Biraga Memorial Playground – Park 33

Corporal William Anthony Biraga

On December 26, 1943 William Anthony Biraga was serving with Company I, Third Battalion, First Marines Division in WWII. He was up against Japanese forces in the Battle of Cape Gloucester on the island of New Britain, a territory of New Guinea in the South Pacific. The objective of this battle was to capture a major Japanese airfield on the island as well as set up safe passage for Allied Forces through the straits separating New Guinea from the island of New Britain. The code name for this fierce battle was Operation Cartwheel; it began in mid-December 1943 and ran through April 1944.

Biraga Memorial Playground fronting Mount Elliot. Super cute.
Biraga Memorial Playground fronting Mount Elliot. Super cute.
This concrete base with dedication plaque was used to support the flagpole at the original park.  It was moved to the new play area.
This concrete base with dedication plaque was used to support the flagpole used in the original park. It was moved to the new park.

DUTY BEFORE SELF

Corporal Biraga led a group of six men behind a General Sherman tank in an assault against Japanese pillboxes [a fortified trench with a keyhole or loophole to fire weapons]. During this battle, Biraga became severely wounded, however he continued to direct his men against the enemy pillboxes until they were put out of action.

Biraga was evacuated to a waiting LST-453 [ Tank Landing Ship – an amphibious boat] where he died while headed to 362nd Station Hospital at Oro Bay, New Guinea. He was initially 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.
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.

 

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. Recently, the playground was revamped and incorporated into a newer apartment complex built on the same property. Fronting Mount Elliot, this new, tidy playground offers kids in a great place to play while keeping the memory of William Biraga alive.

 

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.