Cpl. Frank L. Garguiolo
Infantryman, Radio Operator
15th Infantry Regiment
3rd Infantry Division
North Africa, Italy, France
Cpl.Garguiolo fought in North Africa, Italy, and Southern France. He was captured
on October 30th, 1944 at St.Die, France. Read more about Frank's experiences below.
Garguiolo Family via the Buffalo News
The following is an excerpt from
on Congressman Brian Higgins' website.
Mr. Garguiolo served in the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, which
was one of the most decorated units in World War II. Unfortunately, the success of this division came
at a high cost of many killed, wounded, and missing in action. Garguiolo was trained as an anti-aircraft
specialist. As an Infantryman, he participated in many fierce battles with very heavy casualties,
starting with the North African Campaign, a battle that proved vital in controlling the Axis Powers.
While in Africa, Corporal Garguiolo fell ill and was hospitalized for two weeks in a MASH unit.
After fighting back to good health, Garguiolo continued to demonstrate leadership in service, quickly
rising to the rank of Corporal. Following his time in Africa, Corporal Garguiolo participated in landings
in Italy including Naples, Anzio, and Salerno. He also was involved in the occupation of Rome-Arno.
Garguiolo remembers the Anzio landing as the most challenging; his unit was holding only a marginal
strip of land while being relentlessly assaulted by bombs, artillery fire, grenades, and gunfire.
Cpl. Garguiolo traveled to Southern France to fight in Operation Dragoon, where he participated in
beach landings at Cavalaire-sur-Mer aimed at liberating Southern France.
Cpl. Garguiolo recalls his experiences as a Prisoner of War:
"While fighting on the frontlines, I observed, engaged in, and survived countless atrocities of war.
Yet the most horrific, traumatic memory I have of World War II is of my final battle on October 30, 1944
in St. Die, France, near the German border, when I lost my entire squad. I was the sole survivor.
"The Germans were fortified, hidden inside a mountain opening, while bombarding us with artillery fire
and heavy arsenal. I was wounded, feeling the sharp pain of shrapnel piercing my shoulder. As the squad
leader, I repeatedly ordered my men to fire, but there was silence. Still expecting a response I looked
back and saw one of my G.I.s slumped against a tree, mortally wounded. I looked around for further
reinforcement, and saw the battlefield strewn with the motionless bodies of my fellow soldiers and
friends. I prayed for reinforcement from the back lines which never came.
"I was determined to hold back the Germans to allow my fellow G.I.s to be recovered and returned to
their families and to allow those I had erroneously thought to be only injured medical attention. I soon
learned they all had been killed. Despite the shock and pain of being injured, I continued fighting,
shooting until the magazine of my Tommy Gun had emptied and all my ammunition was depleted.
"Since I was now alone in my efforts, significantly outnumbered by an enemy that I couldn't
even see, I realized the situation was hopeless. I had no choice but to throw down my gun.
A young German soldier descended the mountain, taking me prisoner of war.
"I prayed that I wasn't shot in cold blood. A flood of emotions engulfed me: intense fear of
my current fate and that which awaited me in captivity; a sense of failure for being incapable
of defeating the Germans; and insurmountable guilt and sorrow over losing my squad.
"Although my captor was humane in allowing me to keep my rosary and prayer book, the climb to
the enemy camp was terrifying. I was unarmed, without protection, and covered at gunpoint as the
Germans resumed firing their arsenal before we reached our destination, further exacerbating the
threat of death. At Moosburg Prison I was extremely vulnerable and in constant fear of the German
guards. We heard rumors that Hitler was planning to kill all of the POWs once the war had
ended. I feared, as I had during combat, being ambushed or killed in my sleep.
"Despite my shoulder wounds for which I received no appropriate medical attention, I was forced
into labor excavating bombed out buildings in Munich. During the train commute into Munich, we
were strafed by Allied, U.S., planes. While working in town, we were subjected to multiple air
raids, repeatedly sweating out our own bombs.
"I was held captive for six months, from approximately November 1, 1944 through early May 1945,
in an environment unfit for humans. Conditions at Moosburg prison were deplorable, filthy, and
oppressive, creating physical and emotional hardships. Dark, dank, and unheated, it was especially cold
in the winter, and some of the prisoners became sick. We were all badly infested with body lice and
deloused with chemical sprays. We also had dysentery. Most of us were malnourished, weakened, and
frail; we were exhausted from laboring daily, but were sleep deprived from the wretched, foul, and
noisy atmosphere. Lacking any proper hygiene or bathroom facilities whatsoever, we were all miserably
dirty and a constant stench lingered throughout the compounds; these conditions so sickened me, that
despite near starvation, it was difficult to consume the little I was fed. Many of the guards eroded
what little morale we may have possessed, continuously espousing Nazi superiority and anticipating
Germany's victory, which increased my anxiety over whether I would ever be freed or live.
I always feared punishment for unwittingly angering the German guards."
On November 24, 1944 Corporal Garguiolo's family in Buffalo received a letter from the U.S. War
Department notifying them that Frank was missing in action in France. Several months later the
family received new hope in another letter, this time from Iris Harrison, from the Bureau of Ipswich
in the County of Suffolk in England, letting them know that she heard on the radio that Frank
Garguiolo was still alive. Iris Harrison obtained his name, address, and service number while
listening to interrogations which were broadcasted as part of Nazi propaganda. Knowing that his
family would be worried about him she, bravely risked her own safety and sent a letter to his family
in Buffalo dated January 23, 1945. He still has this letter. In an effort to return the generosity
Cpl. Garguiolo's mother sent a care package to Iris Harrison and her children in England
knowing that food and supplies were scarce there because of the war.
Finally, in early May of 1945, Cpl. Garguiolo and the other POWs were liberated by Frank's own
3rd Division while they were laboring in Munich. The German guards heard the Allied Forces
closing in and ran away allowing Frank and the others to finally be free.
Being a prisoner of war took a heavy toll on Corporal Garguiolo both mentally and physically.
He suffers from PTSD, nightmares and has permanent knee injuries from being forced to jump from
moving cargo trains used for transporting prisoners to perform slave labor in Munich as the
Allied forces bombed the trains unaware U.S. POWs were aboard.
Even though Cpl. Garguiolo was treated poorly during his time in captivity, there were a few
people who helped him along the way. When he was first captured, the German soldier allowed him
to keep his rosary which he found in France and his children's prayer book that he received at
his First Communion in his possession. He had both of these items throughout combat and he still
has them today. In addition, a French surgeon, also a POW, treated the wounds that he received
when he was initially captured, extracting shrapnel from his shoulder with a tweezer without
anesthesia or antiseptic, under non-sterile conditions. When he was laboring in Munich with
other POWs he traded Red Cross cigarettes with German civilians for homemade brown
bread, which was often confiscated by German guards.
Corporal Frank Garguiolo was honorably discharged from the United States military on
October 14, 1945. On January 6, 1946 he received orders for his Purple Heart with Oak
Leaf Cluster recognizing injuries sustained by the enemy on May 27th 1944 in the
Mediterranean area and October 30th 1944 in the European area.
In the summer of 1948 he met Lillian Shivalone at a Lovejoy restaurant where he
played accordion with his band "Frankie Garge and His Orchestra." The two married
on April 23, 1949 and they had one daughter, Debbie.
Back home Frank found employment at General Motors, Gordon Roberts, Bethlehem Steel and
eventually the Buffalo Sewer Authority where he worked for 26 years and served as Sergeant
of Arms for the employees union. During his free time, he played his accordion at Kissing
Bridge, The Old Red Mill, VFW halls, and many other venues until medical conditions forced
him into early retirement in 1981. He continued to stand by his fellow veterans, volunteering
for the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans.
For outstanding service and sacrifices while serving in World War II, Corporal Garguiolo
received the following honors from the U.S. Government: the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart
with Oak Leaf Cluster, Prisoner of War Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation,
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars, one silver service
star & bronze arrowhead, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.
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