CONNOLLY MACK LPR PHOTO 10-45 #2                                        JAMES EDWARD “MACK” CONNOLLY JR.
Page One of the Post Register of May 8, 1945 announced boldly, WAR IN EUROPE ENDS; VE DAY SOLEMN DAY IN LOCKHART. In part this was because information had just been received that Lt. Mack Connolly, son of Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Connolly Sr., had been killed in Germany.
“The effect of the news on Lockhart people was depressing in the extreme. It was passed from one to another in whispers or low tones. Another son, one of the flowers of Lockhart manhood, gives his life in the cause of Freedom just as the day of Liberty is dawning over the world.”
Mack was the son of James Edward Sr. and Jessie Mary (McMillan) Connolly. He was the older brother by eight years to Dr. J. Tom Connolly. The family lived at 617 S. Brazos in Lockhart. He was born on May 15, 1924. Mack’s circle of friends included Herbert (Herb) Reid Jr., Fleetwood Richards, and Forrest (Jack) Wilson. All played football on the high school team. In the words of Jack Wilson, “Mack was the best guy in the world.” He recalled Mack’s mother would feed some of the team steaks every Friday night, Mack and his friends adored her. Mack graduated from Lockhart High School in 1942, and enrolled at Texas A&M. Leaving school to enlist, he later became an officer.
In late July 1944 while home on leave, he attended a Business Men’s Club luncheon where the topic of post-war use of government built tanks for stock water was discussed. The newspaper’s playful report of the lunch noted that “Lt. Mac[k] Connolly was called on to state what he wanted. He replied that at present he was just trying to learn enough to be able to get back when the war was over.”
Mack married Mariellyn (“Dink”) Andrews on September 23, 1944 at Fort Sill Oklahoma. The Connolly family and Mack’s bride-to-be traveled together from Texas so that all could attend the wedding.
CONNOLLY 33rd_Armor_Regiment_(insignia) At some point Mack was assigned to Company I, 33rd Cavalry Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. The 33rd Cavalry’s unit nickname was “Men of War.” It was richly deserved. Described as part of the “massive tank battering ram which made the 3rd Armored Division famous,” its M4 Sherman tanks had a splendid combat record. However, the M4 Sherman also had a reputation as a crew killer, because of its tendency to explode if taking a direct hit. Its nickname was the “Ronson” (a cigarette lighter that was guaranteed to “light up the first time”).

Mack was one of the many replacement officers and men inserted as the attrition of constant CONNOLLY - 33RD M4 SHERMAN WW2combat across Europe served as a meat grinder on Allied forces pushing the Germans back into the Fatherland. The unit had fought across France’s hedgerows reaching Belgium in September 1944. The Division was part of the northern ‘neck’ that held, then closed on the Germans during the winter Battle of the Bulge. It swept into Cologne in March of 1945 and then crossed the Saale River speeding toward the agreed meet-up point with the Russians on the Elbe River. On April 11, 1945 it freed the survivors of the horrific concentration camp of Dora-Mittlebau.
As the war wound down, and with Germany’s surrender clearly in sight, many families were tortured by the possibility that a loved one would be killed with the war practically over. Certainly the Connolly family and Mack’s bride must have feared that.
On the Western Front, German soldiers were surrendering by the thousands. Many were fleeing the Russian advance on the Eastern Front, seeking to escape the tender mercies the expected retribution exacted by the Soviet Union would offer, either by summary execution or slow death in the Gulag. The Wehrmacht, the German regular army, was crumbling, as its manpower and command structure ebbed away – regular army soldiers knew to expect humane treatment as prisoners of the French, British or Americans. The only units still offering any real resistance to the western Allies were SS units, and Hitler Youth – both imbued with a fanaticism that transcended the reality of Germany’s impending defeat. Many of these units had panzerfausts – shoulder mounted single shot anti-armor weapons that were very effective.
The 33rd’s final action was an intense battle to take the German city of Dessau. Mack was killed in that battle on April 14, 1945. Notice of his death came four days before VE Day. In October 1945, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Armed Forces’ third highest award for valor. His wife accepted the award on Mack’s behalf in a solemn ceremony at Camp Swift. The citation reads as follows:

Lt. Connolly was leading his platoon of tanks in the vicinity of Dessau, Germany, when the tank in front of his was hit and disabled by bazooka fire. Although he was without infantry support and he was in the face of well emplaced bazooka teams, he went forward with total disregard for his safety in order to enable the crew of the disabled vehicle to withdraw. His tank was also hit and he was killed. Lt. Connolly’s courage and devotion to duty reflect the highest of credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States.

Mack died one month before his 21st birthday.

Mack’s body was eventually returned home. Final rites were held at his parents’ home at 617 S. Blanco on February 2, 1949. Pallbearers were his boyhood frineds, Jack Wilson, Fleetwood Richards, Herb Reid, Newton (Doc) Wilson, Jesse Burditt, Tom Burditt, and George (Bubba) Chapman. After the reciting of the 23rd Psalm, he was buried in the Lockhart Cemetery.
Dink later married Herb Reid, Mack’s boyhood friend. She passed away in 2002.



By Todd Blomerth
George was the son of Joe and Anatolia (Urbanski) Zaleski. George was born on February 21, 1932 in the Polonia Community, north of Lockhart. He was the fourth of five children. The others were Lillian, Jim, George, and Johnnie.
The Polonia community was settled by Polish immigrants in the 1880s. At one time the small community boasted two schools, Sacred Heart Catholic Church (razed in 1939), the Levandowski cotton gin, a blacksmith shop, and a general store. The Polonia area did not have electricity until 1948, when the Rural Electric Administration, at the urging of Lyndon Johnson, brought power lines into the area.
The family spoke Polish in the home as the boys were growing up. School attendance was not seen as a major priority – the family was farming, and putting food on the table was of paramount importance. George attended school only through the sixth grade at a rural school in Polonia north of Lockhart. That school would be consolidated with Lockhart in 1949. The boys’ diversions usually involved swimming in the nearby creek.
George en
George enlisted in the U.S. Army, and after Infantry Basic Training he also completed Airborne training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Eventually he was assigned to the 27th Infantry Regiment (“The Wolfhounds”) of the 25th Infantry Division. The 25th Infantry Division had been in Korea since 1950. This was (and is) a proud unit. Its lightning bolt imposed over a taro leaf shoulder patch reflects its Hawaiian heritage. Before World War II, it was known as the Hawaiian Division and its home was Oahu’s Schofield Barracks. It saw action at Guadalcanal, the Philippines and elsewhere during the Pacific Campaign. It was hurriedly deployed to the Korean Peninsula, and helped defend the Pusan perimeter, then fought along the Iron Triangle in 1951. Subsequently its main duties were defending the many defensive line’s fortifications along the UN’s Main Line of Resistance.
On July 8, 1951, truce talks began at Kaesong. The process was glacial, and the North Koreans periodically walked away from the table. The front was stabilized, but vicious fighting continued. United Nations forces were compelled to go on the offense to de-stabilize huge build ups of People’s Republic of China (PRC, or communist Chinese) and North Korean weaponry and personnel, and to compel the communists to return to the negotiating table. Personal histories later found indicated that the communists eventually became desperate and dispirited. As the grind of outpost warfare went on, one NKPA general’s captured correspondence showed his frustration with the UN’s willingness and ability to keep providing men and weaponry to the South.
The USSR’s Joseph Stalin’s death on March 2, 1953 proved a game changer for the Korean and Chinese communists (NKPA and PRC). The ensuing power struggle and change of focus meant that the USSR would no longer continue to supply the NKPA and Chinese with weaponry and supplies. On April 26, 1953 the stalled armistice negotiations resumed. Despite this, heavy fighting flared along the Main Line of Resistance (MLR), as the NKPA and PRC tried to improve their positions. The last major attacks by the communists were mostly aimed at ROK positions, as the South Korean strongman Sygman Rhee’s continued voicing of his opposition to a divided Korean peninsula.
The 25th Infantry Division was tasked with defending the South Korean capital of Seoul when the last communist attempt at breaking the UN line north of Seoul began in May, 1953. It front was on the extreme left of the UN front, near Munsan-ni. Very strong attacks were directed against the South Korean capital, but were turned back.
PFC Zaleski was killed north of Seoul on May 14, 1953. On June 8, 1953 the warring parties reached an agreement on repatriation of prisoners of war. On July 19, 1953, a truce agreement was reached and was signed on July 27, 1953. With losses in the millions, the North Koreans lost 1500 square miles of territory.

The Final Truce Line – July 1953 (map by Ernie Holden)

George is buried next to his mother and father in the Polonia Cemetery. George was twenty-one years old.

(Polonia schoolhouse photo appeared in Caldwell County Genealogical Society’s Plum Creek Almanac Vol. 32, No. 2, Fall 2014)


By Todd Blomerth
James Ray Janca was born in Luling, Texas on October 3, 1931. His father was John Joseph (J.J.) Janca, and his mother was Margaret August (Nied) Janca. He was the third child of the couple. Joseph Edward and Dorothy Margaret were his older siblings. His younger brother was John David (Bubba). J.J. and Margaret were of Moravian and German heritage.
The family lived on the Lockhart Road and later at 321 Walnut Street in Luling. J.J. owned and operated Luling Battery and Electric Company, an auto parts store, for many years. Margaret was active in the Texas Home Demonstration Association. James Ray was to have graduated from Luling High School in 1950. The Aquila has his junior year picture, but there is no senior picture for the Class of 1950. After high school, James Ray enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After boot camp and advanced training he was assigned to the 1st Marine Division.
In March of 1951, PFC Janca joined up with Company H, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division as a machine gunner. The 1st Division had been fighting in Korea since shortly after the invasion by the North Koreans in August of 1950.
After the United Nations force pushed the North Koreans almost out of their country in the autumn of 1950, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) communist troops, which had been in hiding in North Korea, struck back with a vengeance. The First Marine Division conducted a fighting retreat from the Chosin Reservoir during the misery of the peninsula’s sub-zero winter. Without a doubt it was one of the most seasoned units on the peninsula.
By April of 1951 the US and its allies had been pushed back down in South Korea. After undermining attempts at a negotiated peace, General Douglas MacArthur (who commanded from Tokyo and never spent a night in Korea) was relieved of command by President Truman. General Matthew Ridgway was placed in overall command. His instructions were to stabilize the front lines and stop what had been dubbed an “accordion war.” Chinese and North Korean troops made further advances into the south, but logistically were in trouble and had been badly blooded in trying to recover the initiative and push the United Nations forces out of the Korean peninsula. Their losses were horrific. But their willingness to serve up lives meant that the predominantly US led United Nations troops (which included British, Canadian, Australian, Philippine, Turkish, Republic of Korea, and several other countries’ troops) also took many casualties. The UN established a defensive line roughly along the 38th Parallel, or “Line Kansas.” Then Ridgway initiated Operation “Piledriver” in an attempt to push the communists out of the “Iron Triangle,” just north of the UN main line of resistance in the center of the peninsula, and move north some twelve miles to “Line Wyoming.” The communist Chinese and North Koreans had built up substantial strength here, and had decent rail and road lines into the area. An anticipated strike by the communists would rely on this area’s resources and had to be hit hard. Line Wyoming would afford better defensive positions, and put the UN in a better position to force a truce. Meanwhile to the west, communist forces launched an all-out “Spring Offensive,” pushing the UN forces back toward the South Korean capital of Seoul, which the UN had just liberated in March. The enemy drove south almost twenty miles, until on May 21, 1951, the UN counterattacked and drove the communists back to the 38th Parallel.
The 1st Marine Division continued to attack northward into the Iron Triangle. The Division’s Historical Diary for June 13, 1951 (declassified) reads:
1st Marines: On 13 June, the Regiment attacked on the right in zone to seize and secure Division Objective DOG…. After a heavy artillery preparation, the 3rd Battalion jumped off for Division Objective DOG at 0800K. Regimental Objective 1 was secured without enemy opposition, at 0814K. Following an air strike the Battalion continued the attack on Objective 2, Hill 787. Heavy small arms, and automatic weapons fire was received as the troops assaulted ridge-line 700.Hill 787 was taken by hand to hand fighting at 1055K, and the enemy withdrew toward DT1229-B…. Heavy mortar and 76mm artillery fire was received during the Regiment’s attack throughout the day.
Somewhere in this fighting, near the southern edge of an area dubbed “The Punchbowl,” James Ray Janca was killed, probably by artillery fire.
American forces captured the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on June 14th, but were pushed back three days later. The destruction of many of the strongest communist defenses in the Iron Triangle, and the air interdiction of communist supply lines finally forced the beginning of truce talks on July 10, 1951. For the next two years, fighting would continue along the 38th Parallel.
When news of his death hit Luling, flags were lowered to half-staff. James was brought home and is buried in the Luling Cemetery. On July 29, 1951, a groundbreaking took place on West Houston Street for Luling’s first low-income housing project. The thirty residences were officially designated “James Ray Janca Homes” in his memory. The dedication was sponsored by the Benton McCarley Post 177, American Legion. In attendance were city and county officials, the project’s manager and architect and Ms. Joyce Rutledge, the first Luling Housing Authority executive director.
On October 17, 1951 J.J. applied for a military headstone for his son’s grave. It now rests over his grave. PFC James Ray Janca was nineteen years old.

Acknowledgement: The author owes much to Paul I Gulick’s monograph “How Company, Third Battalion, First Marine Division” revised 2008, http://koreanwareducator.org/topics/branch_accounts/marine/h31_marines_in_korea_part_1.pdf for his exhaustive compilation of daily reports and oral histories that gives a vivid understanding of How Company’s daily dance with death on the Korean Peninsula.
(Historical aside: 1951 was a period of segregation, sadly. The same day that James Ray Janca’s name was memorialized on thirty low-income residences, the Latin American units, ten total, were dedicated to an Hispanic soldier from Luling, Gilbert Gutierrez, killed in World War II. The African-American housing units were named in honor of Willie Lovell Wade, a black sailor who went down with the aircraft carrier Wasp in 1942.)