One War, Four Brothers, and a City Park
Location: Rich, Lovett and Kinsman Streets
The first thing I ever read about Walter Sak Playground was in a city report stating it was “a forlorn park in a forlorn neighborhood”. Little evidence of a playground remained when I first rolled by. The surrounding neighborhood was a mixed bag of hope and blight with some new construction and steadfast neighbors just trying to keep it all together.
What a difference a few years make! The transformation is a major boon for this neighborhood. Kudos to Detroit Parks and Rec.
Formerly known as Kinsman Playground, the park first came to fruition in the 1920’s. Good days were had in 1940’s and 1950’s serving kids with a baseball diamond, lots of playground equipment, ice skating [flooded park in winter], drinking fountains, and a comfort station with toilet. A one acre destination for neighborhood kids.
Jacob and Tille Sak raised their large Polish family of 11 children on nearby Scotten Street. When World War II came along, four eligible and brave sons served – Michael, Joseph, Stanley and Walter. They all returned to Detroit except for Walter.
Prior to service, Walter was a skilled worker in an auto parts factory grinding and buffing. He landed in the US Army 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant earning both the Bronze Medal and Silver Star.
His division was responsible for many amphibious assaults including D-Day at Normandy. Walter’s service was long and varied with additional battles in North Africa- Kasserine Pass, Tunisia ; Sicily, Italy; Remagen and Stolberg, Germany.
The end of the line came on Monday, November 20, 1944; Walter died of wounds received in battle in the Hürtgen Forest where his division took the Laufenberg Castle. His relatives tell us, he arrived at the field hospital missing his arm. The specifics of his service, military citation and death are forgotten details not found in military service databases and likely lost in the US archival records fire of 1973.
Again, his surviving family tells us an inquiry with the National Archive shows the battle site in Schevenhütte, Hürtgen Forest, Germany. Walter is interned in Belgium at the Henri-Chapelle US Military Cemetery, but in Detroit his legacy will always be at Lovett and Rich Street. Walter Sak, Detroit remembers you.
Thanks for reading. Copyright as usual. ©2015, Andrea Gallucci.