Windsor Locks had a population of only 4,300 during World War II, but it sent nearly 15 percent of its population to war — an incredible 603 men! Several died during the Normandy campaign.
by Philip R. Devlin
During World War II, more than 210,000 men and 3,300 women from Connecticut were sent to war. More than 5,300 died during the war, and many thousands more were wounded. Many of those casualties occurred during the Normandy campaign which began on D-Day — June 6, 1944 — 69 years ago this week.
There are 161 men and women from Connecticut memorialized in the famous cemetery at Colleville sur Mer, located on a plateau above Omaha Beach in Normandy. Since about 50 percent of the war dead were sent home for burial, we can assume that over 300 Connecticut servicemen and women died during the Normandy campaign. In fact, of the four women buried in the cemetery, two of them — Dolores Browne and Mary Harlow — are from Connecticut.
Most of the dead, however, did not die on the day of the invasion. They died in the next 3-4 months in France during the fierce inland fighting. Many of these Connecticut casualties were men from Windsor Locks.
The most well-known victims from Windsor Locks during the Normandy campaign were the Smalley brothers — Edward and Francis. Corp. Francis E. Smalley was in Company F of the 360th Engineers Regiment. He was killed on September 4, 1944 at the age of 28. His brother, Pvt. Edward F. Smalley, survived his sibling by only 10 days. He served with the 317th infantry of the 80th Division. The local VFW in Windsor Locks is named after the Smalley brothers.
Sgt. Matthew J. Rachel was one of three Rachel brothers to serve in the war. He, too, died in action in France during the Normandy campaign. The German who killed Sgt. Rachel claimed another victim, too, as Sgt. Rachel’s father was stricken with a fatal heart attack upon hearing the news of his son’s death.
Private Albert C. Przybycien was yet another to pay the supreme sacrifice during the Normandy campaign. Trained in telephone communications in the infantry, he was killed in action on June 26, 1944, barely three weeks after the D-Day landings.
Yet another infantryman to die in France was Pvt. Edward W. Goyette. He was serving with the 169th Infantry when he was killed while attacking a German machine gun nest on July 18, 1944.
Naval coxswain Kenneth H. MacAulay was only 19 when he died on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He had driven a landing craft carrying troops to the shore when his boat was hit by artillery from a German artillery battery onshore.
Staff Sgt. William F. Kuczynski of Windsor Locks participated in the D-Day invasion and was wounded on Omaha Beach. He was sent back to England for recovery. After recovery, he rejoined the 4th Motorized Division of the 12th Infantry and was killed in action on February 10, 1945 — just three months before the war ended.
Another Windsor Locks casualty of the Normandy campaign was Pvt. William Asselin of Grove St. A member of the 2nd Armor Division, Bill had survived the landing at Omaha Beach; however, during ferocious hedgerow fighting near St. Lo, Bill was hit by an artillery shell and lost a leg.
Staff Sgt. William J. McCue was a member of the 306th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force. He was a ball-turret gunner on a B-17. Sgt. McCue’s bombardment group participated in the D-Day invasion by bombing French bridges inland. Though he survived the Normandy campaign, Sgt. McCue lost his life on Jan. 1, 1945. He was on his 35th mission when he died. Sadly, he would have been sent home after this mission. Like the Smalleys and the Rachels, Bill McCue was one of three brothers who served during the war.
Another group of brothers who served from Windsor Locks was my father and three of his brothers. My father was with the 189th Hospital unit and was in charge of setting up the logistics of caring for the wounded. He was in Normandy for several months. (See the picture gallery for a copy of a postcard that he sent from Normandy to my grandmother.) He survived the war physically unscathed but had to cope periodically with bad memories of some of the war wounded that he saw.
The town of Windsor Locks, CT, sent over 600 of its young men off to war — a very large percentage of its population at the time. Of that number, 16 paid the supreme sacrifice — 13 in the European Theater of Operations. Six of those 13 deaths occurred during the Normandy campaign, by far the costliest campaign in the war for the young men from Windsor Locks.
The heavy involvement of Windsor Locks youth in the war may help explain why the town led the nation in per capita giving during the 3rd War Loan bond drive.