Photo One: A classic photo of Majewski by an aircraft many years ago.
Photo Two: Al Majewski holds up a plaque with metals for the campers to see.
By Robin Alberti
On Thursday, July 30, Al Majewski, a retired veteran of the First Marine Air Wing, came to the Boys and Girls Club in Rutland. Reed Wilcox, a Killington local and volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club, escorted Majewski, who is almost 90 years old, so that he could share his experiences as a Marine serving our country during WWII. The campers were enthralled with the stories he told and the photos that he shared with them.
Majewski, originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., enlisted in the service in 1944 at the age of 18. He walked into a recruiting office in New York City, where two tables were set up, one for the Army, and the other for the Navy. When asked which branch he wanted to join, he said neither, he wanted to be a Marine. So Majewski was sent to another office, where only 10-12 other men were waiting to speak with recruiters.
During wartime, a typical soldier signed up for the minimum requirement of six months of service, but he chose to enlist for four years. Two weeks later, Majewski was off to boot camp in Paris Island, N.C. Then his training continued at Cherry Point, N.C., after which he was sent to San Diego, Calif., for the next phase of his military schooling. Soldiers had to go through 13 steps of physical training before they were allowed to be deployed for combat, Majewski explained making a point to tell the campers that, “No matter what you do, you need an education.”
After his training was complete, Majewski took “the slow boat to China,” a 26-day trip across the Ocean to Tientsin, in northern China. Once he arrived, he was reassigned to an aircraft carrier. The soldiers of the First Marine Air Wing, were known as the “Flying Leathernecks” due to their uniforms, which included a collar made of leather. The planes they flew were F-7 Bear Cats. During deployment, they referred to the planes as “Tiger Cats.” While awaiting orders they referred to the planes as “Kitty Cats,” he shared.
The mission of the Flying Leathernecks was to come through in their planes with their machine guns and bombs, to pave the way for Americans troops on the ground. These recognizance missions made it safer for the soldiers to enter an area, so the Japanese did not have as much of an advantage.
At the end of his presentation, the kids had the opportunity to ask Majewski questions about his time in the military. Some kids were curious about the food that the soldiers ate (usually a good breakfast of eggs and bacon then lots of food out of cans while on their missions). His one complaint about the food was that there was no cream for coffee, so the soldiers had to melt ice cream as a substitute.
Campers were also curious about what weapons were used. The planes were equipped with machine guns and bombs, he said, some of which exploded on contact with the ground, other were “hesitation bombs” that had a delayed explosion, so that the enemy would think there was no danger, and then be surprised when they went off.
One of the campers, asked if Majewski made friends while in the military. He replied, “You trained with 72 men during boot camp, and I did get to know some of them as friends, but once you are deployed you loose contact. Whoever you worked with at the time became your friend, but it is hard to keep in touch after you were reassigned.”
Due to the passage of time, here are very few men and women still alive who served our country from that era, so this is the last generation of kids who will be able to hear the experiences of WWII directly from the source. The Boys and Girls club sincerely thanked Majewski for his service and for sharing his stories with the summer campers.