134th Infantry Regiment Website
"All Hell Can't Stop Us"
Franciszek Dudek was a Polish national who fought with the 134th Infantry Regiment during WWII. He was taken from Poland by the Nazis to work as a slave laborer but eventually escaped to the 134th Infantry when they were in the Elbe River region during April 1945. Born in Paris to Polish parents in 1926, he was 10 years old when his family returned to Krakow and 13 years old when Hitler invaded Poland. He was arrested in 1943 by German soldiers looking for young men to work in the German armament industry.
He was transported to Germany along with other Poles to become a slave laborer at the Rhinemetall Borsig factory in Interluss, northeast of Hanover. He worked very hard, endured difficult conditions, starvation, and fear of death. In 1945 the Nazis sped up munitions production. Allied bombing of the area made this difficult, so the entire workforce was relocated eastward toward Berlin. At the beginning of April 1945, Dudek realized the Allies were nearby so he escaped from a transport and was taken in by the 134th Infantry Regiment near the Elbe River.
According to his son Jack, his father won the trust of the American army command and participated in regimental activities for the remainder of the war. He moved with Cannon Company to the Hannover area, became part of the military police (MP) and participated in the Koblenz Santa Fe Stadium festivities in July 1945. In recognition of his service to the 134th Infantry Regiment, the commanding officer of Cannon Company issued the following letter:
|July 10, 1945
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
Franciszek Dudek, age 19 years, whose home is UL Wyspianskiego No. 78, Krakow Gorka Norodowa, Poland, has rendered outstanding combat services to the United States Army from 1st April 1945 until 10th July 1945. His services have proven invaluable to the Cannon Company, 134th Infantry, and the Allied Armies as a whole. Any aid or services that can be extended this boy will only partially repay for the good work he has rendered. This Company would appreciate any assistance that can be given this boy who is on his way home to Poland.
Peter C Mc Bean
1st Lt., 134th Inf.
Comdg, Cannon Co.
Later that month he was assigned to Headquarters, 341st Quartermaster Depot. He had lost contact with his parents who he loved and missed very much, so he decided to leave his Army friends and return home. Poland had become part of the communist block. The Russians were very suspicious of anyone with ties to western countries, including the USA, making travel difficult. He made his way back to Krakow, Poland by the end of April 1946.
Once home he decided to further his education, enrolled in a local college and earned a degree in accountancy. Most of his career was with a major steel supplier in Nowa Huta, a satellite city of Krakow. There he met new colleagues who, like him, had been forcibly taken to Germany. His son vividly remembers how he talked with great sentiment about his time in military service during the war and how he missed his old friends. He was proud of his association with the American Army. He never fully recovered from the trauma he experienced during the war, suffering from depression and physical difficulties. In the 1970's he joined an ex-servicemen's association in Poland to which he was devoted, meeting friends with similar experiences, participating in funerals and annual parades. He was awarded the honorary rank of 2nd Lieutenant on October 21, 2003 by the President of the Polish Republic.
Franciszek Dudek passed away in May 2012. He was 86 years old. His son Jack emigrated to Australia in 1980 and lives in Sydney with his wife Anna and their son Matthew.
Thanks to Jack Dudek for these pictures and the information about his father.