SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – After more than 75 years, World War II hero Paul Cybowski is finally home. On Sept. 23, the remains of Cybowski, who was killed in action in 1943, received an official military escort back to South Plainfield. He will officially be laid to rest alongside his family this week.
Cybowski was born in South Plainfield and attended Roosevelt School. He served in the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1934-1936 and worked for Cornell-Dubilier for several years. In 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a staff sergeant in the 373rd Bombardment Squadron, 308th Bombardment Group, based in Yangkai, China where he was assigned as a tail gunner on a B-24 bomber.
On Sept. 15, 1943, Cybowski was serving on a mission in Hai Phong, French Indochina (now known as Vietnam) when his aircraft was attacked by dozens of Japanese fighter planes. The South Plainfield veteran, along with four others, died in the attack. He was just 26 years old. Cybowski was credited for courageously firing at the enemy as the plane made its tragic landing and, in honor of his efforts, was posthumously awarded both the Air Medal and the Purple Heart and, on a local front, Cybowski Court was named in his honor.
Although he was declared missing in action and presumed dead, Cybowski’s body was never identified. For 75 years, he was buried as an ‘unknown soldier,’ first at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines and then moved to Europe before being laid to rest at a Unites States cemetery in Hawaii. It wasn't until August 2018 that his remains were officially identified. His family was notified in July and on the morning of Sept. 23 – a little over 76 years since he went missing – Cybowski returned home. He will be honored with the military medals and commendations he earned and laid to rest on Wednesday alongside family in his hometown.
“A forensic lab run by the government was established in the 1980s during the search for Vietnam veterans' remains and, over the years, it extended its services to identify other veterans lost in action,” said Jack Martinez, commander of VFW Post 6763 here in South Plainfield, telling TAPinto that they were fortunate to have the DNA of one of Cybowski’s family members. “So many of us combat veterans lost family members and friends and the government is working to bring them home.”
On the morning of Sept. 23, staff of the South Plainfield Funeral Home, Port Authority, South Plainfield, and New Jersey State Police personnel, airport staff and extended family members stood at attention as Cybowski’s coffin was lowered from the plane at Newark in proper military honor. The detail moved his casket from the plane to the hearse, and he received an official military escort, led by New Jersey State and South Plainfield Police, on his long over due journey back to his hometown.
Family and friends looking to pay their respects may gather at the South Plainfield Funeral Home, 2456 Plainfield Avenue, on Tuesday, Sept. 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. Members of various veterans organizations, including American Legion, VFW, and the Patriot Guard Riders, along with local and state dignitaries, are expected to attend.
Together the American Legion Chaumont Post 243, under Commander Joe Penyak Sr., and Memorial VFW Post 6763, under Commander Martinez, along with other military agencies will honor Cybowski during Tuesday night’s ceremony.
“It is wonderful the government is going this, bringing the remains back. Now he is going to be home, where he grew up,” Martinez told TAPinto South Plainfield, adding, "It is really a great honor and a wonderful thing they did for him.”
Services will be held at the funeral home the morning of Sept. 25, beginning at 10 a.m. A blessing, conducted by Rev. Peter Tran of Our Lady of Czestochowa, will be held at 11 a.m. followed by burial with full military honors at Holy Redeemer Cemetery in South Plainfield.
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