U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer -The seventh enlisted rank in the U.S. Navy, just above Petty Officer and below Senior Chief Petty Officers rank. Its rank holds the honor senior non-commissioned officer. To obtain this rank requires time served, superior evaluation exam scores, specialty examinations and it also carries added requirements from a peer review. This rank can only be advanced by a selected board of servicing senior and master chief petty officers in effect choosing their own!
Chief Petty Officer E-7 Pay Grade
Military Awards - National Defense Medal, Navy Unit Citation, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Ribbon, Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
Thomas J. Kuzmierz, U.S. Navy
Enlisted Jan. 9, 1941, reserve discharge Dec. 31, 1969.
Electricians mate - Maintain efficiency and the performance of a U.S. Naval Ship or battleship. Duties troubleshoot, repair, maintain all electrical devices used to operate all units associated with maintaining at 100 percent efficiency.
Active duty - USS Idaho, Dec. 18, 1941 to March 12, 1945. Electricians mate/fire brigade station leaded. (Tom crossed the international dateline on Nov. 15, 1943. The USS Idaho was credited for the bombardment and capture of Attu and Kisha Islands, the Makin Islands in the Gilbert group of islands and Kwajalin Islands in the Marshall Island Groups.
Discharged on Aug. 26, 1954 from active to reserve.
Active duty Dec. 22, 1948, to June 1952. USS Barbett, USS Ingelsoll, USS Heylinger and USS Snyder
Naval Reserve training center at 326 Central Ave. (The Masonic Building) where he served as Armory Superintendent from 1952 to 1962. Instructor 1962 to 1969
28 years of dedicated service to our country
Married Irene (Opaciuch) Kuzmierz June 1, 1946
Children - Marcia Kuzmierz (Robert) Henderson and Cathleen Kuzmierz (Frederick) Lentzo.
Grandchildren - Jeffery (Lynntina) Henderson and Ann Marie (Chris) Gabriels.
Step great-grandchildren - Christian, Charles and Eric.
The USS Idaho (BB42) was the third Idaho built for our fleet. Built during World War I, she was commissioned in 1919 and served the country long and well during its peace time. Then unlike her other two predecessors she was sent into battle and served effectively in extensive amphibious landings in the Pacific against Japanese hostile forces.
None of the two USS Idahos that preceded her had any battle records. But they did carry some comparisons worth noting. The first Idaho was built while there country was in the Civil War. But was commissioned two late to participate in any of the Civil War battles. Although the first Idaho did get to visit Japan. She was a wooden sloop on the first rate 298 feet long. She carried 32 guns. She was designed for 15 knots, but barely pushed 9 knots. In 1873, she was wrecked in a major typhoon and eventually was sold for scrap for $18,000.
The second Idaho was a forerunner for future battleships launched Dec. 9, 1905. She displaced 13,000 tons, was 375 feet long, 77 feet wide. Her battery consisted of four, 12- inch guns, eight 8-inch and seven 8-inch. In its new design the new Idaho carried two 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes.
At the time she was the pride of the Atlantic Fleet and with no war going for us the Idaho was placed on our reserve fleet. It was stationed at the Philadelphia naval yard used for training with all the Navy's newest toys on her. She later after whispers of war coming she was sent to the Mediterranean with the misshipments practice squadron. With newer ships being built by the US we then sold the second Idaho to Greece.
The present Idaho (BB-42) was ordered November 1914. Her keel was laid in January 1915 at the N.Y. Ship Building Co. at Camden, N.J. on June 30, 1917. She slid down the ways with Ms. Louise Gooding, the daughter of the former governor of Idaho, as the sponsor. Nearly two more years were needed to get her ready to fit our navy's standards for full sea duty and to enter into combat with any enemy of the U.S. On March 24, 1919, the USS Idaho was fully commissioned to enter the navals fleet.
Her first mission was to transport the president to Brazil from the U.S. to Rio de Janeiro. She later met up with the USS Mississippi and the USS New Mexico and was attached to the now Pacific Fleet with her home port of San Pedro.
The Idahos War diary began at Pearl Harbor during the summer of 1941. The Idaho became part of the task force that literally put them into our armed neutrality policy. The Idaho was our first battleship that was assigned to protect our Lend Lease vessels that were loaned to Britain. The Idaho's job was to insure that these convoys made it's way to England.
The Idaho's mission was to keep the German U Boats at a distance. The Idaho was the first U.S. battleship to enter the Arctic Circle and on other occasions she entered the straights of Denmark in search of the German Von Tripitzand. It was here close to the spot where the HMS Hood went down the Idaho fired a few rounds of its 5-inch guns. Thus making Tom Kuzmierz of Dunkirk actually at war with the axis before the actual war started at Pearl Harbor.
After crossing the equator and rearming at fate the Idaho took part in the bombardment at Kaving on New Zealand helping the Marines make a successful landing on the Emirau Island.
The Idaho had seen action during the Pacific War that included bombardments and support to marine units in Attu. Other island bombings included the Kiska Islands; Marshall Islands; Kwajalein Islands; Kavieng; Siapan; Tinian; and Guam. Later on came Peleliu and Iwo Jima.
As the war was winding down the Idaho got to see more action in Okinawa with the bombardment and occupation of Okinawa Shima. The Idaho had got to shoot down nine Japanese planes and assisted in shooting down five others. It ended its war by sinking a small Japanese merchant ship. She later saw duty in Leyte Gulf on Sept. 7, 1945. The USS Idaho returned back to its owners, the U.S. with task force 11.
Thomas J. Kuzmierz was born in Dunkirk to Karl and Helen (Malkowski) Kuzmierz on Dec. 27, 1922. In a family of nine with five sisters; Eleanor Krochmal, Josephine Lis, Helen John, Casmier and Eloise. Life was rough with the times.
Sometimes Dunkirk was a tough place to find employment. There was almost no work unless you were 18 years old. Some decided that farm work would do, working 12 to 16 hours a day. Tom worked on the farm giving almost all his pay to his parents.
Just to survive Tom as a child attended St. Hedwig Grade School and when he completed his eighth grade school classes he decided that 10 Industrial High School would be his choice to decide his future. Electric shop was Tom's choice. While attending school he excelled in basketball and weight lifting. Tom graduated from Industrial School in 1940, taking with him all the knowledge of the electrical trades field. Doing odd jobs he would go to the Dunkirk pier and help clean the fish nets in which the fisherman instead of pay tossed Tom a fish or two to take home to his family. Tom also sought employment with the Schneider's meat market as a butcher on Franklin and Talcott Streets in the city.
In 1944 Tom got a break and was chosen to be part of a government program called the CCC. This opportunity sent him to Letchworth State Park where he participated in the construction of bridges, buildings and cabins. The pay was $35 per month which the majority of was sent home to his parents.
Tom was in the U.S. Naval Reserve program in which he participated in monthly drills and every year a two week cruise. When the war broke out in 1941 Tom had to resign from the naval reserve in order to enlist in the regular navy. He was now off to Great Lakes Boot Camp. He left from the Dunkirk train station leaving his family and girlfriend Irene behind.
After boot camp was complete Kuzmierz came home for a 30-day leave and then headed out to the west coast to meet up with the USS Idaho BB-42. He recalled many memories to his daughters Marcia and Cathleen about his time in Hawaii and even the date he crossed the Equator on June 9, 1942, receiving the ships certificate domain of the Neptunus Rex. He rarely talked World War II experiences with anyone but now and then he would open up about the kamikaze attacks. On one occasion a large piece of schrapnel flew inches from his face during a dive bomber attack. This chunk of metal is kept by his daughter along with many photos and memories of Tom's military duty.
During the war on Nov. 20, 1943, Tom was visiting a friend, Garret Peavy from his unit. While relaxing, Tom reached over to a daily calendar and wrote in pencil, "rain or mud, sh** or blood, we fight the Japanese today," and Tom signed it.
Well around 20 years ago, Tom receives a letter with the return address Garret Peavy, 150 Lava Ct. Lahania, Hawaii. In the letter a page pulled off the calendar, Nov. 20, 1943. Tom's old friend Garret tracked him down and sent him the calendar page. The page from Nov. 20, 1943, had the note Tom wrote, "rain or mud, sh** or blood, we fight the Japanese today," the original sheet from that calendar.
Tom spent the rest of his naval obligations in the naval reserve. His daughters recall going down to the Masonic building, the one that just burned down in February, and take their father his lunch while he was doing his reserve time. The girls recall naval officers on the second and third floors and a parade floor on the fourth floor.
Tom spent nearly 30 years in the Navy. He totaled nine ribbons from his Pacific action and spent a tour of duty in the Korean conflict.
During reserve time Kuzmierz worked for Schneider Meat Market and at evening hours he would work at the naval armory. He also held a night with Dloniak and Son Carpentry on Washington Avenue.
Tom loved stamp collecting and gardening. He was a amateur grape farmer. He loved helping friends with any electrical problem. Coin collecting was one of Tom's favorite pastimes. He always loved old naval reunions.
In conclusion, when Tom was asked what was his greatest pleasure from the Navy, he stated that he loved to have had the opportunity to train new sailors and get them ready for service in Vietnam. He also stated that comparing his 30 years in the navy and comparing his bad days from the good. Tom would say he always had 3 square meals a day and a clean bed.
I knew who Tom Kuzmierz was, but never really got to know him. He got to witness World War II, Korea, and Vietnam; three different wars. I always wonder what would happen if we didn't have people like Tom Kuzmierz. This seasoned veteran who advised the new sailors what to expect, what to do, and how to do it. And knowing each and everyone of them are putting their trust, lives and ships in Tom's expertise.
Each of the three wars were fought entirely different. It was good that the Navy had NCOs like Tom Kuzmierz who had a vision to train our men to at least give them a chance to someday return home.
During Vietnam we threw the book out. We relied on the ones who had seen and done it. We relied on our Tom Kuzmierzs.
We lost this great veteran Dec. 24, 1994. He retired from the navy as a CPO E-7 can do. The requirements were high, the dedication was enormous, the love for his country could never be questioned. That's why Tom Kuzmierz is our local hero.