Donald Jerome Nowatzki was born in Mount Carmel, North Dakota on March 6th, 1935. He was the son of Emmanuel and Minnie Brick Nowatzki. There is not much recorded information about Nowatzki’s early life, but it can be assumed that he did not enter the armed forces until 17 or 18 years of age, putting his time of enlistment in 1952 or 1953. At this point, the Korean War had been raging for two to three years.
According to a listing for Nowatzki in the military registers, the young soldier worked in the Ordnance Branch of the United States Army. The Ordnance Branch is responsible for ensuring that the Army is prepared for operations with enough ammunition, fuel, food, and other necessary supplies. During the Korean War, Nowatzki operated within an Ordnance branch that innovated and improved upon the Ordnance practices of the Second World War a decade earlier: “In Korea, it established a support infrastructure modeled on the one used in WWII, to include echeloned maintenance operations, ammunition handling, and EOD operations. The Ordnance Corps improved this model through standardization to achieve tremendous success in reducing parts and processes, one of the biggest challenges in WWII.” There is no record of any of the specifics of Nowatzki’s influence on the innovation of the Ordnance Branch, but his Army Commendation Medal and Meritorious Service Medal earned in Korea indicate that he was an accomplished soldier who performed his role within the Branch with great merit.
Nowatzki was also a veteran of the Vietnam War, which lasted from 1955 to 1975. Throughout his service from Korea to Vietnam, Nowatzki rose to become a Warrant Officer; having earned the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3 by 1971. This rank indicates a soldier who has gained significant expertise within their specialized role. Nowatzki’s expertise surely helped to guide his fellow soldiers of the Ordnance Corps to success in a war unlike World War II and Korea in its challenges:
Due to the counter-insurgency nature of the war, EOD units were spread thin; there was no ‘front line’ as it existed in WWII or Korea. The one-year rotational policy produced personnel shortages in some key fields. In the initial years, spare parts shortages and equipment availability rates were low. However, despite these challenges, operational readiness rates increased, and by 1969, exceeded those of previous wars.
Again Nowatzki earned the Army Commendation Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal, awarded in recognition of the value of his contribution to the war effort.
Nowatzki retired from the Army in 1983, but began to work for the Rock Island Arsenal as a civilian. While there he seemingly retained his rank of CW4 as a contractor, or simply as a recognition of prior service. One notable aspect of his work at the arsenal was the preservation of US military history, displayed through his and his wife Joyce’s operation of public tours of historic Arsenal homes:
The beautiful, unique historic homes on the tour have special significance to the nation and the Quad Cities… The most famous, of course, is Quarters One. It was designed by Gen. Rodman to be used as the home of the most senior officer stationed on Arsenal Island… With its 51 rooms and 20,000 square feet of living space, Quarters One also is the second largest single-family government residence in existence. Only the White House is bigger.
By facilitating these tours of US military historical sites to the public, the Nowatzkis played an important role in preserving and sharing the military history of the Quad Cities region and the United States.
Nowatzki passed away on November 5th, 2011 at Trinity Rock Island hospital. He was survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. His service to the United States as a soldier and historian helped to serve this country through two wars, as well as preserving the memory of past wars so that the nation can remember their heroes.
 “Donald Nowatzki,” The Rock Island Argus, November 5, 2011, p. 16, “Family Lifestyles Blend,” The Rock Island Argus, September 13, 1982, p. 8, “Arsenal Tour,” Quad-City Times, September 8, 1988, p. 49,