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by Ron Cruger
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A breed of heroes
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The total world wide death toll, including military and civilians, during World War II
was over 72,000,000. Broken down, there were more than 47 million civilian deaths and over 25 million military fatalities. United
States military deaths totaled 407,000. Over 11,000,000 died as a direct result of the Holocaust. Millions more were wounded and incapacitated.
World War II was the deadliest conflict in the history of the world.
Frank Carbone was
attending high school in Syracuse, New York when the news flashed over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. It was December
7, 1941. The following day President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war against Japan.
It was now August 11, 1943 and young Frank Carbone had recently passed his 18th birthday. He enlisted in the United States Navy. The
reasons he gave for joining the Navy were basic: “We were fighting for our country. We had been attacked. It’s not like it is now
in Iraq. We were defending our country. Everyone was very patriotic.”
Hundreds of thousands
of other young men and women like Frank Carbone lined up and enlisted for military service early in World War II. It was a time of
spirit, sacrifice and commitment. The nation pulled together to defeat our enemies.
Carbone said goodbye to his mother, father, brother and sisters and left Syracuse, New York for the Sampson Naval training base in
upstate New York for “boot training.” Next stop was the Great lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois. He quickly became a 3rd class
Petty Officer. Then to the Naval base on Coronado Island, San Diego. By December, 1943 he was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii boarding the
USS Ashland, a fighting ship, containing 12 LCM’s (Landing Craft Mechanized). Frank, his ship and crew were on maneuvers, readying
for the grim fighting that lay ahead. Now the ships and the men were ready for the battles to come.
This fighting ship, this USS Ashland was to carry the LCM’s across the dangerous Pacific Ocean to these islands and places that now
live in legend. Of these places stories and books were written, movies were made. Stars like John Wayne would represent these brave
young men on our movie screens, acting out the bravery that these real heroes lived day after day, month after month on those once
beautiful South Pacific islands. Thousands of men died on these islands, fighting to defeat our enemies, laying down their lives so
Americans today will enjoy the fruits of our freedom.
If a patriot is described as “one
who loves and defends his or her country,” then Frank Carbone and the men he sailed with were all authentic American patriots and
Carbone, sailing in hostile waters, knew that his real test was to come. Ahead
was the battle for the islands that would become the stepping stones to the eventual invasion of Japan. America’s President, generals
and admirals quietly made plans for the invasion of these heavily fortified dots in the middle of a vast ocean. They knew that the
death toll of young Americans would be monumental.
Shoved to the back of their minds, these
young men, realized that many of them and their buddies would never make the return trip to America. But they had a job to do. They
were fighting for their mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, girlfriends and wives. There was no choice of direction. They and
their ships sped full steam ahead into the storm of destruction and possible death awaiting them.
Waiting for Frank Carbone and thousands of other young men were battles that would be written about for their ferocity and high cost
of human lives. The names of these places, when read or spoken cause pictures to be seen in the minds of those remaining heroes. Okinawa,
Saipan, New Guinea, Guam, Peleliu, Leyte Gulf. Frank Carbone can close his eyes and see those battles. He can hear the sounds and
smell the odors of battle. He can picture those heroes who rest forever there as monuments to their patriotism and valor. Things like
that don’t leave the memory. They stay forever, etched as deeply as a bullet wound.
was awarded 6 stars, one for each of the invasions in which he participated. Each star a testimony representing a partnership with
his fellow Sailors and Marines against a menacing enemy. He was also awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Medal with four stars, the Victory
Medal, the Philippine Liberation Medal with 2 stars and the American Area Medal.
is 82 years old now, a handsome, active, charming man. He lives in San Jose with his wife. His daughter lives nearby, also in San
Jose. Once in a while he recalls the mind pictures of his time at war. He can see Japanese jumping off the cliffs of Tinian. Scores
jumped to their deaths rather than surrender and embarrass their Emperor.
He sees the Marines
speeding to beachheads on Iwo Jima on foot and in their Sherman tanks.
He remembers seeing
the Grumann Hellcats dog fighting in the skies above Iwo Jima. He recalls, “In 10 minutes they knocked 6 Japanese planes out of the
He remembers being on his fighting ship in the seas around those small but important
islands and seeing the Japanese suicide (Kamikaze) planes attempting to dive into the American warships. He recalls seeing the suicide
planes coming so close that he could clearly see the pilots in their leather helmets. He could see a Japanese pilot’s mouth open just
before he crashed his plane into the sea, barely missing Carbone’s ship, the intended target.
Stored in his memory are the pictures of the three typhoons that rocked his ship while waiting for the historic battles. He remembers
being on the LCM, dashing to the beach on Saipan during the invasion. Down into the surf slapped the giant steel front gate of the
landing craft. He remembers seeing the splashes of the enemy mortar fire landing yards ahead of him and his mates as they were ordered
to “keep moving, keep moving.”
Returning to his ship, sitting closely anchored just off
the beaches of Iwo Jima he remembers staring at the ashen summit of Mount Suribachi and being impressed with its grey color. Just
a mound on a small island. He remembers how bare it looked. He looked away and a few minutes later looked back and saw the American
flag waving in the south Pacific breeze atop the mountain that became famous for the sheer number of deaths it hosted. He had glanced
away and missed the planting of the American flag made famous in the photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal.
Carbone can sit quietly, close his eyes and remember the imperiled voyages immediately following the end of the war to Seoul, Korea;
Shanghai and Peking (now Bejing) China and New Caledonia.
Another promotion in rank brought
Carbone to Machinist Mate 2nd Class, the equivalent of the Army’s Staff Sergeant.
were being made for the invasion of Japan by hundreds of thousands of American troops a small contingent of American pilots, engineers
and scientists secretly gathered on the island of Tinian. The grand experiment, America’s biggest secret, was ‘The Manhattan Project.”
That creation, the Atom Bomb, was about to be dropped in anger for the first time in history.
In the darkness of the early morning hours of August 6, 1945 the giant B-29, the “Enola Gay” took off from the newly created airfield
on Tinian – headed for its target, Hiroshima, Japan.
Hours later the Atom Bomb was dropped
above ground. The mushroom cloud formed, the fireball took its toll. Fifty thousand Japanese died in an instant that day with a hundred
thousand to die later from the bomb’s persisting effects.
The Japanese government was urged
to surrender. They refused.
Three days later another Atomic Bomb was dropped, this time
on Nagasaki. Fifty thousand died in another instant, with more to come in succeeding years.
Finally, convinced of their impending defeat, the Japanese government signed the papers on the deck of the USS Missouri offering their
The Second World War had officially ended on September 2, 1945.
Frank Carbone had survived the deadliest war. He had been part of some of the fiercest
fighting of World War II. He remembers the dropping of the Atom Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He feels the action was justified.
“When President Truman made the decision to drop those bombs it wound up saving thousands of American lives. The Japanese would have
fought us to the death if we had tried to invade Japan and our casualties would have been enormous. I think he did the right thing.”
By 1946 Carbone’s family had moved across the country to San Jose, California. On March
27, 1946 Frank Carbone was honorably discharged from the United States Navy.
In 1947 Frank
Carbone was an outstanding baseball player, invited to tryout for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Washington Senators. He played golf, scoring
in the 70’s. He still plays tennis and he’s proud of his many championship trophies.
got a job working at the Kaiser Aluminum plant in San Jose. He took a crash course in the marketing of fresh produce and in 1954 opened
his own produce stand.
His memories of the war were being stored in the back of his mind
as he married and started a family.
He was named produce manager of a large market. Part
of Carbone’s duties was to go early and open the store. On this day in 1964 he did what he always did. He reached into his pocket,
pulling out the key to the market’s front door. Just as he was inserting the key he heard a voice, “Open the door or we’ll blow your
head off.” He felt one gun pressing on the side of his head. Another gun rammed against his ribs.
The bandits directed Carbone to the manager’s office and ordered him to open the safe. They threatened him again, “Open the safe or
we’ll blow your head off.” But Carbone had no key or combination so the two crooks waited for the store manager. They ordered Carbone
to lie on the floor, belly down. They tied him tightly with nylon rope and waited for the store manager to arrive. When he did they
forced the manager to open the safe. The duo took the contents and fled into the morning. They got away, but the cops found the pair
a few weeks later and arrested them.
Frank Carbone was asked how he felt during the robbery.
Were you scared, probably terrified? “No, not really,” he answers.
After being in the battles
of Iwo Jima, Saipan, Tinian, Leyte, Lingayen Bay, Luzon, Philippines After seeing the ravages of war. After seeing buddies die, after
the sights, sounds and smells of war have been experienced what fear could a man have left? It’s as though Carbone had used up his
quota of fear. There was nothing left inside him but the good fortune that comes with being alive and appreciating every day.
Two punks with pistols couldn’t compare with the memories of the battles on the sands Iwo Jima and Saipan.
Frank isn’t comfortable
talking about the war. He thinks about those thousands that never came back. In a way it was just yesterday that all of that happened.
In another way, it was a lifetime ago.
He’s another one of those American heroes who helped
save democracy for all of us.
When I thanked him for his time he added, “You know, my sister’s
husband was a tail gunner on a plane in Europe. He got the Purple Heart. And, oh, yes, my older brother was a Sergeant in the U.S.
Army, he also served in Europe. He was a hero, he got the Silver Star.”
Frank Carbone humbly
considers that he was just doing his job. He says, “We were attacked. We had to fight for our country.” He truly believes he was just
“doing his job, his patriotic duty.”
Frank Carbone and men like him are still our American
heroes. Their numbers are less today than they were yesterday, but what they did for us will continue as long as there is a United
States of America.
. . .
Listed below is a log of the significant
dates of Frank Carbon’s U.S. Navy
- Sworn in U.S. Navy August
- Shipped to Sampson Naval Training base August 13, 1943 for “boot training.”
- Completed “boot training” September 29, 1943.
- Arrived Great Lakes Training Center, Illinois October 14, 1943. Took 8 week course of basic engineering.
- Graduated December 13,
1943. Promoted to F 1/class. Made $66 per month (same rate of pay as corporal in Army).
- Left Great Lakes and arrived in San Diego
December 20, 1943. Attended Internal Combustion School for 4 weeks at the U.S. Destroyer Base. Graduated January 20, 1944.
21, 1944 transferred to Coronado Amphibious Training Base for 7 seek course on landing craft. Trained on LCM’s as engineer. Promoted
to rank MM 3/c. Pay was $78 per month (same rate of pay as Army sergeant) March 1, 1944.
- Completed course on Coronado on March 12,
- On April 11, 1944 boarded aircraft carrier U.S.S. Sargent Bay in Oakland, California. Shoved off to sea on April 12, 1944.
- Arrived Pearl Harbor, Hawaii April, 18, 1944. Assigned to LSD #1 U.S.S. Ashland. On LCM boat crew #13.
- June 15, 1944 Invasion
of Saipan. Marines and medium tanks. First boats LCM’s to hit the beach. Sixth wave.
- Invasion of Tinian July 24, 1944. Had Marine
Signal Half Tracker truck. Landed at 1 p.m. on our “D” Day.
- Invasion of Leyte in the Philippines October 20, 1944.
- Invasion at
Lingayen Bay, Luzon, Philippines January 9, 1945.
- Invasion Iwo Jima February 19, 1945. Loaded with Fifth Marine tanks.
- Left Iwo
Jima March 27, 1945
- March 27, 1946 Honorably Discharged from U.S. Navy.
World War II was a war of good against evil. It was a crusade, a tragic, complex human experience. There was heroism and courage.
Death and suffering was everywhere. Today, the last soldiers of the generation that fought in the war are fading into history. The
men and women of World War II embarked on and completed a heroic crusade. We must understand and always remember what they faced and
how they felt and we must appreciate forever the great tragedy that changed their lives and shaped ours.