Thursday, December 19, 2013

Honoring William J. Camp

William J. Camp

As we approach Christmas it's a fitting time to honor a soldier who lost his life on the day after Christmas 1944, and the family who still keeps his memory alive.

I recently wrote about Norbert Kuchman, a WWII veteran whose postcards I found on e-Bay. I alerted his son, Dave Kuchman, to the cards and he was able to acquire them. The cards were written by Norbert to an old girlfriend during the war and ended up on e-Bay after being sold in an estate sale after she died.

William and Marian Camp
Dave contacted me recently with a fascinating follow-up to his dad’s story that involves yet another set of postcards in his family. Norbert had a brother-in-law, William J. Camp, who was killed in action December 26, 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge. Dave had borrowed some of his postcards from a relative, and he shared images of the postcards and the story of “Uncle Bill.” It's quite a story.

Private Camp was born in 1910. His birth name was William John Czarnowsky, but he later changed it to Camp. Like many in his hometown of Rochester, New York, he worked for Eastman Kodak Company. William married Norbert Kuchman’s sister, Marian, on October 30, 1934. He enlisted in the Army on May 22, 1944, and just seven months later while serving with the 121st Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division, he was killed when a German shell hit near his foxhole. He left a widow and three sons, all now deceased. He is buried at the American cemetery at Margraten, Netherlands. Marian did not remarry and passed away in 1990.

The postcards Dave showed me (via email) were written between June and August 1944 while Private Camp was in training at Camp Croft near Spartanburg, SC. They were addressed to Private Camp’s middle son, James, who turned four in June 1944, six months before his father died. In one card Private Camp wished James a happy birthday. James died in 1997.
Private Camp wished his son a happy fourth birthday in this card

Dave also sent me a photo of a plaque that hung in Eastman Kodak offices for many years honoring Private Camp and two other employees who were killed in the war.

Private Camp’s postcards are interesting, but another photo Dave shared with me is positively gripping. It’s a photo of his dad, Norbert Kuchman, kneeling at William Camp’s grave in the Netherlands in 1947. Those of us who didn’t live through World War II can never imagine the upheaval it brought to so many families. I can’t fathom the emotions Norbert must have felt as he visited his brother-in-law’s grave. The two of them served in combat in Europe. One came home, one didn't.

In the photo the graves are marked with what appear to be wooden crosses. Today each grave is marked with a marble cross inscribed with the soldier's name. The American Battle Monuments Commission has an excellent web site where you can search for American soldiers who are buried overseas. 

Plaque honoring three Eastman Kodak employees who died in World War II

Norbert Kuchman at William Camp's grave in the Netherlands, 1947.

William Camp's grave marker at Margraten

More about William Camp can be found at

To Norbert Kuchman and William Camp – thank you for serving our country. And kudos to Dave Kuchman for keeping their memory alive, lest we forget.

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