Biraga Memorial Playground – Park 33

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.

One of four city playgrounds in Detroit located in an apartment complex – the others are Bristol, Downey and Fitzpatrick.
The Mount Elliot area is looking better and better. This tidy play lot fronts Mount Elliot.
William “Willie” Biraga with his sister Harriet and an unidentified child in the old neighborhood on Comstock near Mount Elliot.

OPERATION CARTWHEEL 

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. 

 

LSTs were often used to carry weapons and mainstay supplies. This photo is not the LST-453 but is similar. The boat can land on ungroomed shoreline. The hull opens up and the tanks roll out. Public domain photo. Thanks Canada.
I do love these public domain WWII photos.  LSTs were often used to carry weapons and mainstay supplies. This photo is not the LST-453 but is similar. The boat can land on un-groomed shoreline. The hull opens up and the tanks roll out. Public domain photo. Thanks Canada. 

 

An up close and personal look at the Battle of Gloucester taken by a field soldier photographer. Public domain photo.
An up close and personal look at the Battle of Gloucester taken by a field soldier photographer. Public domain photo.

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. 

 

It’s great the plaque and flag pole base still exist. Back in the 1940’s and 1950’s most every park had a flag pole.
Map courtesy of Google. Hamtramck is to the left of the RR tracks.
Map courtesy of Google. Hamtramck is to the left of the RR tracks.
Willie Biraga you are remembered.

Thanks for reading!