Little-known Hero of WWII Remembered

November 9, 2012 Updated Nov 9, 2012 at 7:36 PM EDT

By WKBW News
By Ed Reilly

...
November 9, 2012 Updated Nov 9, 2012 at 7:36 PM EDT

ATHOL SPRINGS, NY (WKBW) - Ignatius Maternowski was a member of the first graduating class from St. Francis High School in 1931.

He went on to become a Franciscan Friar and joined the US Army as a chaplain.

In a rare move, Fr. Maternowski also became a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.

During the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, he jumped with troops into Picauville, France.

Fighting was fierce and casualties quickly mounted.

"There wasn't enough room in a local house to take care of the wounded." say retired US Army Lt. Col. Kelly Carrigg.

Father Maternowski then walked unarmed and without a helmet to German held territory.

"He found a German officer and asked him if they could establish a joint hospital in a home. Things seemed to be going well, but unfortunately, upon his return to where he was taking care of the wounded, a sniper shot him."

The US Army chaplain was killed and his body fell into a ditch where it remained for three days - unable to be recovered because of the intense fighting.

68-years after his death, his heroic efforts are being remembered.

This past July, a non-profit group of French citizens unveiled a special monument in Picauville, France to remember the Franciscan Friar.

And during Veterans Day commemorations at St. Francis High School, an honor guard from the 914th Airlift Wing in Niagara Falls conducted the military flag folding ceremony which is customary during a soldiers funeral.

Since Fr. Maternowksi has no living relatives, the flag was then presented to his Franciscan family and received by St. Francis High School President, Father Mike Sajda, O.F.M. Conv.