SSG JOE MYJAK
Updated: Sep 17
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This is a short article I wrote back in 2014, right after I came home from visiting Normandy, for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. I’ve been a military history buff since I was a child, always dreaming of exploring the white chalk cliffs and chaotic beachheads of D-Day. By the way, if anyone is interested in WWII, please read the book D-Day by Antony Beevor. I purchased it before I flew to Paris and it is excellent. In fact, my guide at Normandy was English, and attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst with Mr. Beevor.
I actually spent a month in Europe between May and June 2014, before heading back to Paris to meet up for the tour. It was a phenomenal experience, allowing me to experience Gold, Omaha, Utah, Juno and Sword beaches, along with Pegasus Bridge and three cemeteries. There was a gigantic ceremony at the American cemetery at Normandy, but we also visited the Commonwealth War Graves in Bayeux and the German cemetery at LaCambe. One of the stops on the tour was the town of Saint-Mere Eglise, made famous by the HBO show Band of Brothers. While I was touring the Airborne Museum (dedicated to the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions) at Saint Mere-Eglise, I had the opportunity and good fortune to meet SSG Joe Myjak, an Army Ranger who served in WWII.
Joe was eighty nine at the time, and he was the last surviving member of the Army’s 2nd Ranger Bn, who assaulted the cliffs at Pointe Du Hoc, in the early morning of D-Day, June 6, 1944. Pointe du Hoc was a promontory approximately four miles west of Omaha Beach, above a small rocky beach with no cover, where German forces had set up six powerful 155mm guns that were capable of firing twelve miles each. These Rangers were tasked with silencing the German guns, to prevent deadly shelling on the landing Allied forces on Omaha and Utah beaches. The Rangers were led by Lt. Col. James Rudder, and consisted of 225 dedicated Rangers, who would ascend the 85-100 foot cliffs via rope fire ladders, while the area was defended by the German 914th Grenadier Regiment. Pointe du Hoc was bombarded by naval gunfire and aerial bombing by Allied Forces, before the Rangers reached the beach at approximately 7:10am.
SSG Myjak told me that the Germans had set up four machine gun positions firing down onto the Rangers, as they hung precariously from the rope ladders, and valiantly tried to reach the high ground where they could better engage the enemy. The Germans also rolled grenades down the cliff at the ladders, and laughed, mocking the Rangers as they were defenseless. The Rangers persevered though and did manage to reach Pointe du Hoc. When the Rangers got to the top, they found the Germans had moved the guns about one mile back, in an attempt to prevent their destruction. SSG Myjak stated that the Rangers were able to find the guns relatively quickly, through the assistance of French locals.
They demolished five of the guns with thermite grenades, while one was dismantled for repairs. While 225 Army Rangers made the assault, 135 Rangers were wounded/killed in action/missing. Sadly, Joe passed away the next January, in 2015.
Here is Joe’s obituary:
MYJAK, JOSEPH J. Joseph J. Myjak, 91, of Hamden died January 24, 2015. Joe was born in New Haven March 28, 1923 a son of the late Antonio and Agnes Mazuk Myjak and was a WWII Veteran serving honorably in the United States Army and fought on D-Day and The Battle of the Bulge. After the war Joe worked at Mossberg & Sons and the S.L. Myjak Company as a sheet metal fabricator. He married the love of his life, Helen Zapatka Myjak on December 28, 1946 and they enjoyed 68 beautiful years together. Joe was an active member of the New Haven American Legion Post 162 where he served as Commander, a veteran’s advocate for the West Haven Veteran’s Hospital and more recently he spoke to students at Quinnipiac University and Yale University as well as local high schools and junior high schools about his love for his Country. He took trips in 2009 and 2014 to the Normandy D-Day Celebration. Joe loved going to weekly dances with his wife, watching his great-grandson and great-granddaughter play hockey and was a strong supporter of both the UCONN Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams as well as Syracuse Orange Basketball. He loved to converse with family and friends on a daily basis. Joe is known for his loyalty, support, love and dedication and will be greatly missed by everyone. Father of Laura Myjak and Sondra (late Robert) White. Brother of Stanley and Frank Myjak. Grandfather of Robert (Kristin) White, Joseph (Jill) DeMartino, Michael DeMartino and Lindsey (Chris) Bashta. Great-grandfather of Robby and Emily White, Ryan Bashta and Michael DeMartino. He was predeceased by 10 brothers and sisters. Funeral from the LUPINSKI FUNERAL HOME, INC., 821 State Street Friday morning at 11:30. Mass of Christian Burial in St. Stanislaus Church at noon. Burial with Military Honors will follow in the State Veterans’ Cemetery in Middletown. Visiting hours will be THURSDAY from 5-7pm. Kindly omit flowers and make memorial contributions to the Wounded Warrior Project P.O. Box 758517 Topeka, Kansas 66675.