TribLIVE

| Neighborhoods

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Gilpin veteran's battle across Europe began on June 10, 1944

Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch - Ron Frank inside of his Gilpin Township home on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jason Bridge  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Ron Frank inside of his Gilpin Township home on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.
submitted - A photo of Ron Frank while serving in World War II.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>submitted</em></div>A photo of Ron Frank while serving in World War II.
submitted - A photo of Ron Frank while serving in World War II.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>submitted</em></div>A photo of Ron Frank while serving in World War II.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch - Ron Frank inside of his Gilpin Township home on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jason Bridge  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Ron Frank inside of his Gilpin Township home on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch - Ron Frank's Purple Heart photographed inside of his Gilpin Township home on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jason Bridge  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Ron Frank's Purple Heart photographed  inside of his Gilpin Township home on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch - Ron Frank leans a on a sword that he brought home from World War II inside of his Gilpin Township home on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jason Bridge  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Ron Frank leans a on a sword that he brought home from World War II inside of his Gilpin Township home on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.
Submitted - A photo of Ron Frank while on a ship in World War II.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Submitted</em></div>A photo of Ron Frank while on a ship in World War II.
Submitted - A photo of Ron Frank while he leads a group of prisoners with other soldiers during World War II.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Submitted</em></div>A photo of Ron Frank while he leads a group of prisoners with other soldiers during World War II.
Submitted - A photo of Ron Frank, right, and Eddie Garafano while they eat their rations during World War II.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Submitted</em></div>A photo of Ron Frank, right, and Eddie Garafano while they eat their rations  during World War II.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch - Some of the memorabilia Ron Frank collected during World War II including a sword and a German helmet.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jason Bridge  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Some of the memorabilia Ron Frank collected during World War II including a sword and a German helmet.

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Ronald Frank

Age: 89

Residence: Gilpin Township

Drafted: Kittanning

Age entering the Army: 17

Basic training: Fort Wheeler, Ga.

Assigned to: 9th Infantry Division, 47th Regiment

Rank on June 6, 1944: Private first class

D-Day plus 4: Landed on Utah Beach

Related Stories

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Friday, June 6, 2014, 1:36 a.m.
 

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.”

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read AlleKiski Valley

  1. USW workers to march on ATI headquarters
  2. ATI workers retire early to ensure pension
  3. Judge lets New Kensington Ten Commandments monument stand
  4. Upper Allegheny Joint Sanitary Authority continues cleanup
  5. Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley offers free services at clinic
  6. Memorial court dedicated at AVH where volunteer felt ‘safe, comfortable’
  7. Parks Township breeder hosts 3rd annual Lab Fest
  8. Burrell considers renovating former weight room
  9. Woman ‘critical’ from fall on Harmar riverbank
  10. ATI contract expires today; union reports no progress in negotiations
  11. ATI unions rally to maintain solidarity