On the rifle of this Regular Army platoon sergeant are 22 notches. They represent dead Nazis. Soon there will be more of them.
By Sgt. WALTER PETERS
YANK Staff Correspondent
With U. S. Forces in France (By Cable) "It's a beautiful country. Wonderful for snipers, though. From now on, we don’t call anybody by rank. It's first names, from the Old Man down. Snipers may be nearby. They like to pick off the leaders.”
T/Sgt. Frank Kwiatek, a heavy-weapons platoon sergeant who's spent 27 of his 46 years in the Army, was doing the talking. We passed a reserve company where some of the men were taking a bath out of their helmets while others wrote letters or cleaned weapons.
Up ahead there was a clearing, in the hedges. We walked through it, crossed another field and reached another opening in the hedges on the other side. "All those openings were made by machine-gun fire," Kwiatek said.
As we walked up toward the front lines, Kwiatek's eyes darted from trees to hedges and back to trees again, like a hunter looking for a wild animal. "I got a sniper right up in that tree last week.” he said. "I guess we have them all cleaned up now but you never can tell. I'm not taking any chances."
A little later Kwiatek sat down on the, ground, pulled out his knife and began cutting a notch in his rifle. "Might as well do this while I have the time," he said. There were 21 notches, already and he was cutting the 22nd. "Three more to go and I'll have settled the promise I made when they killed my brother Ted. Then I’ll kill 25 more for my brother Jerry. After that I’m going to kill as many Germans as I can, because I hate the whole Nazi system."
Kwiatek was in Northern Ireland with his platoon when his brother Ted, a 21-year-old tank gunner, was killed in Sicily. Kwiatek swore before the men of his platoon that he'd get 25 Germans to avenge his brother’s death. Several weeks later another brother, 19-year-old Jerry, was killed in Italy and Kwiatek vowed to kill another 25 Germans.
So far he's killed 20 with his rifle and two with hand grenades. And he's probably killed "another dozen" with a tommy gun, but he doesn't count them because "when I kill a German, I like to look right into his eyes. I like to see him drop. When he drops, I can almost see my brothers smiling at me. I like shooting snipers especially; they're so sneaky." (Nineteen of the 22 notches represent snipers.)
Kwiatek shot his first German on June 10 when a sniper stopped the progress of his outfit at a crossroad near Cerisy La Foret. After a number of men had been killed and wounded, the company commander asked for a volunteer to eliminate the sniper. Kwiatek volunteered.
He prowled through the woods until he was 25 yards to the rear of the sniper, hidden behind a road marker. The sergeant was just getting ready to shoot the German when he spotted another sniper in a tree about 50 yards to his right. "I shot the sniper in the tree first and then exterminated the one behind the marker."
The sniper in the tree taught Kwiatek a lesson. "I decided that from then on I was going to watch every tree, every bush and every hedge."
A few minutes later the outfit passed the cross-road, with Kwiatek trailing behind his platoon to give rear protection. "I saw the hedges moving slightly. It was a little windy that day but the wind was blowing from the other direction, so I became suspicious. I tiptoed toward the hedge and saw a German. 'Hey,’ I yelled and when he turned to face me with his rifle ready in his hands, I let go. He keeled over backward. He was a goner—just another dead German. Later I discovered he was a captain in the German paratroop corps."
Kwiatek prides himself on being a scientific sniper hunter. "To kill snipers," he said, "you must use your head. But that doesn't mean you should stick your head over hedges, where the squareheads can take Coney Island potshots at you. I always tell my men to keep their heads down, but sometimes fellows forget. Then I can't tell them anything any more. It's, too late."
Once when one of Kwiatek's men stuck his head above the hedges to shoot, a sniper got him square through the head. "His brains splattered all over my face," Kwiatek said. "I was never so sick in my life.
"Rogers (Pfc. Floyd Rogers of Rising Star, Tex.) and I decided we were going to get that sniper. I told Rogers to take the dead man's helmet and hold it up over the hedge after l gave a signal. I walked 40 yards away and then signaled. As soon as the helmet went up, the sniper began shooting and gave away his position. Then I signaled to Rogers to lift the helmet again in another position. When he did, I saw the Hun's helmet come up from behind a tree, then his shoulders. Then I let him have it. All it took was one shot. Those bastards don't give you more than one shot."
Kwiatek, the oldest enlisted man in his outfit, spent 19 months as a machine gunner in France in the last war. He's been in the same platoon since 1924 and became platoon sergeant in 1940. His daughter is a captain in the Army's Nurse Corps in Italy.
Kwiatek's men call him "Hard Tack Murphy," a name he used as a welterweight fighter in the Army in the early 30s. "He's a damn good platoon sergeant," said Pfc. James W. Justus of Key West, Fla. "The only trouble is, he wants to finish off the war by himself. Every time I see him, he's looking at a tree. He's going to be a very sad man when the war is over and there are no more snipers to kill."
This article appeared in the British Edition in July of 44. In that version they showed a picture of T/Sgt. Kwiatek and the article was a little longer. This shows how the editors in each edition had latitude to create their paper as a custom fit for their area.
YANK 18 Aug 1944