Corporal William Anthony Biraga
Location: Mount Elliot at Richardson
Yep! Sometimes Detroit parks are found within apartment complexes. I believe this park is actually owned by the apartment complex now and not the City of Detroit. A big thank you to Kim B. for reaching out and sharing the photo of her relative. I love it when that happens! – Andrea G.
William Anthony Biraga (1918-1943) served in WWII with Company I, Third Battalion, First Marines Division. On December 26, 1943, he was up against Japanese forces in the Battle of Cape Gloucester on the island of New Britain in the South Pacific. It was a fierce battle and as an early casualty, William would be posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his courageous efforts.
The objective was to capture a major Japanese airfield on the island and set up safe passage for Allied Forces through the straits separating New Guinea from the island of New Britain. This battle began in December and lasted approximately 4.5 months. It was code named: Operation Cartwheel.
ALWAYS A MARINE, DUTY BEFORE SELF
Per his citation, Corporal Biraga led a group of six men behind a General Sherman tank in an assault against entrenched Japanese troops. He became severely wounded yet continued to direct his men in combat. His efforts were successful in beating back enemy forces.
He was evacuated to a waiting LST-453 [ Tank Landing Ship – an amphibious boat] where he died en route to hospital. Biraga was interred at the US Military Cemetery in Soputa, New Guinea then transferred home to Detroit for re-burial in Mount Olivet cemetery.
Biraga Memorial playground was dedicated in 1952 and was originally on Dwyer Street near the convergence of Detroit and Hamtramck. Biraga lived with his Polish immigrant parents on Comstock Street about 10 blocks north.
A few years back an apartment complex was built on the property and the playground was incorporated into the new development. Fronting Mount Elliot, this small and tidy playground offers kids and adults a green space to enjoy while honoring the memory of a one-time neighborhood kid. Mount Elliot in 2018 is looking better than ever.
Thanks for reading!