Stanley J. Andrzejewski Sr., a retired electronics engineer who survived the nearly ill-fated assault on Italy's Mount Belvedere during World War II, died Thursday of respiratory failure at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was 88.
The son of a plumber-prize fighter and a homemaker, Stanley Joseph Andrzejewski Sr. was born in Baltimore and raised at 1612 Thames St. in Fells Point.
In 1943, Mr. Andrzejewski dropped out of Patterson High School and enlisted in the Army, and after completing basic training, decided to join the men of the 10th Mountain Division, who were known as "soldiers on skis" and whose training facility was near Vail, Colo.
"He didn't know how to ski. He was just a wharf rat from Fells Point who said he liked the sound of the idea. He had no experience whatsoever when he decided to go into the ski troops at Camp Hale in Colorado," a son, Stanley J. Andrzejewski Jr. of Parkton, said.
After completing training, Mr. Andrzejewski, then 19, was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division's 85th Brigade that landed in Italy in January 1945, and on Feb. 18, began an attack on the German Army that was dug in on Riva Ridge, in Italy's rugged mountains.
Once the 10th Mountain Division successfully took Riva Ridge, they began the battle for nearby Mount Belvedere, Mount Gorgolesco and Mount della Torraccia.
On the night of Feb. 19, 1945, the main attack began on Mount Belvedere and the Germans responded by launching a heavy artillery and mortar attack. The 10th's assault lasted four days until they had conquered the Germans and Mount Belvedere was in their hands.
Victory in taking the various ridges and mountains had come at a stiff price. Of the 13,000 soldiers who fought in the assault, more than 1,000 had been killed.
"Occasionally he would talk about it and we'd get bits and pieces. He said he was in a foxhole at he beginning of an uphill offensive when the mortar shell came in during the first attack. It instantly killed the guy to his left, and blinded another soldier on his right," his son said.
The mortar shell had left Mr. Andrzejewski with a seriously injured left foot, which was partially blown off.
"He remembered it hitting his foot and then being taken down to a Jeep that transported him to a MASH unit, where his wound was cleaned. He was later sent to a more central MASH unit, where the wound became infected with gangrene, which resulted in a second amputation below the knee," his son said.
"The U.S. Army had an 82 percent casualty rate that day. They went through hell," his son said. "That injury might have saved his life."
Mr. Andrzejewski was sent home and fitted with a prosthesis, then spent a year recuperating at Haddon Hall, the Atlantic City hotel that had been taken over by the Army during the war and where injured troops recovered.
Mr. Andrzejewski was discharged with the rank of private and was decorated with the Purple Heart.
In 1946, he returned to Baltimore, earned his General Educational Development diploma, and enrolled at what is now Loyola University Maryland on the G.I. Bill, where he earned a bachelor's degree in physics. He also took additional graduate courses at the Johns Hopkins University.
He began his career in the early 1950s at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and later went to work for Bendix Corp. on East Joppa Road in Towson.
For the last 20 years of his professional life until retiring in 1987, he worked for Westinghouse Electric Corp. at its airport plant in Linthicum on numerous projects, including NASA's TDRSS communication satellites.
"He had been a slide rule man in the days before computers," his son said. "He was an easygoing and sociable man, but not super gregarious, and he liked entertaining family and friends."
The former longtime Ruxton resident had lived at Mercy Ridge in Timonium for the last decade.
He was an inveterate vegetable gardener and liked to travel.
"On the 50th anniversary of the battle for Mount Belvedere, he returned to Italy," his son said.
His wife of 53 years, the former Gloria Palese, a registered nurse, died in 2003.
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
In addition to his son, Mr. Andrzejewski is survived by another son, Michael J. Andrzejewski of Monkton; and two grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun