Along with being named as the grand marshal for the 2006 Bayonne Memorial Day Parade, Czarnecki has been named as the 2006 recipient of the Lance Corporal Stanley Kopcinski Award by the Bayonne Detachment of the Marine Corps League, of which he is a former commander.
"It's an honor receive grand marshal," he said.
Giovanni said Czarnecki will receive the award on Memorial Day, May 29, in a ceremony at the Veterans or Foreign Wars Post 19, W. 19th Street, at 3 p.m. following the Memorial Day Parade. The ceremony is open to the public.
"Al is very qualified for this honor," said past Commandant Joseph Calcaterra.
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir, fought from November into December 1950, pitted 30,000 Union Nations troops against 70,000 Chinese volunteers shortly after the People's Republic of China entered the war. Large numbers of Chinese soldiers swept across the Yalu river, encircling the United Nations (UN) troops at the Chosin Reservoir, in the northeastern part of North Korea. The brutal battle was fought in freezing weather.
Outnumbered and surrounded, U.S. Marines fought their way through enemy lines in this battle immortalized by a quote by Major General O.P. Smith who said, "Retreat, hell! We're attacking in a different direction!"
For years, Czarnecki recounted the battle to fellow veterans about how outnumbered his unit was and about the intensity of the cold.
"You always have memories," he said during a telephone interview. "You can't get rid of them. I'm just thankful I came home. It was an honor to serve."
Outnumbered 10 to 1
Czarnecki, following World War II, had joined the newly formed Marine Corps reserve unit stationed at the Military Ocean Terminal, then known as Bayonne Naval Depot.
"At the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, President (Harry S) Truman activated the reserve unit, which became Company B of the 21st Infantry Battalion," said Marine Corps League Commandant Louis Giovanni, who served with Czarnecki during this time.
Czarnecki and the others traveled by train to California and then - holding the rank of corporal - he was immediately sent Korea, where he was expected to take the lead in units that had a large number of new recruits.
Czarnecki was with the 1st Marine Division as it pushed North Korean armies toward the Yalu River on the North Korean-Chinese border. China had threatened to enter the war if North Korea was invaded, and on Nov. 25, 1950, with the Marines closing in on the North Koreans near the Chosin Reservoir, Chinese troops poured across the Yalu.
For 14 days, U.S. Marines fought against human waves of attackers, and eventually fought their way back to their own lines carrying with them equipment as well as the dead and wounded. At times, his unit was outnumbered 10 to 1, and the temperature was often 20 degrees below zero.
He kept warm by stamping his feet and eating Tootsie Roll candy.
"My feet felt like two pieces of ice," he said.
Eight other Marines from Bayonne had died in the combat.
"They were guys that went over with me from here," he said.
Suffering from frostbite, Czarnecki was eventually evacuated to a hospital in Japan. After being promoted to sergeant, he was transferred to Guam where he instructed Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel in firearms and combat tactics. Later, he served as a small arms instructor in a Port Newark facility.
Czarnecki has been very active in the veterans' community in Bayonne, especially after his retirement from IMTT in 1990. He is a member of Korean War Veterans Association of Hudson County, F.A. Mackenzie Post 165 American Legion, Bayonne Detachment of the Marine Corps League and National Unit of the Chosin Few.
Giovanni said that for over 20 years, Czarnecki has volunteered for the Marine Corps League's annual toy drive.
When asked if there was anything he was most proud of doing with the veterans, he said, "I can't put my finger on any particular thing."
A few names missing from the list of honorees Czarnecki is the 40th recipient of the Kopcinski Award.
The Bayonne Detachment of the Marine Corps League created this award to honor the memory of Stanley Kopcinski, who was the first U.S. Marine from Bayonne killed during the Vietnam War. The award is given annually to an individual who has been involved in the veterans' community and has made a significant contribution to the Bayonne community. The first award was given in 1967.
Former Freeholder Barry Dugan, who won this distinction in 1999, said the Marine Corps League is trying to reconstruct the list of former winners and said that he is seeking the names of winners from the years 1969, 1976, 1983 and 1988, which were lost when records were lost.
"We want to make certain they are all remembered," Dugan said, asking that anyone with information contact him at (201) 437-4909 or (201) 795-6001.