Stanley Stephen Swiontek was born on November 2, 1918, in Chicago, IL. His parents, John and Victoria Wierzbicka Swiontek, were Polish immigrants who worked hard to provide for their large family of six sons and a daughter. Stanley was the fifth child, and his older brother Andrew had passed away the day before Stanley’s sixth birthday. Growing up, Stanley was close to his mother, who kept all of the letters he wrote home while serving in the Marine Corps.
Stanley had joined the United States Marine Corps on January 20, 1940, and had been stationed on the U.S.S. Arizona. On December 6, 1941, the night before the attack, It was understood by the family that Stanley had played clarinet in the band that was competing in the Battle of the Bands. The prize for winning the competition was to sleep in the next morning. It is assumed that this possibly impacted Stanley’s location on the ship during the attack.
The next morning, December 7, 1941, everything changed. At 7:55 a.m., the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the U.S.S. Arizona was hit by several bombs. The ship was quickly engulfed in flames and began to sink. Stanley was never found or recovered.
For years after the attack, Stanley’s mother Victoria would become sick every December 7th. The memory of her favorite son, Stanley, trapped inside the sinking ship tore her apart. His youngest sister, Rosemary, recalled how exhausting it was for her mother to relive the events of that day every year.
But Stanley’s sacrifice, and that of the thousands of other brave servicemen and women who fought and died at Pearl Harbor, would never be forgotten. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a defining moment in American history, and it galvanized the country to unite against a common enemy.
On the 75th anniversary of the attack, Stanley’s niece, Judy Hedlin remembered how difficult it was for her family to come to terms with the tragedy. As a child, she couldn’t understand each year as December arrived and Christmas was soon on the way, why her mother and grandmother, while putting up decorations and baking cookies were crying and so sad and that everyone else seemed happy. But as she grew older, she came to appreciate the sacrifices that Stanley and his fellow servicemen had made for their country.
Stanley Stephen Swiontek may have been just one of the thousands of servicemen who died at Pearl Harbor, but his sacrifice will always be remembered. He was a son, a brother, and a U.S. Marine who gave his life in service to his country. And that is something that we should never forget.
Sources: The Chicago Sun-Times; Marine muster rolls; Census; Illinois birth record. Photographs courtesy of nephew Richard Martinotti & U.S. Marine Corps. This profile was rewritten by “Operation 85” from the original sourced profile written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.