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WWII Vet Frank Boffi Story – Dateline: May 11, 1945 NEW
Soldiers Without Uniforms
One Soldier's Story
A Passion for Veterans
Charles Compton Interview
How I Was Drafted Twice
WWII Vet Frank Boffi Story – Dateline: May 11, 1945
Sounds of War are in the air. Anti-aircraft fire fills the skies as Japanese Kamikaze planes come by the score to attack U.S. ships in the Battle of Okinawa. On board the Destroyer USS Hadley (DD-774), one Kamikaze struck, then a second. A 500-pound bomb and a smaller bomb struck the ship. Two levels below the main deck, Frank Boffi, from Cranston, Rhode Island, made his way topside through blistering steam that burned 85% of his body. He remembers very little after.
Wars ‘thrust greatness’ upon those whom, having come from any ordinary walk of life, become enmeshed within the throes of global conflict.
Frank Boffi was no exception.
On May 18th, 1922, when Cranston, Rhode Island was perhaps a sleepy suburb of Providence, the world welcomed Frank (Francesco), Boffi.
Like so many Americans, no one had a single clue that he and many others were to play a critical role in world history.
Frank Boffi’s family featured seven boys and three girls. Frank’s Dad did a spell as laborer for the Works Progress Administration after an upbringing on an Italian farm. Young Frank withstood the rigors and performed well during the years of his academic life, like being on a record-setting High School football team, and by 1938 we find Frank picking fruits and vegetables for a whopping one dollar for ten hours of labor. He graduated early from Cranston High School in January of 1941.
While a young man, Frank took training at the Polytechnic and Brown University. He served an apprenticeship as a jewelry maker and moved to working for Universal Winding Company in Cranston. With some irony, Universal went from manufacturing machinery for the yarn spinning industry to manufacturing of the Johnson semi-automatic rifle in 1941.
It was a harbinger of things to come for young Frank.
On December 6th, 1941, he and sweetheart, Stella, shared a vow to marry. The day after, December 7th, was that fateful day of ‘Infamy’ when Japanese aircraft struck Pearl Harbor. The United States went to war. Two months after sharing wedding vows, Frank enlisted in the Navy on October 15, 1942.
While Stella continued working for Johnson Arms, Frank served six weeks of boot camp in Newport, Rhode Island. From there he was selected to attend Wentworth Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. After being awarded a rank of 2nd Class Machinists Mate, his academic excellence would have made him a candidate for Officer’s training, but the military rule was that one had to receive their commission before he could get married.
Frank’s first sea assignment was aboard the USS Bernadou (DD-153), a Destroyer. On this assignment he attained the rank of Machinists Mate 1st Class. His introduction to war was during three Mediterranean invasions. While first destined to participate on the D-Day Invasion, his ship was diverted to South Carolina and Frank was sent to New Construction School in Norfolk, Virginia; which led to his first encounter with the newly built USS Hadley.
Constructed in San Pedro, California, the USS Hadley was 2200 tons of firepower. Sporting 5-inch guns, AN ARRAY OF Anti-Aircraft guns and Torpedo tubes, it was the latest and greatest produced for the war effort. Its value on the seas made it a natural to participate in one of the most pivotal battles of the war.
Frank Boffi was aboard.
After an island-hopping campaign in the South Pacific by U.S. troops, planes and ships, the last big obstacle before the Japanese mainland was Okinawa. The value of this vital target was not lost on the Japanese, as this island would be defended ‘to the death’.
The Hadley was assigned ‘picket’ duty on May 10th. Along with the USS Evans (DD-552), and other smaller craft, they took positions west of Okinawa. To those unfamiliar with picket duty, it means you are a stopgap or the first line of defense. When planes came from the Japanese defenders, the Hadley was one of the first to bear the brunt of attack.
It is reported that the Japanese employed more than a thousand Kamikaze fighters in this battle. Their objective was to use themselves and their airplanes as flying bombs against the enemy’s ships The Hadley was a prime target.
In the heat of battle the Hadley crew shot down a score of enemy aircraft, numbering in excess of 150 planes. But, after the Destroyer Evans went dead in the water, the USS Hadley fought on alone and the ship was repeatedly struck by bombs and Kamikaze planes.
When one bomb blast shook the Hadley, Frank and others were thrown onto the deck. Frank can’t remember exactly how he ended up in the water but one can speculate. The ship lost 30 crewmen but Frank was pulled to safety. The ship was crippled but Frank had escaped alive.
After 2-1/2 hours in the water and most of his body burned, Frank was given morphine for the pain. He was placed aboard the USS solace, a hospital ship. Several days later he ended up on the Marianas for a shot land-based treatment. From there Frank was moved to a hospital in San Francisco for nearly 3 weeks. The next move was to the Cour D’ Alene, Idaho, Naval Hospital, then to the Fargo Barracks in Boston where he was discharged on November 5th, 1945.
In spite of the rigors of war, Frank re-entered the Navy in 1948. It was in plenty of time to become involved in the Korean War aboard the USS Fisk as a 1st Class Acting Chief. In 1953 Frank again became a civilian. He worked and retried from an Insurance firm working as an Engineer. He and Stella came to Florida in 1966.
When you consider how close Frank Boffi came to making the ultimate sacrifice for our country, you can realize the spirit of Frank and so many who donned the military uniform, raising their hands in a pledge to give their life for our freedom.
In all, five Boffi brothers served their country in uniform. Whan you are at the supermarket today and see and older person sporting a cap showing their service to America, stop and shake their hand. Let us always remember what Frank faced on behalf of those living today.
Thank you, Frank Boffi, we owe you so much.
Interviewed by Charles Kellerman for the Hernando Star Magazine. April 2014.
Soldier's Without Uniforms
AS TOLD BY RAYMONDE FRIBERG
Augusta Marguerite Etienne, was born 3/12/1899, married Joseph Louis Daygue on July 20th, 1920. She had two daughters, Josette born 2/2/1922, and Raymonde (Ramy), born 9/9/1926.
Josette Daygue married Jacques Dupon in August of 1938, gave birth to Jackie, the gal this writer met in Florida and who pointed me to this story.
Augusta’s husband worked for the French Railroad and when Augusta was widowed she was given a small house containing a café (buffet, billet, canteen), about a mile and a half outside Saint Jean de Losne, France, roughly 30 kilometers south of Dijon. The little canteen was just steps from the railroad tracks and had served French soldiers prior to the German occupation.
But the French were defeated quickly after the German invasion of World War II and a Vichy government was established in the free area in the south of France.
In 1940, when Ramy was nearly 13 years old, the German soldiers came.
Jackie and her Mom left for southern France when Jackie was about 1-1/2 years old. They were to work their way to southern France, then to North Africa to be near Josette’s husband who served in the French Air Force.
Ramy remembers the French emptying gasoline into the river and setting the river afire. They also blew up a bridge so as not to be used by the Germans. When activity in the town was too dangerous Ramy’s mother rented a bedroom a mile and a half from their home. Sirens would announce night bombing raids, driving them into shelters. They were ordered to leave just before the bridge was blown and got out five minutes before the explosions.
Once the area was occupied, letters from families in Free France would be sneaked to the train’s engineer. Augusta would receive the letters and distribute them away from the watchful eye of the German occupiers. Letters would come to Augusta addressed to her with a separate envelope inside addressed to the actual recipient. So began Augusta’s involvement behind the backs of the Germans.
This eventually led to further risks. Escaped POW’s would hide away in train coal cars, deep beneath the coal. The escapees had fled the mines where they worked to supply the German war effort. Ramy relates how she walked along the coal cars and out of earshot of the Germans called out for anyone under the coal to come out. “Tell us now!” she would warn anyone hiding.
From the coal cars, escapees would be spirited to Augusta’s small cafe, now serving the Germans, and be hidden away until escape to southern France could be arranged. While German soldiers enjoyed their wine upstairs, escaped POW’s would be hiding in the cellar.
In one incident a French soldier, in uniform, was in Augusta’s kitchen, washing the coal dust away when in walked a German soldier. When the German spied the French soldier Ramy told the Frenchman that for sure she would be shot along with him.
But the German calmed them, stating he was an Austrian lawyer drafted into the German army and loathed the Nazis. He left and returned with food and blankets. Civilian clothes for the escapees were made from blankets.
The escapees would hide in Augusta’s cellar until they would have 2 or 3 needing to get away. Sometimes their German sympathizer would distract guards near the train so the POW’s could be snuck onto the southbound trains.
Ramy tells of a time when at 3:30 in the morning, two women with three children were begging at their door. Augusta gave up her bedroom and put a mattress on a dining room table to give them a place to sleep.
They were Jews from Belgium trying to elude the German checkpoints. Ramy walked 30 kilometers with the two women and upon reaching a river at the border of Free France, a boat took them into Vichy controlled territory.
Some families like this were hidden in dog kennels inside the train. Many who Augusta had helped visited or wrote letters of thank you after the war. In another incident, Augusta tossed a small kitten into an empty wagon but was spotted doing this by the Germans. She was arrested, suspected of tossing a bomb but was later released. Elevating the danger, Augusta agreed to let some boxes be stored in her home. While seemingly nondescript, it was later revealed that 1500 gold bars from the French bank were in the boxes. The Germans never searched the boxes.
When the fortunes of war for Germany changed, the occupiers were to blow up the railroad bridge in town. Being very close to the bridge, Augusta and Ramy where forced to evacuate. Ramy witnessed the bridge being blown and upon returning later to the cafe she found a gaping hole in her bedroom roof.
On her 18th birthday, Ramy says the French army came and the Germans withdrew. Saint Jean de Losne was liberated. In 1952 Augusta received a Citation signed the now famous Charles De Gaulle for her bravery.
Any story of courage and risk of life can be told by many who lived through the ordeals of World War II. But stories of Augusta and Ramy’s courage need to be told for the generations that follow. Facing the risk of being caught and executed, Augusta and Ramy did for their country what they felt was more important than their very own lives.
Raymonde Daygue married Robert Friberg 9/27/45 and currently lives in the U.S. northeast. We still talk occasionally on the phone. This writer is so very inspired by stories such as these.
One Soldier’s Story
Meet retired Lieutenant Colonel Roger Young. Born in December of 1931 in Stamford, Connecticut, Roger relays the story of how the bombing of Pearl Harbor so upset his parents when he was just ten years old. Way too young for that conflict, Roger grew up in a life typical of many Americans of that time.
He played pick-up sports just like any average American kid but the leadership drive came early to him when he served as the High School Council President in his senior year, graduating in the top twenty in 1949.
In spite of a one-year scholarship at MIT Roger realized he lacked the artistic skills needed for a degree in architecture. In 1954 he graduated from the University of Connecticut and used his ROTC platform to enter active duty in 1954. While a senior at the University he met his Bride-to-be, Dawn, a high school senior at the time. They married in 1955, with Dawn entering Nursing in that year.
Now on active military duty, Roger was assigned to a post in Alaska where the first of their children was born. In February of 1957 a new baby came to join the fold. Roger served then at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks at a 120 mm Air Defense Battery In October of 1959 he moved to Ft. Bragg, NC, working with the Twin 40 mm and Quad 50 caliber Anti-Aircraft weapons. Here Roger made the rank of Captain.
After leaving active duty in 1961 Roger faced some difficulty finding a compatible career even though still being a reservist. Roger reapplied for active duty in 1963 going to Ft. Sill, OK where he became a 105 mm Howitzer Battery Commander. Given a Regular Army Commission, Roger was assigned to the 11th Air Assault Division which became the 1st Air Calvary Division. He left Savannah, GA in 1965 on a troop ship where a 30-day ocean voyage put him into South Vietnam.
In the Vietnamese Highlands the life of an Officer was not without hardship, he and another officer sharing a pup tent, sleeping on the ground. The group had thirty nine helicopters in the command arrying the 2.75 air launched rocket. When it became necessary to assign PFC’s as door gunners, Roger had ccasion to volunteer as door gunner, sitting on a flack jacket to block enemy fire from below. “This gave the PFC’s a rest”, Roger said.
Roger’s next stateside assignment was in the Ohio State ROTC program as Assistant Professor of Military Science. This was not to be permanent as Roger made his second tour of Vietnam in 1970. He served in the Vietnamese Delta as in the Military Advisor to the South Vietnamese Army. Taking a six-month extension gave Roger a chance for a 30 day R&R where he met up with Dawn in Hawaii.
After the double war zone tours Roger was sent to Ft. Monroe, VA where he served from 1971 thru 1977. Part of his duties was with the Continental Army Command’s Manpower Division. While here Roger was advanced to the rank of Major, retiring from the Military in 1977, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
We are grateful for Roger’s distinguished service to his country and are grateful that two tours of combat areas let Roger come home alive. We salute you, Lieutenant Colonel Young!
(LTC Young resides in Florida with his wife, Dawn)
A Passion for Veterans
I met Dennis Reich through Hernando Senior Services. He called me after the meeting telling me that some group members could use my website link offer to promote their fundraising. While Dennis spoke up on behalf of others, it was as I absorbed more about Dennis Reich that I learned to appreciate his own personal efforts.
While working at Florida Hills Memorial Gardens, Dennis works with bereaved families at one of the most critical junctures of their lives. But besides helping people this way he has another passion that deserves attention. On November 15th I interviewed him about his work for Wreaths Across America. In the explanatory documents given me the WWA mission is spelled out.
“Wreaths Across America” (WWA) was born in 2006 out of a desire to remember and honor American Service Members for their contributions in preserving our freedom”
“Wreaths Across America is a 501c-3 organization founded in 2007 as a continuation of the Arlington Wreath Project”. The purpose is placing commemorative wreaths on as many Veteran’s grave sites as possible.
This is certainly echoed in the WWA Mission Statement:
Honor………………those who serve
Teach………………our children the value of freedom
Some 750 wreaths are destined to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery on December 10th.
I asked Mr. Reich what prompted him to devote so much time and effort to this group’s work. “Vietnam”, was his reply. When military members returned from Vietnam, some of which were his friends, Dennis was frustrated with the amount of disrespect shown by many for the soldiers just “doing their duty”.
As an amateur historian specializing in military affairs, I had to give Mr. Reich immediate respect for his time and effort in a selfless sacrifice.
My friend, Dennis Reich, with Accent Insurance, specializes in Medicare plans including Supplements,
Advantage Plans, and drug plans. In addition he does Under 65 health plans, Affordable Care Act plans, Life, Annuities, Indemnity, and dental/vision plans. (352) 587-2178
CHARLES COMPTON INTERVIEW
Interview of Charles Compton-Sept. 2012
Charles Arnold Compton was born in 1922, starting his life on his parent’s dairy farm in Shelbyville, Illinois. The disciplines of farm life served him well in later endeavors. When Pearl Harbor was struck in December of 1941, Charles was an accomplished Caterpillar driver and his employer worked to get him a deferment. After a time Charles’ conscience made him decide to enlist.
Classified in Chicago, the newly minted Marine was sent to San Diego, California. First to Recruit Depot, then to Camp Elliot and then to Camp Matthews for rifle training. It was inevitable that Charles was put on board a ship bound for the South Pacific and suffered the experiences of seasickness.
After several moves Charles reached Guadalcanal, that area having been secured by earlier fighting. While he was there, a solitary Japanese torpedo plane nicknamed “Washing Machine Charley” , successfully hit an America ship in the harbor. Charles was assigned to an 81mm mortar platoon, serving with the 3rd Marine Division.
Charles was then moved to Guam where he witnessed repeated efforts of Americans to eliminate Japanese artillery located on high cliffs. Charles earned his Corporal stripes there and trained with flamethrowers. When his superior officers learned of Charles’ skills as a carpenter he was assigned to various construction projects. One was to build a moving target for target practice.
Iwo Jima had become the biggest goal for the Americans. Going in on a troop carrying landing craft enemy bullets strafed the metal hull. Conditions being very bad on the beach caused Charles’s craft and many others to return to the ships.
Once on land, one of Charles’ jobs was to transport satchel charges and flame-throwers to the frontline troops. A great deal of his time was spent doing Battalion carpentry work and leading details. While on Iwo, Charles was at the airstrip and was looking towards Mount Suribachi just as Marines mounted our flag there. (Pictured is Iwo Jima with Mount Suribachi in the foreground)
While Charles was on Iwo near a Command Post, an enemy mortar shell landed close by and gave him a blast concussion. He woke up on a medical ship with an intense headache and ringing in his ears. After resting for a while on Guam, Charles was moved via plane to Honolulu. Years later Charles had a piece of shrapnel work it’s way out of his leg.
It wasn’t only a battlefield putting Charles at risk. The plane carrying the Marine to Hawaii lost an engine and made an emergency landing on Johnson Island many miles away from Hawaii. Overnight the plane was refitted with replacement engines and then took off for the future fiftieth state.
Charles was boarded onto a new Hospital Ship, the USS Repose, which he described as state of the art. Here Charles was pressed into duty as a Censor, one who blacks out information in soldier’s letters that compromise military operations.
The day after Charles arrived in Oakland, California, the Japanese surrender was announced. Charles was sent to for R & R in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Having earned enough “points” Charles was discharged. He returned home to Illinois and got married.
He spent many postwar years building commercial and residential buildings in Decatur, Illinois. In 1971 Charles and his family moved to Brooksville, Florida. He continued his construction work here. Not one to remain idle, Charles now builds and sells collectible Post Office door banks.
Charles Compton received the Purple Heart for injuries during combat and represents the typical American spirit that made the Allied forces victorious. We express undying gratitude to Charles and all who served in World War II.
How I Was Drafted Twice
by the Webmaster
The year was 1967. My brother, having signed for a 3 year stretch in the Army, had left the comfort of Germany for the rice paddies and war of Vietnam.
We feared for our sibling and fortunately he was in the 725th Light Maintenance Battalion at Cu Chi. That year as a high school senior, I remember sitting next to one of the best liked girls in our class. She sat crying, having just lost her Fiancé in the war.
Life was pretty cushy for me then. I left high school and met my future bride working for Illinois Bell Telephone in downtown Chicago. We became engaged in 1968 with marriage planned for the following year.
September 13, 1969, my new wife and I set up housekeeping in Blue Island, a Chicago suburb.
It must have been not more than a month past our vows when the notice to report came in the mail. We weren’t surprised, a lot of guys I knew were going and it was my turn. And having read many books on war I was fully accepting of this responsibility.
Some weeks later, due to the start of a “draft lottery’, I was sent a second notice telling me not to report. Kind of a U.S. Government, “never mind”. The lottery started and my number came up again in the spring of 1970.
This time there was no doubt I was going.
My Vietnam brother had since gotten his honorable discharge and I still recall his last words of advice when he dropped me at the recruiting station, “Keep your nose clean.”
Basic training was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I was not as muscular then as I am now so I made no rank exiting basic. Those who got the stripes were those with the greatest athletic prowess. I was immediately shipped to Fort Knox, Kentucky for Armor training.
At Fort Knox I was called aside as my test scores were appreciable. I was offered a two week LPC, or Leadership Preparation Course. With a guaranteed stripe and a pay raise, I took it and graduated top student.
When getting to Armor training I again was pulled aside and made an Acting E-7. Basically I marched the troops to where ever the next training was.
After AIT at Knox, my Sergeant called me aside again. Having graduated from AIT as the stop student I was asked to go to NCO school. As before, being guaranteed rank and a pay raise I signed on.
We were called “Instant NCO’s” or “Shake and Bake” Sergeants. I didn’t care, the money was sent home to the Mrs. This time I was the number two student.
Three months of training and two months OJT for sure meant Vietnam. We had trained as tank commanders and the guys at the other end of the barracks were Personnel Carrier commanders.
Surprise again. All of the “tankers” went to Korea, the “Recon” guys were all sent to Nam.
I did the best I could in Korea, being assigned as a Ration Control clerk because I could type. Not what I had envisioned for my share of the war effort. My wife was happy though, because I like to volunteer.