About the time Corpsman Eddie Hrycaj landed on Guadalcanal in 1943 with the 101st Medical Regiment that took charge of the 52nd Field Hospital attached to the Army’s Americal Division the tide of war was starting to turn against the emperor’s troops.
The Battle of Midway had come and gone and with it four of the Japanese frontline aircraft carriers were sunk. On June 4, 1942 Harvard educated Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, commanded the giant Japanese fleet at Midway, too, and attacked Adm. Raymond Spruance’s much smaller American fleet.
Midway was a decisive American victory. It was the first time in World War II the Japanese Imperial fleet had been defeated by U.S. forces. The same would be true at Guadalcanal in August 1042. It took the Americans six months to kill or capture the Japanese Imperial Marines on the island. It was the first substantial American land victory against the Japanese during the war.
When Hrycaj came ashore as the 1st Marine Division was pulling out his hospital unit was attached to the Americal Division who replaced the Marines. There were still plenty of enemy soldiers alive in the island’s jungle full of fight.
“The Japanese would be up in the trees shooting at us,” the 95-year-old former soldier said. “I was working as a corpsman one evening treating the patients when a Japanese soldier slipped into the hospital tent and tried to stab me in the back. Another corpsman subdued him. He ended up in the stockade next to our hospital.”
Hrycaj’s biggest battle wasn’t with the Japanese it was with mosquitoes.
“During the two years I was on the island I caught malaria and yellow jaundice from mosquitoes,” he said. “Much of the time I was sick and had to take quinine to keep from turning yellow.”
When the war ended Hrycaj was still on Guadalcanal treating patients. He took a troop transport back to California, a slow train across the country to New Jersey where he spent time in a VA hospital in Atlantic City before being discharged.
“I went back to work in my dad’s lumber yard in Falls River, Mass right after the war,” he said. “I worked there for a while until I got a job with the post office in Providence, R.I. where I worked for 30 years until I retired in 1960.
He and his late wife, Geneva, moved to Englewood 27 years ago. The couple has two sons: Nicholas and David.
Name: Edward Hrycaj
D.O.B: 21 Dec. 1917
Hometown: Falls River, Mass.
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 25 March 1941
Rank: Tech Sgt.
Unit: 101st Medical Regiment attached to 52nd Field Hospital at Guadalcanal
Commendations: Presidential Unit Citation for service with the Americal Division
Battles/Campaigns: Battle of Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, May 23, 2013 and is republished with permission.
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21 December 1917 – 15 July 2014
Edward Hrycaj, 96, of Englewood, Fla., died on July 15, 2014. Funeral arrangements by Lemon Bay Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Engelwood.
Sarasota Herald Tribune – Friday, July 18, 2014