Fallen Hero

Sergeant

Michael Hrabcsak

October, 1911 - December 2, 1950
Hometown:
Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Entered Service:
September 21, 1935
Unit:

1st Marine Division, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Battalion, Weapons Company C

Rank:
Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps
Award(s):
Purple Heart
Cemetery:
Section R, Site 141, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

Before the War

Michael Hrabcsak’s father immigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1910, leaving his pregnant wife behind, and traveled to Illinois to work in the coal mines. In 1911, Michael was born in Czechoslovakia and immigrated to the United States with his mother in 1912 to join his father.

His family, including four brothers and three sisters, moved frequently through Illinois, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, and finally settled down in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Michael attended Strabane Grammar School, leaving after the eighth grade. When Michael was 18, he moved to Michigan and worked at Monroe Steel Mills from 1929 to 1933 with his brother. In 1935 he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Marine Corps

The Hrabcsak family, living in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1930. National Archives and Records Administration.

Military Experience

Michael Hrabcsak served from 1935 to 1950, and advanced from a private to a sergeant. Even before his first re-enlistment, he experienced some difficulties. On June 28, 1937, he was reported for drunkenness. His June 22, 1942 evaluation reported that Hrabcsak was “subject to mental depression” and was not ready for additional responsibilities because he could not “be relied upon to carry out normal duties, at all times.” Despite these personal struggles, he continued to serve his country and uphold his oath as a U.S. Marine. On May 19, 1943 he was promoted to gunnery sergeant in the 11th Defense Battalion, 1st Marine Amphibious Corps, and that June he re-enlisted.

From July to December 1944 he was moved to Guadalcanal but did not see action. He returned to the United States and served as a drill instructor for the 3rd Recruit Battalion from February to June 1945.

On June 13, 1945, he received another offense for drunkenness and was demoted in rank. Despite these struggles and setbacks, on September 21, 1947, he re-enlisted but was demoted to staff sergeant for another poor evaluation on May 26, 1948 for drunkenness while stationed in China. In June 1948 he transferred back to the United States. He married Beatrice Bledsoe on November 27, 1948. She had two sons from her previous marriage, and he quickly added William and Bobby Rutland to his list of dependents in the U.S. Marine Corps.

On September 15, 1950, Hrabcsak was deployed to Korea where he participated in the assault and seizure of Inchon. From September 17 to November 7 he participated in the capture of Seoul.

Beginning on November 28, Hrabcsak and his unit engaged in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.

A machine gun leader of Company C, Hrabcsak’s unit spent five days fighting from Yudam-Ni to Hagaru-Ri. Temperature plummeted to 15 degrees below zero at night. From November 30 to December 2, Hrabcsak was one of 62 men in his unit killed in action. When his unit reached Hagaru-Ri on December 3, they reorganized for their 40-mile fight down the mountain trails to the sea.

The Road Back: The withdraw from the Chosin Reservoir, November 29, 1950 - December 3, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (A4853)., Marines from the 5<sup>th</sup> and 7<sup>th</sup> regiments withdraw from the Chosin Reservoir, November 29, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (A4852)., The 5<sup>th</sup> Marine Regiment’s Command Post at the tip of the Chosin Reservoir, November 21-25, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (A4973).

Commemoration

Hrabcsak’s body was interred at Hungnam Cemetery on December 10, 1950. It remained there until September 1, 1954, when Operation Glory allowed for a mutual exchange of remains in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

The U.S. Army finally positively identified his body in Kokura, Japan on November 3, 1954. His sister, Anna Bradach, and wife, Beatrice Elfstrom (remarried after his death), were notified on December 14, 1954. His sister consulted with her father and brother and they decided to have him buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hrabcsak was finally laid to rest on March 16, 1955, over five years after he was killed in action.

Michael Hrabcsak’s grave at the National Memorial of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, July, 22, 2018. Courtesy of Cathy Gorn.

Bibliography

1st Marine Division; Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, General Administrative Files, September 1950 - March 1955, Record Group 127 (Box 25); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

1st Marine Division; Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, 5th Marines, Periodic Reports, 4-31 Aug 1950 to 5th Marines, Unit Reports, 3 Mar-26 May 1951, Record Group 127 (Box 194); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

1st Marine Division; Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, 5th Marines, Unit Reports, 25 Nov 1950 to 5th Marines, Unit Reports, 1 Nov 1951, Record Group 127 (Box 195); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Kerr, Sergeant F. C. The 5th Marine Regiment sets up command post.... Photograph. November 21-25, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (A4973). Image.

Kerr, Sergeant F. C. The Road Back--Astonished Marines of the 5th and 7th Regiments, who hurled.... Photograph. November 29, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (A4852). Image.

Kerr, Sergeant F. C. The Road Back--Astonished Marines of the 5th and 7th Regiments, who hurled.... Photograph. November 29, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (A4853). Image.

Michael Hrabcsak, Official Military Personnel File, Department of the Navy. U.S. Marine Corps, Record of the U.S. Marine Corps, RG 127, National Archives and Records Administration - St. Louis

Pennsylvania. Washington County. 1930 U.S. Census. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.

“Veteran Marine Killed in Korea.” The Daily Notes, January 15, 1951.