Former 1st Armored Division soldier turns 100

By Staff Sgt. Justin SmithMarch 2, 2023

1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
An M1 Abrams Tank fires at targets for gunnery shortly after christening their barrel with a new name, CPL Pieciorak. Thaddeus Pieciorak is a former 1st Armored Division Soldier who served in the European Theater of World War II. The barrel was given his namesake in celebration of his 100th birthday on March 3, 2023.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – An M1 Abrams Tank fires at targets for gunnery shortly after christening their barrel with a new name, CPL Pieciorak. Thaddeus Pieciorak is a former 1st Armored Division Soldier who served in the European Theater of World War II. The barrel was given his namesake in celebration of his 100th birthday on March 3, 2023. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Justin Smith) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BLISS, Texas – A former 1st Armored Division soldier, Thaddeus Pieciorak, turns 100 years old March 3, and elements across the division stepped up to help him celebrate this rare milestone.

The 1st AD staff filmed a special birthday message, and most notably, the division honored Pieciorak by painting the barrel of an M1 Abrams tank main gun with his namesake.

“It means a lot,” said tank commander Staff Sgt. Dakota Roundtree, an M1 armor crewman assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment. “The unit trusts what we do and what we have done to take care of this tank.”

Following the barrel naming, the tank crew performed admirably on their first gunnery range.

Pieciorak is one of the oldest known living Iron Soldiers. He was born on March 3, 1923, in New York City.

While attending college at New Hampshire University, he spoke with an Army Reserve recruiter who convinced him of the benefits of military service. He enlisted with the intent to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps program and receive a commission following graduation.

However, before he could graduate and commission, he received orders to report to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Then he was sent to basic training at Camp Croft, South Carolina, in preparation for deployment to the European Theater during World War II.

After arriving in Naples, Italy, he was assigned to the 6th Armored Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, and transported to fight at Monte Porchia near Monte Cassino as a machine gunner. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his participation in the battle.

“You learn more in the first fifteen minutes of combat than you do in fourteen weeks of basic training,” Pieciorak said in a past interview.

His service in the European Theater would take him throughout Italy and Germany, and he reached the rank of corporal.

Following the war, he returned home and finished college. He met his wife, and they remained married for over sixty years, having three children.

Approaching his 100th birthday, Pieciorak spent a fair amount of time reminiscing about how his time in combat affected him.

“It makes me appreciate things more,” he said. “You look at things in a different aspect.”

To learn more about Pieciorak and his Army service, visit the Library of Congress at https://www.loc.gov/item/afc2001001.110020/.