It’s a rare occasion when I’m able to write about a WWII veteran from my hometown of Southbridge, Massachusetts. PortraitsofWar (this blog) was started in response to the passing of my grandfather; my interest and dedication to WWII history was fostered during my childhood, when my grandfather would regale me with tales of his experiences as an assistant driver in an M4A3 Sherman Tank as a tanker in the 777th Tank Battalion/69th Infantry Division during WWII. Without his inspiration, this website would’ve never been created.
This specific post is a long-awaited writeup related to a grouping I purchased last year. While cruising though an eBay listing, I noticed a last name in a auction heading that caught my eye – Walter Ciesla WWII ID Bracelet and Patches.
Growing up in Southbridge, Massachusetts, I knew a few Ciesalas from my middle school. I decided to click on the auction link and was amazed to see the ID bracelet’s inscription: WALTER CIESLA – SOUTHBRIDGE MASS.
Upon purchasing the group of items, which included the identification bracelet, a distinguished flying cross medal, an air medal as well as a set of 8th AAF patches, I quickly began researching the grouping. Given the fact that he was from my hometown, I began my research by tracking down his local address. At the time of his enlistment, Walter resided at 34 Plimpton Street, Southbridge, MA:
How close did we live apart? According to Google Earth, we grew up (60 years apart) 0.28 miles from each other. Walter and I likely hiked the same wooded trails and drove the same way to church and school. Not much has changed since 1940 in terms of roads, schools and churches.
Walter was shot down on mission over Yugoslavia in November of 1944 but somehow found a way to evade German observation in the area. He was wearing the ID bracelet at the time (these were always worn during flights to ensure body identification in case of crashing) and was able to eventually escape to freedom. The stories of his escape are likely lost to history, but we can always hope that a family member from Southbridge will stumble across this humble website and contribute some information to flesh out the story. It’s happened in the past with similar stories……………. I’m hoping it happens here………….
Walter J. Ciesla was born on August 22nd, 1922 to Joseph and Anna Ciesla (Zabek) in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
Walter enlisted and was selected as a member of a B-24 bomber crew. As a member of the Mason Crew of the 718th Bombardment Squadron, 449th Bomb Group, Walter Ciesla was shot down on November 8th, 1944 and evaded capture by the Germans. His crew members at the time were Verne J. Pinix, Gordon B. Tolman, Richard J. Slade, George P. Mason (pilot), William J. Williams and Michael J. Nosal.
Walter Ciesla was shot down in
As with all living things, we all come to a point in which we outlive our earthly existance. Walter J. Ciesla passed away on January 19th, 2000 and was listed in the DESEASED MEMBERS section of the 449th bulletin. Please see below: