A recent donation to NMAS revealed the curious case of Walter Joseph Hrbaczewski. Hrbaczewski joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in February, 1946 at age 17, getting his parents to sign him up as a minor. He completed boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois and then attended service school in California. After six months on active duty, he became an inactive member of the Naval Reserve.
All was normal for Hrbaczewski for a few years. But then things got weird.
In 1950 he was contacted by Selective Service and instructed to report for duty with the U.S. Army. Although rare, there have been people throughout American history who have served in more than one branch of the military. However, it’s not possible to serve in multiple branches at the same time.
Because he was already in the Naval Reserve, Hrbaczewski should not have been ordered to join the Army. He informed them of his service with the Navy, but he couldn’t find anyone who believed him. It appears there was a mix-up of the records because he had joined the Navy as a minor, making it possible for his name to come up in the Selective Service System after he turned 18. Given no other choice, Hrbaczewski was inducted into the Army.
Two years later, his mother received a letter from the Navy declaring Hrbaczewski a deserter because he had not shown up for drill in two years. She sent this letter to his son, who used it as proof of his story.
With the help of his Commanding Officer, Hrbaczewski was finally able to straighten out his military service record. He received two years back pay from the Navy since he had technically been on active duty (albeit with the Army). He also received a General Discharge under Honorable Conditions from the Naval Reserve, effective October, 1950. Hrbaczewski continued to serve in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve until October, 1956.
Hrbaczewski’s artifacts, like the hygiene kit (above) and rolled white uniform jumpers (right) show how sometimes the story behind the artifact is just as interesting as the artifact itself. If you believe that you have artifacts that fit with the Mission of NMAS, be sure to fill out a Donation Proposal Form – and don’t forget to tell us the story behind those artifacts!
The museum has a large collection of World War I and World War II artifacts and is working to increase our post World War II collection. To learn more about the museum’s collections, visit the Historical Collections and Research page on our website.