On December 7th 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States went to war. There was a draft board in downtown Brockton, and all men between the ages of 18 and 38 were required to register. After doing so, the army would send a letter if you were selected to report for a physical. Frank, his brothers George and Jodie, and Helen’s brothers Michael and Eddie, all received these letters and were required to show up in Boston for an examination. Michael was rejected because he had 2 punctured ear drums from chronic childhood ear infections and returned home to Brockton. Frank, George, Jodie, and Eddie were all drafted into the army.
Frank was stationed in Europe from August 1944 to November 1945 and served in the 26th infantry division of General Patton’s 3rd army. He was the leader of an all Irish squad nicknamed, “The Shamrock Platoon”, where he was dubbed “The Wild Irishman”. He amassed quite the reputation overseas and The Boston Traveler (what is now the Boston Herald), sent famed war correspondent Andrew Tully to Europe just to track him down for an interview. Frank’s famous quote from the article was:
“There are two kinds of people in the world: the Irish, and those who wish to hell they were Irish”.
He fought in the infamous Battle of the Bulge, and liberated 2 concentrations camps: Buchenwald and Ohrdruf. He was awarded 2 Purple Hearts, one for when he was struck in the leg by a German sniper (which later caused him to have his leg amputated).
While he was away, Helen was left home to care for baby Eddie. It was a tough time for all, and much time was spent awaiting correspondence from the troops who were overseas. At this time, mail was delivered twice a day and Frank wrote many letters home to his family. Eddie also wrote home often, and Helen remembers reading these letters aloud to Lucia who wasn’t able to read English fluently.
During the war, all the single women were expected to work in the local factories that manufactured ammunition. Helen’s friend Mary worked in one of these factories and she remembers her coming home from work with her hands yellowed from the chemicals used to fill bullets and hand grenades.
V-E Day came on May 8, 1945 and the world celebrated the end of the war. Shortly after, Helen received a letter from Frank telling her that they would soon be making the journey home and not to worry if she didn’t hear from him for a while. She received a final letter before Frank boarded a ship back to the United States, and he returned home to Brockton in December of 1945.
|Frank O’Connell and Eddie D’Amarino|