The beautiful photograph shown above is of Paul J. Mittak, taken at his beloved cousin’s grave on Memorial Day 2007, at the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France. His son, Paul, very graciously shared the picture, because of a previous posting of mine in February about Private Paul Mitak. First, I am very thankful to Private Paul Mitak for the supreme sacrifice of giving his life to defend freedom during World War Two. He died on his 30th birthday while fighting Nazi Germany. He was my aunt Stefie’s first husband, and she always kept his memory alive by talking about him, and also keeping his photo displayed in her home her entire life. Second, I’m so thankful that Paul J. Mittak’s son, Paul, contacted me to share their story of a remarkable young man – his father’s cousin – killed in action while serving with the U.S. Army, 331st Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division, Company A, in St. Malo, Brittany, France. Paul J. Mittak named his son in memory of this beloved cousin.
Paul tells of his father’s experience after locating the grave in France of his cousin, Private Paul Mitak, and visiting the cemetery:
It meant so much to him to finally make it. My dad remarked how tranquil and beautiful the cemetery was. For Memorial Day everything in the town and surrounding area was closed. There was a ceremony at the town hall where dad said there were scores of people, veterans, surviving family members of the fallen, and the French people, old and young. As you can see in the picture every grave marker has an United States flag and a French flag. My parents left a spray of flowers at Paul’s grave.” ~ Paul Mittak
Private Paul Mitak entered into the Army from New York on 1 December 1943, and was inducted on the 22nd of December. He landed in England in June of 1944, was sent to France, and was killed while fighting for the liberation of France.
At that time of his death on 21 August 1944, Private Paul Mitak’s address was 41 Rose Street, Manhattan, New York, where his wife, Stefania Mosch Mitak, and his parents, George and Catherine Slezak Mitak, all lived. This neighborhood is near the Brooklyn Bridge and the South Street Seaport. His wife, Stefie, had grown up only a five minute walk away, at 18 Dover Street. They were married in Manhattan when she was 19 and Paul was 21. In the 1940 Federal Census they lived next door to her parents, Rudy & Susanna Puszti Mosch (source: http://www.ancestry.com).
Here is some more information shared by Paul Mittak about his cousin Private Paul Mitak: “Service classification: MOS 745 Rifleman, MOS = Military Occupational Specialty. A MOS 745 is a rifleman, Platoon Guide and or Assistant Squad Leader. He reported on July 22,1944 to this group, 2.5 miles south of Saintony, France.”
Here is the Report of Burial from 22 August 1944, from the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) for Private Paul Mitak. This shows the temporary burial site. After the war was over the families of those killed in action, and buried overseas, were contacted, and given the choice to have their loved ones re-interred in one of the overseas military cemeteries next to their comrades , or sent back home to be buried in the United States.
I ordered the IDPF for Private Paul Mitak on 17 June 2010 and received 63 pages back a few months later, in November. Maybe the turn-around for the records is faster now. I requested the casualty file under the Freedom of Information Act, and included all of the information that I had, including the Army Serial Number. The address that I sent to was:
U.S. Army Human Resources Command, Public Affairs Office (FOIA), Department of the Army, 200 Stovall St., Alexandria, VA 22331-0400.
There are also some military records available at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Many records were burned in a fire there on 12 July 1973, but it is also a good idea to send for information there, especially if you were next of kin. At their website (click on the highlighted words above) some records can now be searched on-line.
Here below is the report of causalities during WWII from the 83rd Infantry, where Private Paul Mitak is listed as KIA. I’ve included the webpage address, and also the image:
From the 83rd Infantry Division Documents, page 7 of 44, Line 371
Killed In Action: Mitak, Paul NMI; Pvt; 42057714; Company A; Campaign – N. France.
Having been to the Brittany American Cemetery in France to honor my uncle John Doran’s memory, I can attest to how helpful the staff is to help family. Before my trip with a tour group, I contacted their office, requesting information on how I could get to the cemetery from my bus group at Mont-St-Michel. The assistant superintendent at the cemetery gave me his cell phone number and said he would pick me up and take me to the nearby cemetery. True to his word, did just that, and drove me back afterward. The staff at the American Battle Monuments Commission at the American Military Cemeteries can also help you to order floral decorations for your loved ones buried overseas. Both my brother and I have done that for our uncle and the staff sends a lovely photo of the grave site with the flowers displayed in front.
Below is a map of the Brittany American Cemetery supplied by the Commission. The cemetery covers 28 acres near the eastern edge of Brittany. Here rest 4,410 who gave their lives in the service of their country.
I am so thankful that two threads of family narrative, from two different families, converged when Paul Mittak left a comment on my previous blog posting about his father’s first cousin, Private Paul Mitak. If I’ve confused anyone with this information (three men all named Paul can get confusing), or if you have a question, please jot down a comment, and my sister, or I, will try to answer it to the best of our ability.
Thankful Thursday is a prompt suggested by GeneaBlogger to give gratitude to someone connected to your family history that has had a positive impact on your life.