Congressman Brian Higgins and City of Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis presented United States Army veteran Albin Mazur, a City of Tonawanda resident, with a Bronze Star and other military recognitions for his service during World War II.
"A member of the 'Greatest Generation' who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, Private First Class Mazur exemplifies bravery and dedication to our country," Higgins said. "It is a privilege to honor his service and sacrifices today with his family and friends, many of whom followed his path into military service."
Davis added, "People are always idolizing athletes, actors and music artists. It's individuals like Mr. Mazur that our young people should be looking up to. Today he embodies what a true American hero is."
Nearly 72 years ago (March 25, 1943) Mazur enlisted in the Army. He left Buffalo for Tarrytown and began training to be a military policeman - a position he held for 10 months. After a stay in the hospital for pneumonia, he worked as a machine gunner as a member of the 254th Regiment of the 63rd Infantry Division. As the war became less stable in Europe, his regiment was deployed and he was sent to reinforce troops during the Battle of the Bulge.
The Battle of the Bulge began with a massive attack launched by the Germans in December 1944 in an attempt to drive the Allied forces from the German border back to Normandy. More than 200,000 German soldiers and nearly 1,000 tanks attacked the center of the Allied lines in a desperate bid to divide the Allied forces. As a result, the battle was one of the largest and bloodiest engagements in U.S. military history.
Mazur's 254th Regiment was among the U.S. forces that helped to repel the German attack and cripple the Nazi's ability to wage war. Mazur's unit not only sustained the Allied forces, but also defended all of Belgium and France from further invasion and occupation.
In early 1945, Mazur's unit also fought in the Battle of Colmar Pocket, a brutal fight in bitterly cold temperatures. The Allies had German forces surrounded in Alsace-Lorraine near the Rhine River to the east. The Allied forces launched a main effort to break the German defenses protecting the Colmar canal. Ultimately, the efforts of the Allied troops pushed the Germans from the Rhine River, leading to the end of significant German military presence in Alsace. On March 30, 1946, Mazur was honorably discharged.
Back home, Mazur continued his reputation as a hard worker - first in the concrete business, later as an employee at Riley Gear in North Tonawanda, and on a farm he owned in Clarence. He settled down with his wife, Florence, and they were married 65 years.
Mazur comes from a military family, including two brothers, Matthew and Frank, who also served in World War II. He recalled his proud mother being interviewed on the radio about the monumental significance of having three sons serving in World War II at the same time. Although law prevented siblings from serving together, for a brief period of time Mazur and one of his brothers served just a mile apart. In total, 12 Mazur family members, spanning three generations, have served this country.
Mazur's niece, Margaret "Marge" Witkowski, also a resident of the City of Tonawanda, reached out to Higgins to request assistance in obtaining her uncle's war medals.
When Marge asked her uncle about his experience fighting in the Battle of the Bulge over 70 years ago, Mazur said he remembered his infantry unit was faced with serious challenges when they arrived to reinforce those already fighting in the battle. He recalled the weather being bitterly cold as the French forces were in desperate need of American aid while they were fighting back the Germans. Mazur said the real heroes are those who lost their life in battle and never made it home.
With the help of Honor Flight, Mazur visited the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., Oct. 13, 2012. He said he was moved by the opportunity to honor those who fought alongside him and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
More than 70 years after the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Colmar Pocket, Mazur received his rightful recognition.
Higgins and Davis presented Mazur with the Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two bronze service stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp, Combat Infantryman Badge First Award, the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, and the Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar.
The Bronze Star is awarded to members of the military distinguishing themselves by heroic service while engaged in an action against an armed enemy.