Frank J. Chmura was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania, on April 23, 1923. He was one of seven children, including a twin sister named Jenny, born to Michael and Katherine (Dachko) Chmura of #1022 North Ashland Avenue in Mahoningtown. His parents were both immigrants from Poland and attended Madonna Catholic Church. His father, who worked with the Pennsylvania Railroad, died of pneumonia in March 1932 at the young age of forty-four. Frank attended the local schools and graduated from New Castle High School in about 1941.
On February 20, 1943, in the midst of World War II, he was drafted into U.S. Army and went off to training. He was later assigned to the 328th Regiment of the 26th Infantry Division, the so called “Yankee” Division originally formed from units in New England. Training was undertaken at various stateside camps before the division was dispatched directly to France in early September 1944. A month later the 26th entered combat and began to fight its way across war-torn France.
On the night of December 20, 1944, the 26th, then resting at Metz, France, was ordered northward into Luxembourg to halt a massive German counteroffensive during the Ardennes Campaign (Battle of the Bulge). A few days later the enemy was engaged and a week of violent clashes ensued. The division dug in and held defensive positions on the night of December 30. Chmura and dozens of his fellow soldiers were killed in action as the Germans advanced again on the morning of Sunday, December 31, 1944.
Chmura and his deceased comrades were interred at a hastily established cemetery near Hamm, Luxembourg. The burial ground, maintained by the American Graves Registration Service, later became known as the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. Chmura was among the initial interments. Later burials at this location include that of U.S. Army General George S. Patton, killed during a car accident in Germany in December 1945.
Back home, Chmura’s family was notified of his death about two weeks later. A memorial service was held in the Madonna Catholic Church on the morning of Sunday, January 21, 1945. Chmura’s mother resided in New Castle until her own death in January 1958. She was buried with her husband at Madonna Cemetery in Union Township. Years later a memorial stone was placed in Madonna Cemetery to honor the memory of Frank Chmura and four fellow parishioners who were also killed in action during World War II.
After World War II concluded the families of American servicemen buried overseas were given the option of having their loved ones disinterred and returned home for burial. Apparently Chmura’s next of kin, his mom, must have decided against reburial. He was not among the 178,000 deceased American servicemen returned home for reburial from 1947-1954. Chmura is one of over 93,000 Americans killed during World War II that remain buried overseas in military cemeteries.
On Sunday, September 7, 1947, a new baseball field on North Cedar Street in Mahoningtown was dedicated in his honor. It was located near the northern end of North Cedar Street. On that day a playoff game of the City League was held between the Lawrence Indies and South Hills Club. Johnny Russu of the Indies threw a two-hitter and his squad prevailed 8-0. It seems this field fell into disuse by the late 1950’s and was abandoned. Today the site, located directly behind the Graham Thermal building on Mahoning Avenue, is overgrown with trees and brush.
To read an obituary for Chmura’s father from 1932 click on: MICHAEL CHMURA OBITUARY. To read an article mentioning the 1944 death of Frank Chmura click on: KILLED IN ACTION ARTICLE. To learn about a memorial service planned for Chmura in early 1945 click on: MASS FOR CHMURA ARTICLE. To learn more about the first baseball game ever played at Chmura Field click on: PLAYOFF GAME ARTICLE. To read an obituary for Frank Chmura’s mother in 1958 click on: KATHERINE CHMURA OBITUARY.
The Frank Chmura Recreation Field was opened on North Cedar Street in early 1947. The diamond was named in honor of local boy U.S. Army Pfc Frank J. Chmura (1923-1944), who was killed in action in Luxembourg in December 1944. In the left background you can see the former Rockwell axle plant, and on the far right the water tower of the American Can Company is visible. Below the tower several cars can be seen running along Mahoning Avenue. (c1954) (Photo courtesy of Mike Chachich – all rights reserved) Full Size
Frank Chmura’s memorial marker in Luxembourg. (c2012)
A memorial stone in Madonna Cemetery honors the service of Frank Chmura and other parishioners killed during World War II. (Aug 2011)