First Posted: 5/7/2013
As a Bronze Star recipient and member of the American Legion Post 904 for the past 50 years, George C. Yurek was a clear choice to serve as this year’s Grand Marshal of the Wyoming/West Wyoming Memorial Day Parade.
“George is dedicated to his family and his brothers in arms,” said parade organizer Richard Yarosavich. The 91-year-old Yurek is a lifelong resident of West Wyoming.
Yurek was inducted into the U.S. Army on Dec. 15, 1942, at a time when he was working as an apprentice patternmaker at the Wyoming Brass and Machine Works on Sixth Street for 35 cents an hour.
He was sent to Camp Lee, VA for auto mechanic school becaue there was a great need for mechanics. Eventually, with his training and mechanical background, he ended up at Camp Beuregard, LA where he was assigned to a bomb disposal unit.
The 174th Bomb Disposal Squad was activated on March 20, 1944 and Technical Sergeant Yurek and his squad were deployed to New Guinea to clear a Japanese bomb dump. Over the next year, Yurek’s squad cleared bombs on numerous islands in the Pacific Theater.
In February 1945, the 174th Bomb Squad was part of an amphibious landing on the beach of Corregidor Island. Yurek’s unit received a citation for its heroic work during that battle because members “distinguished themselves by extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy.”
The 174th was part of a force that seized the enemy-held island fortress in one of the most difficult battles of the Pacific War. The Japanese were strongly entrenched in tunnels and caves armed with mines.
During the battle, 4,509 Japanese soldiers were killed and only 19 prisoners surrendered. Yurek’s unit was credited with saving many lives by disarming mines and bombs.
“I still remember General MacArthur wading to shore on Corregidor with his corn cob pipe,” recalled Yurek.
Yurek was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in November 1945 for showing “great heroism in action against the enemy at Luzon, Corregidor Island and the Philippine Islands.” Although untrained in mine removal, he assisted his commanding officer in disarming the mines.
Due to the large number of bombs, Yurek volunteered for dangerous duty to deactivate them, even removing the fuses by hand. He was credited with deactivating over 100 enemy mines in the initial stages of the operation on Corregidor Island.
Yurek’s unit was slated to invade Japan when President Harry Truman ended the war and the Japanese surrendered.
During his service in the Pacific Theater, Yurek was awarded four Bronze Battle Stars, a Bronze Arrowhead, Good Conduct Medal and ribbons for American Defense, Asiatic Pacific Campaign, Philippine Liberation, Victory and a Presidential Citation Badge.
He was honorably discharged in January 194, returned to West Wyoming and married Elinor Kadar the following April.
He went back to work as a patternmaker at United Foundry and worked there for 62 years, rising to the position of plant manager and vice president before he retired.
George and Ellie had been married for 67 years when she passed away earlier this year. They had three children, Greg, George and Ann, along with seven grandchildren.
Yurek says “my Ellie” was with him every step of the way through their 70 extraordinary years together.
Yurek is honored that the parade committee has selected him as Grand Marshall. He had rarely shared his World War II experiences, but his children encouraged him to tell his story.