Gilpin veteran's battle across Europe began on June 10, 1944
Although Ronald Frank's unit didn't land on Utah Beach in Normandy until June 10, 1944, four days after the invasion began, the 89-year-old from Gilpin had more than his share of close shaves.
He recalled being on patrol in the hedgerow country just inland and raising up to peer over the hedgerow on one side to find himself face to face with a German soldier doing the same thing from the other side of the hedge.
“He saw me and his eyes got real big,” Frank said. “He was just as scared of me as I was of him.”
Scrambling to pull a grenade that was taped to his chest, he tossed it over the hedgerow as he ran in the opposite direction. The enemy soldier apparently did the same as an explosion happened behind him. He said he wasn't about to check to see if his grenade had any effect.
Frank said his outfit, the 47th Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division, was on the move for 72 hours, the only sleep they got coming in 15-minute “cat naps” as the Allied forces rushed to extend their beachhead inland.
In the months that followed, Frank and his unit battled their way across Europe. He fought in five major campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge.
Eventually, he encountered the concentration camps.
His company saw the Dachau concentration camp after it was liberated and many of the people killed there had been buried. Frank said the scene was far worse at the Mittlebau-Dora concentration camp in Germany's Harz Mountains.
He said there still were corpses of prisoners piled up throughout the camp, located about four miles outside the city of Nordhausen.
“You could smell it from five miles away,” he said. “Those people in the town said they didn't know that was there. They knew. They had to know.”
Frank said he cannot believe he survived his tour of duty while so many others died. Occasionally, he said, something like the smell of damp soil while working in his yard, will bring it all back to him.
“I learned one thing: You can't really tell anyone what it (combat) is like,” Frank said. “I wouldn't want to go through it again, and I wouldn't want anyone else to go through it.”
“If you never had to go, thank the good Lord,” he said. “There's no glory in killing. It made me have a lot of respect just for life in general. It's a gift from God.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Arnold fireman falls from truck
- Freeport High School students rise to the challenge
- West Deer burglary suspect arrested
- New Ken raid nets 2 suspects, $4,000 in drugs
- Boscov’s could help sustain decade-old Pittsburgh Mills
- State audit criticizes Deer Lakes bus costs
- SUVs collide near Laneville bridge; truck flips in Washington Township crash
- Mia Z voices no regrets after failing to advance on NBC show
- Grateful Deer Lakes alum donates artwork
- Highlands extends superintendent’s contract for 3 years
- Alle-Kiski seniors attend Walk the Red Carpet event