Honor Roll – Pvt. Charles Madjarosy

Pvt. Charles Madjarosy, mid-1944; an informal portrait probably made while he was on leave before going overseas (photo courtesy of Catherine Hastings)

The latest post in the Honor Roll series is the story of Private Charles Madjarosy (1924 – 1944), killed during WWII on December 5, 1944. It is multilayered, extending beyond his brief life to include immediate family members long since deceased, the transmitted memories of his living descendants, artifacts and personal effects returned to his family after his death, and questions that will probably never be fully answered. His sacrifice in the service of his country was honored by the people of Milton, memorialized on the American Legion Honor Roll, and duly recorded in several Delaware newspapers. At the same time, his untimely death at the age of 19 inflicted deep wounds on family members that would never heal, breeding more trauma decades later. It is a story not unlike that of many, many thousands of other families of WWII casualties, and an uncountable number of others in the many wars fought by the U. S. military.

As with the tale of MoMM3 Frank Edginton, USN, the story of Pvt. Charles Madjarosy begins with immigration. His parents, Frank Madjarosy and Mary Schmidt Madjarosy, 19 and 18 years old respectively, arrived at Ellis Island on November 23, 1910. On the ship’s passenger manifest of the S. S. New York, their names are written as Franjo Madjarosy and Marya Madjarosy, which were quickly Americanized. There are any number of interpretations of their ethnic origins, but the most reliable one is they came from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Frank stated his origin as Bohemia and Mary stated Austria on the 1940 census; both areas would have been geographically adjacent to each other and part of the Empire.

Frank and Mary live in New York City for ten years and had three children there. By 1920, Frank saw an opportunity in Milton and moved his young family to the town on the Broadkill. “Bohemians” (who could have originated anywhere in Central Europe) had been coming to Milton as seasonal cannery workers for at least 10 years; a few settled there permanently. Frank, however, got a job in the Lippincott button factory with a steady income, and in 1923 bought a farm from another Bohemian, Charles Stuchlik, on Cave Neck Road. That farm would remain in the Madjarosy family for the next 90 years.

Charles Madjarosy was born in 1924, Frank and Mary’s fourth child and the first to be born in Milton. His sister Gladys was born five years later in the farmhouse on Cave Neck Rd., where she would live the rest of her life. Many signs indicate that the two youngest, Milton-born siblings were very close.

Charles was an indifferent student; his report cards displayed a lot of D’s and F’s, and he only made it through one year of high school. He worked as a farm hand for his father, and for others (Floyd Wright of Cave Neck Road was one known employer). There was a girlfriend, Marion (surname unknown) who was in his life by 1944. He was destined to be a farm hand, perhaps taking over his father’s farm one day, but the onset of World War II and his reaching draft age in 1944 would change all that.

In May of 1944, Charles enlisted in the U. S. Army at Ft. Dix, NJ. Girlfriend Marion gave him a gift of an ID bracelet, inscribed with his name and military serial number in front and her words of affection on the reverse. The bracelet blank was manufactured in Mexico, and it may very well have been purchased and engraved at the Welch family drug and watch repair shop on Union Street; his older sister Anna was married to William Welch.

Marion’s parting gift to Charles upon his induction into the Army: an ID bracelet, returned to the Madjarosy family with his personal effects (courtesy Catherine Hastings)
Reverse of ID bracelet (courtesy Catherine Hastings)

He received his basic training at Ft. Croft, SC, and was shipped overseas in late October of that year. Assigned immediately to the 8th Infantry Division he was sent into action as the division was advancing into Germany.

Private Charles Madjarosy (first row at extreme right) with his training unit at Ft. Croft, ca. June 1944 (photo courtesy Cathy Hastings)

Private Madjarosy was killed in action in Germany on December 5, 1944, 19 days after his arrival overseas, according to the Wilmington News Journal. Although some sources on the Web describe his death as having occurred during the Battle of the Bulge, the latter action began a full ten days later, on December 16. The news that Charles Madjarosy was KIA was delivered to the Madjarosy family just before Christmas 1944. This was no doubt a catastrophic emotional trauma, as the joyous holiday would be forever associated with a terrible loss. According to surviving family members and at least one acquaintance, Gladys Madjarosy (later known by her married name, Gladys Wilkins) hated Christmas to the end of her life. There would be one additional tragic outcome as well, which will be revealed in this post’s final paragraph.

Frank Madjarosy, undated photo (courtesy Catherine Hastings)
Mary Madjarosy, December 1942 (courtesy Catherine Hastings)
Gladys Madjarosy, c. 1944 (courtesy Catherine Hastings)

Charles was interred in a cemetery in Germany until 1947, at which time his remains were returned to the family and buried in Milton’s Odd Fellows Cemetery, amid solemnity and honor. Newspapers all over the state reported on the event, but the Sussex Countian did a particularly good job in that respect (see below).

Report of Pvt. Madjarosy’s interment in Milton, November 1947 (courtesy Catherine Hastings)
Purple Heart awarded posthumously to Private Charles A. Madjarosy (courtesy Catherine Hastings)

Private Madjarosy, a Delaware farm hand who had seen nothing of the world and its evils, was shipped to the front lines after barely five months of training. This begs the question: did the Army properly prepare him and many others like him for combat against the war-hardened, still brutally effective German army defending its homeland, a military force yielding every inch of territory only after fierce resistance? This is a difficult question to answer. During the years-long preparation for the campaign in Europe, American soldiers had a long period to train and sharpen their skills, so that the troops that landed on D-Day were well-prepared to fight the Germans. Some writers maintain that toward the end of the war (late 1944 to 1945), when manpower demands in the European theater of operations were rising sharply, soldiers who had barely finished training in the arms and tactics they were supposed to use were rushed to the front as replacements; they were told to follow the lead of more experienced troops in their units – a kind of “on the job training” that could be a factor in high casualty rates among green troops. But this is a line of inquiry for another time.

In March of 1967, almost two decades after the remains of his son were reburied in Odd Fellow Cemetery with full honors, Frank Madjarosy ended his life with a shotgun blast. Newspaper obituaries attributed the suicide to possible despondency over years of heart ailments, but family members tell a different story: Frank’s grandson Ed Maas had completed National Guard basic training in 1966, the war in Vietnam was raging, and he couldn’t face the possibility of losing a grandson on the battlefield. Despite the fact that no National Guard units were ever mobilized for duty in Vietnam, Frank could not envision any outcome of his grandson’s service except the worst possible one. Frank Madjarosy, then, was Milton’s last casualty of World War II.

Notes on sources

I am greatly indebted to Catherine Hastings for allowing me to access the wealth of information pertaining to Private Charles A. Madjarosy and his family, passed down to her by her grand-aunt Gladys Madjarosy Wilkins.

6 thoughts on “Honor Roll – Pvt. Charles Madjarosy

  • Jane Edginton

    This series is great. I’ve heard these names all my life but didn’t know the stories. Thank you

    • Phil Martin

      Thanks for your interest! Are you related to Frank Edginton?

  • Neal W. Welch

    Thank you for this post. I spent many days as a child on the Madgarosy farm. I am the son of Neal Welch, whose brother was Bill Welch of Union Street, and Bill’s wife was Ann Madgarosy Welch. I spent many days with Gladys and Norman as well as Uncle Frank and Aunt Mary. I was fascinated with the button machines, the farm equipment, the chicken houses, etc. It was a great adventure on Cave Neck Road for a boy from the City. I never met Charlie as he was killed in 1944 and I was born in 1946. By the way both my Dad and Uncle Bill Welch served in the military during WW!!, uncle Bill in the Army and my Dad in the Navy. Many stories to tell there especially about Uncle Bill and his involvement with the Norden bomb sight in B17 bombers in Europe. Best to all.

    • Phil Martin

      I appreciate your interest in this article! The Madjarosy family story is a complicated one, and I had to limit myself for this post both in terms of length and because there are details that are still missing, but which I hope to collect one day.
      You’ve got me curious about the Norden bomb sight and Bill Welch’s involvement with it. Can you tell me more, or point me to a source that can provide more information?

      • Neal W. Welch

        The story of the Norden bomb site and Bill Welch is quite a long one and very interesting. The highlights are simply that because of Bill’s knowledge of clocks and watches, he was selected by the Army Air Corps to become an expert with the Norden bomb site which essentially uses time accuracy for when and where to pinpoint a target. He was stationed in England before the Allies secured air bases on the Continent. Then he was stationed in Holland toward the end of the war. When planes would return to England, and later Holland in the evening or at night, Uncle Bill would recalibrate the bombsite while the planes were reloaded for the next day’s mission (remember US forces bombed during the day while the British bombed at night. As my Aunt Ann used to say, until the day he died, Bill always drank his coffee cold, since he never got to the chow hall when it was feeding everyone else. Neal Welch

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