Private First Class Edmund J. Kapica
Private First Class Kapica, Hot Springs, U.S. Army, WWII, D-Day at Omaha Beach, awards include Bronze Star medal, the Purple Heart medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal with two battle stars. Also the Order of the Legion of Honor (France).
On 6th June 1944 PFC Kapica, by then an operational amphibious combat engineer, was part of a five-man combat engineer team dispatched aboard a 30 man landing craft bound from Normandy in the “first tide” (initial wave) of assault troops. Assigned a lane of the “Easy Red” sector of Omaha Beach, PFC Kapica’s primary objective was to eliminate partially submerged impediments using explosive charges to create an unobscured landing zone for assault troops and equipment soon to follow. This portion of the beach was the primary landing area for the First Division (Big Red One). The Easy Red sector was ultimately exploited as the most densely traveled path inland from Omaha Beach for American Troops and supplies
After demolishing his allotment of obstacles, he finally reached the beach and then Freeholder said he was “ not to be killed.... Until the quota of obstacles was destroyed.” PFC Kapica proceeded across Omaha Beach under intense fire until he reached the “shingle”, and natural seawall, where he and other survivors of the first wave found themselves pinned down by German Gunners, utterly unable to exit the beach. PFC Kapica, felt his position untenable, and he feared other combat engineers had failed to follow their orders “not to be killed”, and crossed back over the beach, collecting demolition charges along the way. He used these in good effect and removed additional obstacles from the beach itself. The holes he created in the sand by destroying impediments were quickly improved by hand and used as improvised foxholes by men desperate for cover of any kind. By the time he had exhausted his Collective supply of explosives, an exit had been created, and PFC Kapica crossed a third time under fire and managed to leave the beachhead unwounded.
On 21 January 1945, PFC Kapica received orders to join the 101st Infantry Regiment of the 26th Infantry Division (Yankee Division), 3rd Army (Patton’s), then operating in Luxembourg pushing the German Army back into pre-bulge territories. In the bitter cold and deep snow of the early morning of 24 January 1945, near the village of Weicherdanger, Luxembourg-and on only the third day after joining his new command-PFC Kapica And other replacements in his Under-Strength Squad advanced toward the front lines. As they rounded a curve, they walked into an ambush of concealed German heavy-machine guns. The squad was cut down. Wounded severely, PFC Kapica somehow managed to burrow into the deep snow, shielded by the bodies of his dead companions. Ironically, the brutal weather conditions likely aided his survival by freezing/clotting his blood and slowing his pulse. He was unconscious that evening when the steam of his breath was seen rising from the power of frozen dead bodies. dug from the snow, he was whisked to an aid station and evacuated to a field Hospital. Eventually transported to Paris for surgery, PFC Kapica was later flown to England and Weeks Later, was shipped to New York. He remained hospitalized for the remainder of 1945 and into 1946. He received an honorable discharge on 22nd March 1946 in Chicago.
Only recently, the Republic of France has recognized PFC Kapica with the rank of Knight of the Order of the Legion of Honor--that nation’s highest and most prestigious distinction--for his selfless service on the beaches of Normandy and in later action in Luxembourg on the final day of the Battle of the Bulge, where he was seriously wounded in combat, effectively ending his military career.
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