Part I: The early years for Superior's Alex WizbickiThe following is Part I of a two-part series on Superior’s Alex Wizbikci, who played professional football for the Buffalo Bills from 1947-49 and the Green Bay Packers in 1950. Part II of the series by Lance Boyle (aka Don Leighton) will run next week.
By: By Don Leighton, Superior Telegram
It was Oct. 6, 1921, and Clementine and Alexander Wizbicki welcomed their fifth son, Alexander John, into the world. After coming to the United States from Poland in 1902, four sons preceded Alexander John. John, Edward, Raymond and Felix welcomed their little brother into the world not knowing that he would become a professional football player, a fraternity whose membership is limited. His life was full of love and support from his family as he exhibited, at an early age, the rare ability to excel at the rough and tumble game of football.
During his senior year at Boy’s High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., Alex was the New York City scoring champion. He was privileged to play for legendary coach Walter Mueller until 1941 when he graduated and was offered scholarships to play his sport at Notre Dame, Holy Cross, Fordham, Brown and Georgetown.
Alex was all set to go to South Bend to become an Irish. He had his train ticket and suitcase in hand but then had a change of heart. He would be leaving his buddies and family behind. It was a long way to Indiana so the College of the Holy Cross, located 45 miles west of Boston, would be his home for his college career. It wasn’t located in New York, but it was a lot closer to home.
After his freshman year of football, all was well. Wizbicki was on his way to achieving his degree in history, had settled into his new surroundings and was enjoying the college life with his friends and teammates. Then came Dec. 7, 1941, a “day that shall live in infamy.”
Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese and the lives of every American turned upside down. Wizbicki completed his freshman year but felt compelled to defend his country. He joined the Marine Corps in May of 1942 and spent the next four years of his life as a Marine.
After basic training at Paris Island, South Carolina, he was stationed at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina where he attended Combat Intelligence School. His next stop was California for more training and then on to Hawaii where he joined the 6th Marine Division. His job was to get into Japanese held territory, seek out their patrols and get information back to the Marines. Danger lurked behind every palm tree, as detection of his actions would have meant capture or death.
In 1943, he spent most of his time gathering invaluable information on Guadalcanal. In late 1943, he was moved to Guam for more training before being shipped to Okinawa in May of 1944. Okinawa was in the middle of Japanese territory, so Wizbicki’s stealth and reports were a vital part of any success achieved by U.S. forces.
When Guam was secured in August of 1944, he was sent back to Guam for further training for the impending invasion of Japan. But before that invasion, which would have cost many thousands of lives, the United States dropped two atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
When word reached Guam of Japan’s surrender, a celebration to end all celebrations took place.
Wizbicki remembers it well.
“We were on maneuvers getting us ready to invade Japan,” Wizbicki said. “We had been away from camp and were returning. When we arrived, there was mass chaos, and we didn’t know what was going on. Everyone was going crazy. When we found out the war was over, we went crazy too.”
It was August of 1945, but his service was not over. In a twist of irony, Wizbicki was assigned to repatriate and protect the Japanese from the Chinese. Japan had brutalized the Chinese for years, and part of the treaty signed by the United States and Japan provided protection for the Japanese by the Americans.
Wizbicki was discharged from the service in April of 1946 as a sergeant having been awarded the Bronze Star for gallantry in action. In the fall of 1946 he returned to Holy Cross to resume his schooling and football playing as a changed and mature young man. Part of his youth had been lost, but getting on with his life was the most important thing to him.
Because of classes taken through Dartmouth University during the war, he was able to graduate in June of 1947 from Holy Cross with a bachelor’s degree in education. He wanted to be a history teacher, however, another fate was in store for the 25-year-old from Brooklyn.
The Pittsburgh Steelers had drafted him in the NFL’s 1945 draft and owned his rights. The All American Football Conference was a rival league that operated in 1947 when Wizbicki was ready to become a professional. He chose Buffalo of the AAFC.
As Paul Harvey used to say, “And now, the rest of the story.” But you will have to wait until next time when we cover 60 years and the Green Bay Packers.
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