United States Contemporary Oral History Project Gregg Hansen 7 th Hour 12-10-01. Were you drafted? 2. What was your reaction when you knew you were drafted? 3. What was your family’s reaction? 4. Did any of your friends from high school get drafted? 5.
Where did you go after you were drafted? 6. What kind of training did you have at Fort McClellan? 7. Where did you go after Fort McClellan? 8. Did you stay in touch with your family during this time? 9.
Did you get together with your friends when you were allowed to come home? 10. Where did you go after that? 11. How did you travel from place to place? 12. After that where did you go? 13. Was June 6, 1944 the day you went to Normandy beach? 14. Was the movie Saving Private Ryan an accurate depiction of the beach? 15.
How long were you on the beach? 16. Were you on guard while you were advancing? 17. What type of uniform did you wear? 18. Were they uncomfortable? 19.
What type of equipment did you carry? 20. What gun did you carry? 21. After you were relieved where did you go? 22. Do you remember the shell hitting the foxhole? 23. Where were you wounded? 24.
What was your rank? 25. Did you move up in rank? 26. Once you went back to your division where did you go? 27. After the Russians captured Berlin where did you go? 28. What type of ship did you ride over on? 29. What type did you ride back on? 30.
How long did it take on either ship? 31. What camp were you discharged at? 32. Where was this camp? 33. Where were you working before you left for the war? 34. How old were you when you went into the war? 35. And when you were out of the war how old? 36.
Where did you work after the war? 37. Was their anything that your brothers or sisters said when you saw them that stands out? 38. How long were you in Camp Grant? 39. Were most of your friends back? 40. Did you try to get reacquainted? 41. Did you look on life differently after the war? 42.
Why didn’t you go back to school? 43. Do you still get together with your war buddies? 44. When is the last time you saw someone you knew from the war? 45. Did you meet anyone in Europe? 46. Did you have any other encounters when you got back? 47.
Would you say that war changes people? 48. What is your view on war? 49. Were you viewed as a hero when you got back? 50. Have you lived in Rockford all your life? 51. How old are you? 52. Were you well informed about where you were going next? 53.
Were you scared about the war? 54. Or did you want to do your part? 55. Did any of your brothers get drafted? 56. How did your mother handle it? 57.
Do you still have letters that your wrote? 58. Did you keep anything memorable from the war? 59. Did you see anyone you knew while at war? 60. Do you consider yourself a hero? I.
Being Drafted. February 1943 B. Wanted to do part for country II. Training. Numerous exercises. Getting used to firing a gun for 1 st time III.
Debarkation A. Sent overseas on Queen Mary. Arrive at Sheffield Barracks in England IV. D-DayA. June 6, 1944 B. On beach for 8 hours till proceeded forward.
Proceeded. 40 straight days on the line. Didn’t change clothes. Then relieved VI.
Injured A. Shrapnel in leg and concussion B. Went to medical center VII. Continuing with Battalion.
Stopped at Alps River. Waited for Russians to capture Berlin. War was over World War II was one of the largest and most violent wars in the history of mankind. Frank Vinci, my grandfather, was in that war and he is still alive today to tell about it. He has now reached the age of seventy-eight, but he still vividly remembers countless details of the war. Frank was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois and graduated from West High School in 1943.
Shortly after graduation, he was drafted into the United States Army. Frank was actually one of the soldiers that ran up on the bloody shores of Normandy Beach. Although his battalion was not the first unit to arrive at the Beach, he was met with gunfire amongst other things that are too unbearable to talk about. He is considered one of the lucky soldiers who went overseas and came back home to tell about it.
In February of 1943 Frank Vinci was drafted into the army, he had no idea that almost one year later he would have to join many Americans in one of the greatest and largest naval invasions in history. Frank’s reaction was mixed though, it was his first time leaving the comforts of Illinois, and yet he wanted to do his part for his country. This was a very patriotic view that many young Americans had during the war. Some historians would argue that an immature man would rather die nobly for a cause, as opposed to a mature man who lives so that he can live the rest of his life humbly. Frank Vinci was no immature man though, he is considered by everyone that knows him to be a hero of World War II. He wasn’t the only one that was drafted in his area though; almost all of his friends from high school were drafted into the armed forces.
So after he was drafted into the Army, Frank said all of his goodbye’s and left home for training. He was to be trained at camp Grant. During the war Frank kept a journal of all his thoughts and the events that took place. He wrote, “The vital thing for me now living in the Army was to be picked for the medical corp. but no luck. If I had gone in the Medical Corp.
I would have had my Basic Training here in Rockford. We were at Camp Grant for three days and during that time we couldn’t leave the compound. Imagine 3 miles from home and not being able to go home. Well on the 4 th day they loaded a bunch of us on a troop train, destination unknown.” Camp Grant was a medical training facility for the Army. Frank wasn’t training to be a medic in the war though, it was common to have many destinations that seemed unnecessary in the war, but in fact, they were all linked together. From Camp Grant he was shipped to Fort McClellan, Alabama.
At this fort he underwent what he refers to as the “hardest training he’d ever had in his life.” He had been “in hell” so to speak for three and a half months. He did numerous pushups, was woken up in the middle of the night to run 5 miles, and he underwent what all the men in training referred to as “bib whacking” which was field training. In this field training he fired a gun for the first time in his life, and he had other numerous training with weapons at that time. He was allowed to come home on the weekends during training and he continued to stay in touch with his family throughout the entire war.
The letters that were transferred between him and his family were very personal, he said that his family helped him greatly throughout the war, and they all appreciated what he was doing for his country. Even though Frank’s mother was grief stricken due to the fact that her son had to go to war, she also had a greater respect for Frank. After the intensive training was complete at Fort McClellan, he was shipped to Camp Shinango, Pennsylvania. At this Camp he was given his assignment, Frank referred to it as “Debarkation for an overseas assignment”, which suggested that Frank would finally be able to serve his country. After Camp Shinango, Frank went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. “We landed and then went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey to await our mustering out.
I was assigned to the mustered out at Camp Grant Rockford, Il. If you didn’t think I was a happy boy, I couldn’t wait. We were at Kilmer about a week and then put on troop train. A troop train is an experience in itself. They are train coaches and 2 people assigned to each seat. Breakfast is coffee and a doughnut, lunch is a sandwich and pop, and dinner is a box lunch.
Once we landed at the New York Harbor, we boarded the Queen Mary.” Once called the “inevitable ship” the Queen Mary has managed to see the passing of seven decades. To this day the Queen Mary has gone back and forth through the Atlantic Ocean 1001 times. Each individual room in the Queen Mary was described as a work of art. But Frank’s journal states otherwise, “They told us that there were 19, 000 people on that boat and I believe I was assigned to a state room that during peace time would sleep 4 at the most.
Well all the furniture was gone and on all 4 walls they had cots 5 high from floor to the ceiling, well guess who had the bottom cot, me. Well sleeping on these cots you couldn’t even turn around or sleep on our side there was no room. Well I took my blankets and pillow and slept in the bath tub and it wasn’t bad. Well with all the people on board they could only serve breakfast and dinner. Breakfast started at 6 am and went till 11 am. Dinner started at 3 pm and went till 8 pm, I don’t know how they managed to do it.” It took the ship four days to get to Scotland, and from there he went to Sheffield Barracks in England.
“You know we left. New York Harbor but we never saw the Statue of Liberty.” While in England he was as signed to the 29 th infantry division. Throughout this whole time he traveled by train, boat, and of course when he was in his battalion he traveled by marching and trucks. In May of 1944 he was sent to Qualm us, England. In this city he went to the port that the allies used for mostly all of the preparations and the launching for the June 6 th invasion of Normandy Beach otherwise known as D-Day. It was very difficult for Frank to talk about the Normandy Beach invasion.
He said that the scenes on the beach from the movie Saving Private Ryan were an accurate depiction of how the beach looked and what it was like overall. Although he wasn’t one of the first groups to land at the beach, he still described it as a hostile environment. “Running up on the beach was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life” he said. Frank was on the bloody beach for about eight hours before he was able to proceed forward with his battalion. Then while preceding forward his battalion was on the line for forty-four straight days until they were relieved.
He described it as walking forward as if you didn’t know when the enemy was going to strike or if the enemy was right next to you or a mile away. He recalls wearing the same clothes for forty-four days in a row and he said that he was lucky enough to have an opportunity to wash his sock once in a while. He said, “In fact that’s probably why the Germans stayed away from us because we smelled so bad.” This technique must have worked because Frank wasn’t injured while proceeding with his battalion. Once there was a breakthrough at St. Lowes he was relieved for about seven days. During these seven days he washed his clothes, had leisure time with his battalion, and was able to regroup mentally from those forty days of proceeding.
After that his battalion went south to the peninsula of Breath France to capture a port and block it off from a German division. They were once again in a bloody battle and Frank also prevailed once again. After they captured the port they continued to proceed north again. Throughout this whole time Frank wore wool issued uniform, and he carried a M 1 rifle, this rifle was used throughout several wars and is quite effective. He said that as the war you progressed you were lucky enough to pick up a carbine from someone who fell, which was a lighter rifle, and sometimes, you could obtain a 45 pistol. His journal stated, “K, a box similar to a cracker jack box in fact the same size, the outside of the box was brown covered with a special wax so it wouldn’t get wet.
You carried the “K” rations in your backpack. Inside of the box was a small can like a tuna can and for breakfast it contains egg and ham. Each box also had a little can opener and 2 packages of soda crackers. Also in the box was a package of instant coffee a small pack of cigarettes containing 4 cigarettes that was our breakfast “K” ration. The supper “K” ration was the same thing except in the can they had like Deville d Ham. To eat the “K”rations you would open the can using the lid as a handle put it over a small fire and cook it the same with the water for your coffee.
Sometimes we would build the fires in our helmet, you didn’t want too big a fire under combat conditions. “C” rations were a treat they were a can about the size of a Campbell soup can, they had chili, ham and beans, Spam meat. We had no hat meals during these field trips.” On Thanksgiving Day 1944 he was in a foxhole and a shell hit and he was wounded. The injuries he had were a concussion and he had shrapnel in his leg from the explosion.
Then he was sent to Liege, Belgium, and through there he was sent to a hospital in England. He stayed at this hospital till late January of 1945 until he was then well enough to proceed back to his outfit. It took him two months to get back to his outfit in March of 1945. Frank worked himself up the military ladder all the way from private (newbie) to a staff sergeant.
He was in Germany at the time and he proceeded north to the Alps River in early May. His outfit stopped when they reached the river though because the Russians were allocated to capture Berlin. From there he waited until the Russians actually did capture Berlin and then, of course, the war was over. But he was not just shipped straight home, he was assigned to be part of an occupation force in Germany and his division stayed there till January 19, 1946. Frank recorded in his journal, “After the war was over our Division was assigned to occupation Duty.
Our company was assigned to repatriating prisoners of war who were mostly Polish. Housing them, feeding them, taking care of their medical needs, and trying to group them up with their relatives or friends. It was quite an experience.” Then his outfit continued on their way home by boarding a merchant marine ship on January 1. Frank compared the amount of time it took to travel; the Queen Mary took four and a half days to cross the Atlantic. While the merchant marine ship took nineteen days to cross, he saw the Queen Mary pass four times. The reason for this was that one of the engines on the merchant marine ship had difficulties and due to this the ship was only being pushed across the Atlantic by one engine.
He mentioned that the Queen Mary was a much better ship as far as the looks and luxury feel. Aboard the Queen Mary he was on one of the last classic ocean liners that still exists today. Aboard the merchant marine ship it wasn’t terrible but it was no Queen Mary. When his outfit got back to the United States they proceeded to Camp Kilmer, and from Camp Kilmer they boarded a train on their way to Camp Grant where he was discharged in 1946. While in Camp Grant, which was within 3 miles of Rockford, he asked his sergeant if he could go home because he had already been discharged. His sergeant said,” I don’t think you’d be able to do that”, but he left anyway and met his parents at the front gate around 12: 30 at night.
He said that just about every night after the war was over he was going out with his friends and getting reacquainted because of the lost time from the war. Frank was out of the army for about a week until his old job, American Cabinet, asked him to come back to work. So he had a week off after the war and then he was back to work. He was 20 years old when he went into the war and he just turned 24 when he got back from the war. “Looking back being 19 years old everything you did was something new, doing something for your country at the time of war.” At American Cabinet Frank was assigned the job of lead man, but he left that job to go work at National Lock to be an expediter. One of his greatest regrets was not returning back to school after the war.
He said that education is one of the most valuable tools that you can rely on. Although he didn’t continue his education after high school, he still believes in schooling. “After I was home a couple of days it was party time and all of your old friends and of course you were living it up. One thing I craved in the Army and during the time I was gone was a Coney Island Hot Dog. I went down to State Street and ordered three of them and sat there and ate them, wow were they good. I think I could have about a dozen.”You know as teenagers we don’t really think too well.
My mom used to tell me why don’t you send home part of your pay and we will save it for you and when you have enough for down payment on a house we will purchase it for you. Being 19 years old and not knowing if you ever would come home, saving money was the last thing I planned on doing. Oh, how very dumb and stupid I was for not listening to my mom, she was the smartest person I ever knew but I didn’t find out till I was too late. I wish I could have had some of her wisdom so that I could have passed onto my children, I love her very, very much. How I wish I could have done more for her and caused her less worry. How I wish I could say to mom, “Look at my beautiful Family, hey mom look, I didn’t turn out so bad.” I think maybe she would have been a little proud of her baby as she so often called me.
Where was I? ?” Frank Vinci is one of the bravest men I know. He not only is a World War II veteran he is also one of the best grandparents I’ve come to know and love. He has overcome many hardships in a short time period, and he should be commended for everything he has done for not only he in years past, he should feel proud for who he is as a person and what he has accomplished. “After 3 years of war and being overseas for 3 years. I don’t see why the Vietnam Vets make such a fuss over not being welcomed home. While we were overseas I not only met 3 people from Rockford, I made a connection with war and friendship.” He is a great person and he has stories to share..