Edward J. Czarnecki was born October 14, 1922 in Wilmington, Delaware. His surname was pronounced "Char-net-ski". Both his parents were born in Poland from the northwest of Warsaw and spoke Polish fluently. During December 1941, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in Saskatchewan, Canada where he received flight training in the de Haviland Tiger Moth.
On May 27, 1942 he enlisted in the U. S. Army as an air corps cadet serial number 11998773. He graduated on October 30, 1942 and received further training in Merced, California (where he met his wife, Betty Wall who he later married in 1944) and finally Luke Field, Arizona.
Czarnecki departed for the Pacific Theater on February 20, 1943. On March 12, 1943 he was assigned to the 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron based at Mareeba Airfield. On July 1, 1943 he was transferred as one of the initial pilots assigned to the newly organized 475th Fighter Group "Satan's Angels", 431st Fighter Squadron arriving at 12 Mile Drome near Port Moresby on August 14, 1943.
On August 18, 1943 as part of a 75 plane escort protecting 5th Air Force bombers in route to Wewak, Czarnecki scored his first victory, flaming two Zeros (likely Ki-43 Oscars) over Wewak.
On August 21, 1943 another heavy engagement took place over Wewak. Flying high cover, Czarnecki dove to the defense of B-25s being attacked by Japanese fighters and shot down a fixed-gear Nate (likely a Ki-51 Sonia).
Moving to North Embi Airfield (Dobodura No. 12) near Dobodura, the 475th Fighter Group began attacks against Rabaul. The Japanese retaliated with an attack against Oro Bay on the 15th. The 431st intercepted 40 Japanese fighters and Czarnecki knocked down a Zeke and received credit for another as a probable. He became an ace two days later when he downed two more Zekes near Buna. Officially, Czarnecki was credited with 6 confirmed victories and 1 probable victory.
On October 23, 1943 took off piloting P-38H Lightning 42-66849 from North Embi Airfield (Dobodura No. 12) on a fighter sweep over Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul.
Over the target at 25,000' the P-38s released their drop tanks and sighted enemy fighters below and dove to attack. At 1:10pm, Czarnecki made an unsuccessful deflection shot on a Zero, pulled up then made another unsuccessful shot without results. Spotting another Zero to his left, Czarnecki closed and opened fire causing it to burst into flames
then cleared himself to the right.
Unaware, a Zero opened fire on Czarnecki's P-38
with machine gun and cannon fire. A 20mm cannon shell entered the right windscreen blowing off the canopy and causing the cockpit to fill with smoke and cracked a 2" armor glass. A fragment wounded his right wrist. Czarnecki dove down to 10,000'. His right engine was smoking, loosing speed and yawing to the right. He noticed bullet holes in his rudder and right engine. All the instruments, except the altimeter were broken.
After feathering the right engine and trimming the aircraft for level flight, Czarnecki heard what he thought was ammunition exploding but discovered he was being fired on by a Zero from the rear. Increasing the power to the left engine and skidding at an altitude of 4,000' and realized the left engine was damaged also. The right engine was smoking as the Zero turned away.
Czarnecki climbed out of the cockpit and as the P-38 banked 45° he let go and hit some portion of the tail as he fell and delayed opening his parachute so as not to be strafed. He bailed out inland of Eber Bay on the Gazelle Peninsula on the eastern coast of New Britain.
Fate of the Pilot
Czarnecki landed in a tree suspended roughly 35' above the ground. Checking his watch it was 1:15pm. Releasing his harness, he managed to reach the ground and attempted to get away but was wounded by 20mm fragments and had sprained his right ankle, left elbow and knee. He rested and then slept nearby.
On October 24 he worked to retrieve his parachute and and emergency kit after seven tries and using the medicines to treat his wounds and made a splint for his knee. Afterwards, he followed a small stream towards the coast and turned to the southwest to get away from Rabaul. Finding a native hut, he rested and built a fire at night.
The next day, Czarnecki decided to walk in the opposite direction back towards Rabaul in hopes of stealing a Zero from Rapopo Airfield and flying back to base. The walk proved difficult and he came to an abandoned village and in one of the huts built a fire and ate a coconut.
On October 26 he walked to the beach and found a small boat and attempted to build an outrigger afterwards, he went hunting and shot a pig with his pistol and began cooking the meat over a fire. Spotting a vessel he heard a voice call out "Ey" and fled inland abandoning his clothing and supplies. Japanese came ashore and walked up and down the beach calling and occasionally firing shots causing him to flee further inland.
During October 27 Czarnecki walked along a jungle trail toward Rabaul but the terrain was difficult and he ate several large nuts
found in the forest before sleeping covered by leaves. The next day, he attempted to walk to the coast to find food and clothing, but heard Japanese voices on the coast and instead went inland. On October 29, 1943 he walked inland for the entire day in the rain.
On October 30 he again returned to the beach to search for food and was exhausted and his feet cut from walking and spotted a native person who was joined by two others and inquired in Pidgin English if the Japanese were near. They asked if he was American and and they offered to hid him and gave him an undershirt, trousers and some fruit to eat. They told him to hide then departed for Alder Bay to get food. Fearing a trap, Czarnecki fled inland to await their return. Three other natives arrived and called for him to follow them but he did not recognize them and kept hiding.
On October 31, Czarnecki began walking inland but heard natives calling and recognized them as the first group he had met and revealed himself to them. They brought him pork and rice stolen from the Japanese. They instructed him to remain hidden for the remainder of the day and told him another American airman Gordon Manuel was in the vicinity and was being assisted by natives from the 7 Day Mission at Matala Plantation south of Put Put.
On November 1, Czarnecki observed a Betty and two Zeros flying 500' over the sea. He was taken by canoe from Alder Bay to Sum Sum and spent the night and remained hidden for most of the next day. Natives acquired a pair of tennis shoes for him because his feet were swollen from walking without shoes.
At 5pm, they departed by canoe and were buzzed by two Zeros and a Rufe before arriving at the 7 Day Mission at Matala Plantation.
On November 3, he was led roughly a mile up the Kambubu River and the next day went to a hut were Gordon Manuel was staying, but found he had departed several days prior. On November 5, rumors circulated that the Japanese were impressing natives for labor and intended to search Kambubu. Czarnecki was hidden with a loyal native named Oti
who took him to Induna village on November 6. He began suffering from malaria and remained at the village for four days, until departing on
November 9 to another village to the south. On November 10 traveled to Muge on the Mango River and met American aviator Carl Planck pilot of P-38G 43-2387 who ditched November 2 and remained with him for two days.
On November 12, loyal natives and the two Americans departed for Wide Bay along a difficult trail via Lat village and then overnighted at Dumpu village, where a native went to Sum Sum to steal food from the Japanese. On November 13 reached Narai, a small village consisting of a single family and were given food.
On November 15 the group was led through the Japanese camp on Alder Bay where only three Japanese were stationed and took a canoe and traveled overnight before arriving in a village on the northern point of Wide Bay were they were given quarter at a village.
On November 16, the aviators were taken inland to their gardens and hidden until the threat of a Japanese patrol passed and observed two RAAF Beaufighters over Wide Bay. After midnight, departed by canoe to Boulli and walked along a trail to Waitavalo Plantation and found it abandoned.
Finally, on November 17 led to the secret camp of Australian coastwatchers Major Roberts around noon and remained at his camp until receiving a message to proceed to Open Bay for rescue.
On February 5, 1944 USS Gato SS-212 surfaced in Open Bay and sent a boat ashore to rescue two groups of Allied pilots. The first group included: Gordon Manuel, Owen Giertsen, Carl Planck and Edward Czarnecki. The second group included William Townsend, David McClymont and Fred Hargesheimer. Afterwards, the aviators were transported to Finschafen to be debriefed.
Suzanne Walker (daughter)
"After he and others were rescued by the US submarine, they were debriefed in Brisbane and he was returned to the USA on March 10, 1944. He returned to the Pacific Theater from August 1, 1944 to October 1, 1944. He was in the US from October 6, 1944 until Feb. 6, 1946 when he returned to the Pacific Theater. According to my mother, he spent some time in the Philippines doing survival training. He worked for a time as a gunnery instructor at Foster Field, Texas during 1945. At various times, he worked as a flight instructor.
According to the records of his service, beginning December, 1947, Ed received six months of training as an investigator at the CIC school. I don't have documentation, but I understand that he did investigative work on U. S. bases and at some time was transferred to Europe where he apparently interviewed Polish prisoners (who had been liberated in 1945).
He retired from military service on June 12, 1953, with an appointment to the Maryland Air National Guard on November 22, 1953. He died from stomach cancer at the VA hospital in Baltimore, MD on July 27, 1955. Among the medals he received were the Purple Heart, DFC, Silver Star."
Czarnecki passed away on July 27, 1955. He was buried at Cathedral Cemetery in Wilmington, DE at section 1EC row 30 , lot 608, grave 2. During 2010, Czarnecki was Inducted into the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame.