmington birth register entry for him which may have settled the matter. 

Names 

There are numerous variations in the family name in various records: Oboresko, Oboriszko, Obrisky, Eborishko, and Oborishko. Oboryshko’s mother’s maiden name was variously recorded as Muciak, Maciak, or Mocak. 

Religion 

Oboryshko’s parents were apparently Eastern Orthodox, given that they had his memorial service at Saints Peter & Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Oboryshko listed Catholic as his religious preference. However, at the time, soldiers were limited to four preferences: Catholic, Protestant, Hebrew, or no preference. It is unclear if Oboryshko considered himself Catholic or simply selected it as the closest choice. His nephew, however, noted that several of Oboryshko’s siblings were Catholic, so he may indeed have been as well. 

Hospital Admission Card 

Curiously, there is a hospital admission card under Oboryshko’s service number for a 25-year-old infantryman wounded on Sicily in July 1943 by a bullet wound to the neck. Based on newspaper articles and his father’s statement, this could not be Oboryshko, who was not overseas yet. It is possible that the wrong service number was entered when the card was originally made, or an error introduced when the card was digitized decades later. Duplicate service numbers are not unheard of, although if there was another man issued the same number, his enlistment data card was lost or could not be digitized. 


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photo. 


Bibliography

Applications for Headstones, compiled 1/1/1925–6/30/1970, documenting the period c. 1776–1970. Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2375/images/40050_2421402106_0406-01299  

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Caddick-Adams, Peter. Sand & Steel: The D-Day Invasions and the Liberation of France. Oxford University Press, 2019. 

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Last updated on June 7, 2022

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