Focus on History: Many casualties in the battle for Saipan

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The 27th Division of the New York National Guard suffered heavy losses during the World War II battle for the Pacific island of Saipan in the Northern Marianas where the Japanese were determined to fight to the last man.

Most of the men in the 105th and 106th regiments of the 27th Division were from upstate New York including soldiers from Montgomery, Fulton and nearby counties. Chris Carola, a former Albany-based Associated Press reporter, wrote a recent article on Saipan for the Saratoga County History Roundtable.

Americans landed on the island June 15, 1944, 77 years ago. Carola wrote, “By July 6, the 27th Division and the Marines had driven the few thousand remaining Japanese defenders to the island’s northern end. Around 4:45 a.m. on July 7, the enemy launched their final banzai attack on positions held by the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 105th Regiment.

“(The attack) ended when survivors of the onslaught, their backs against the sea, received reinforcement from nearby units. In all, the two battalions of the 105th Regiment lost 406 men killed and 512 wounded. Afterward, the 27th Division counted the bodies of more than 4,300 Japanese attackers, including nearly 3,000 killed by the 105th Regiment.”

The island was secured on July 9.

The late Robert Going, in his book “Honor Roll: The World War II Dead of Amsterdam, NY,” profiled several Amsterdam residents who were killed on Saipan.

Captain Clinton F. Smith of 5 First Ave. in Amsterdam commanded a company that took the full brunt of the banzai attack. Going wrote that after he was wounded, Capt. Smith “refused to endanger his men who wanted to come to his aid and he chose to die where he fell.” Born in 1911, he worked for Bigelow Sanford carpets. He was married to the former Winifred Hora and left a son and daughter. His mother was Mrs. John McClumpha and his father was Frank Smith.

Sergeant Michael Makarowsky of 45 Grand St., a Ukrainian folk dancer, took command of his platoon after their lieutenant was killed. Makarowsky earned a Silver Star June 21 for rescuing a wounded man. He was killed on Saipan but the date was not listed. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. John Makarowsky. He had two brothers and a sister.

Sergeant Edward R. Golenbiewski lived at 2 Wren St. in Amsterdam. He left high school after two years to join the National Guard. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. Bronislaw Golenbiewski. He had two brothers and a sister.

Staff Sergeant Peter J. Sanzen of 216 Florida Ave. was 26 when he died on Saipan. This phrase was under his high school yearbook picture in 1936, “Nothing is impossible to the willing heart.”  He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Sanzen and was survived by a sister and two brothers.

Private First Class Paul P. Sierota lived outside Amsterdam and had worked at Mohawk Carpet Mills. Born in Brooklyn in 1919 he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Sierota and had four sisters.

Private First Class Daniel F. Slusarz of 46 Milton Ave. had transferred from the National Guard to an antitank company before he was killed on Saipan. Born in 1918 in Utica, he was the son of John and Stella Kopac Slusarz and had two brothers, a sister and two stepsisters. Donald Slusarz of Montgomery County was listed as a casualty on Saipan. It’s not known if Donald was the same person as Daniel Slusarz.

Carola wrote that Montgomery County soldier Freddy Sorokoski and Fulton County soldier Samuel Passero also were killed on Saipan.

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