Carroll Township's Armand Lorenzi still carries memories of WWII
In a small glass-covered frame, Armand Lorenzi has a preserved newspaper clipping from the Charleroi Mail.
The news story from 1945 tells the story of the North Charleroi man, at the time just a year out of high school, who served with valor in Patton's Third Army.
It is among the few items – along with his Army jacket which still fits – that Lorenzi kept from his service during World War II.
While he donated most of his war possessions to a museum at the University of Virginia a few years ago, Lorenzi still carries his memories.
Now living in Carroll Township, Lorenzi served two years in the Army. A 1944 graduate of Charleroi High School, he was inducted into the Army Aug. 25, 1944. After basic training, he joined the signal corps at Fort Crowder, Mo.
Then the Germans launched their last major offensive - the Battle of the Bulge in late December 1945.
Lorenzi was re-assigned to the infantry at Camp Livingston, La. After six weeks training, he was shipped overseas for the duration of the war.
In February 1945, Lorenzi landed in England and went straight to the front lines in France. He was assigned to the 94th Infantry in Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army. The unit would advance through France, the Rhineland and Central Europe.
His first exposure to the front lines was haunting.
“When I first got to the battlefield, I saw three Americans lying in the snow dead – and I saw a German's hand in the air, frozen” Lorenzi said. “You know what that does to you.”
He was assigned as an assistant to a Browning Automatic Rifle gunner. In that position, he carried the ammunition for the BAR, a light machine gun that was used during World War II.
“The BAR man got shell shocked and the lieutenant said, ‘You have to take the BAR.' I said, ‘I don't want to' and you know what he said. I was always in the front.”
Last month, during a reenactment of D-Day, the first day of the Invasion on Normandy, held in Conneaut, Ohio, Lorenzi held a BAR for the first time in nearly 70 years.
“I could barely hold it, it weighed so much,” Lorenzi said. “I don't know how I carried it back then. I weighed 140 pounds soaking wet.”
Lorenzi was never wounded despite spending so much time in the direct line of fire.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” Lorenzi said. “I had a lot of close calls, especially when you're in the forest and the shells are going off up the trees.”
Lorenzi remembers the night they rode through a German town on tanks.
While he can't recall the town's name, he has vivid memories of the tanks being ambushed shortly after the infantrymen jumped off them.
“They were waiting for us,” Lorenzi said. “Luckily, we got off them or we all would have been killed.”
In Munich, just after the war ended in Europe, he was assigned to the quartermaster unit, given the task of driving a semi-tractor trailer hauling gasoline.
“I never drove a semi before, but we learned,” he said. “One slight mistake…We didn't care. We smoked cigarettes,” he noted, showing a photograph of himself behind the wheel in 1945, the words “Danger, gasoline” painted on the side of the massive vehicle.
The troops moved by box cars – 40 and eights as the soldiers called them – because they could haul 40 men and eight horses. The name was first created during World War I and stuck, he said.
By July 1946, Lorenzi was discharged from the Army. His father met him in New Jersey, where the elder Lorenzi was visiting friends.
“We rode home together,” Lorenzi said. “That was my first time ever on the turnpike.”
After the war, Lorenzi worked for a number of years as a projectionist at all of the theaters in the Valley as well as the Hilltop drive-in.
He then worked for 32 years at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, retiring in 2000.
Married twice and widowed since 2007, Lorenzi today enjoys dances, such as the polka, and country and western.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.