Joseph Stephen Kornacki (Konotski) was born on August 15, 1896 in Warsaw, Poland. He immigrated to the United States with his father and brother, both of whom returned to Europe prior to the American involvement in the First World War.As a young man, he found work as a blacksmith, but at the age of 23, he enlisted in the United States Army as a means to expedite his status as an American Citizen.He was inducted on October 7, 1917, and was ultimately assigned to the 164 Infantry Brigade (2nd Battalion), 328th Division, Company “G”.
As a member of the American Expeditionary Forces, his tour began in France on May 1st, 1918, He was sent to the Toul Sector from June 28th –August 6, 1918, the Marbache Sector from August 13th-September 11th, 1918.On September 12, 1918, his unit took part in the St. Mihiel Drive, and then began the Muse Argonne Offensive on October 7th, 1918.
It was, of course, the battle in the Argonne on October 8, 1918, in which he was a part of a detachment of seventeen men that was credited with capturing 132 German Soldiers that served as the pinnacle of his service in the Army.The 82nd division remained on the front line until October 31, 1918, when they were replaced by the 80th Division.It was the Second Battalion that remained in position as a screen as the balance of the 164th Brigade was relieved.According to the History of the 328th Infantry, after being relieved; as these men march through Fleville, “The guns of many Divisions were roaring forth along the entire front a deep and heavy barrage.The guns of all calibers rejoicing in their efforts, foretold in tones of thunder the coming of the end.A curtain of fire had indeed fallen upon the last act of war.”
Joseph received a Brigade Citation for Gallantry in Action (which was later converted to the Silver Star) in May of 1919, for his actions on October 8th.He received an honorable discharge from the Army on May 27, 1919, and returned to his home in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
On August 23, 1920, he married Rose Dolat (April 4, 1900-July 13, 1981) and moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts.Their first child, Walter, died at the age of nine months.Joseph and Rose went on to have seven additional children spanning a period of twenty-four years; four girls, Mary (b.1922), Jeanette (Nina) (b.1926), Irene (b. 1931) and Helen (b. 1934) and three boys; Edward (b. 1924), Theodore (b. 1940) and Joseph (b.1944).
He was an active member of Post 25 of the American Legion and in 1929 was invited to the Army War Collage re-enactment of the October 1918 battle as part of the annual War College Carnival.In an interview with his oldest daughter, Mary Finn, who remembers the War College event as well as taking part in the Legion drill team with her father, she recalled that her father was moved and honored by his invitation to this event. She also said that her father expressed that York had received all of the glory for the famous battle, but in his mind, it was the work of the whole detachment. She said that he would rarely speak of the incident, nor did he seek further recognition for himself
Upon returning from the war, he was employed by the American Writing Company, which at one time controlled seventy-five percent of the total fine paper output in the United States; he worked as the shift supervisor in the Linden Division located on Jackson Street in Holyoke.According to, Theodore, Joseph’s only remaining son; his father was also a skilled “shoemaker”.Theodore recalled that Joseph would steal lengths of leather machine belts from the mill by wrapping them around his body and concealing them beneath his coat.He would then hand-cut and craft the leather into durable shoes for the family.According to Theodore, the shoes were the envy of the neighborhood, but not with the women.
On March 27, 1959, Joseph suffered a heart attack on the way to Holyoke Hospital. Theodore recalls the cold day in March, 1959, when his father had an accident at home; Joseph had fallen and sustained a severe injury to his face, from which he bled profusely.His wife, Rose, called for a cab and sent Joseph to the hospital planning to follow shortly after.Before she was able to leave herself, she received a telephone call from the hospital informing her that her husband had died.Joseph died at the age 64; and one day shy of his retirement.