Frank Gervasi fought with the Army during WW II. Many soldiers had it rough during the war, but few men had to endure the intensity of combat for as long as Frank Gervasi. After three invasions and 300 days on the front lines of North Africa, Sicily, and Normandy, Mr. Gervasi had amassed 119 points–but still he had a tough time getting out of the Army in 1945 (most GIs were discharged with 80 points).
On May 9, 2012, Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh invited Frank Gervasi to The Board Room of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum to share his WW II stories with us. Mr. Gervasi, who is 92, was accompanied by family members, which made our recording session friendly and comfortable. Todd DePastino, who conducted the interview, asked Mr. Gervasi about a range of subjects, including Pearl Harbor, military training, landing on Omaha Beach, being captured by the Germans, and being wounded.
Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh recorded the interview in dedicated audio and video media, and Andy Marchese managed the still photography and took Mr. Gervasi’s formal portrait for our project.
KEYWORDS: 1ST INFANTRY DIVISION (ARMY); AFRICA; ALGIERS; BATTALION AIDE STATION; BAYONET; CAMP BLANDING, FL; CAMP LUCKY STRIKE, FRANCE; CAMP WHEELER, GA; CHASE, SAMUEL; CHERAULT, FRANCE; D-DAY (NORMANDY); EISENHOWER, GENERAL DEWIGHT D.; FT. MYER; GOERING, HERMANN; GOUROCK, SCOTLAND; HAMPTON ROADS, VA; HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT; HEDGE ROWS; HILL 523; INDIANTOWN GAP, PA; KASSERINE PASS; LAKE PLACID, NY; LANDING CRAFT; MELHAUF; OFFICE CANDIDATE SCHOOL; OMAHA BEACH; ORAN; PANZER TANK; PATTON, GENERAL GEORGE; PRISONER OF WAR (POW); REGULAR ARMY; RMS QUEEN MARY; SENEGALESE TROOPS; SERVICE DISCHARGE POINTS; SICILY INVASION; STEEL MILL; TIDWORTH BARRACKS; TUNISIA, NORTH AFRICA; US ARMY; VANDERGRIFT, PA; WEYMOUTH, ENGLAND
Many soldiers had it rough during the war, but few men had to endure the intensity of combat for as long as Frank Gervasi. After three invasions and 300 days on the front lines of North Africa, Sicily, and Normandy, Mr. Gervasi had amassed 119 points–but still he had a tough time getting out of the Army in 1945 (most GIs were discharged with 80 points).
Listen as Mr. Gervasi recalls his GI and infantry experiences across Africa and Europe, including his D-Day landing on Omaha Beach where only 58 of 225 members of his Company survived the first day.
Frank M. Gervasi Collection (Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center/Library of Congress)
Frank Michael Gervasi, 96, of Vandergrift, passed away Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015, surrounded and comforted by his loving family. He was born on June 15, 1919, in Vandergrift, the son of Michel and Luigina (Bennardo) Gervasi. He was a lifelong resident of Vandergrift and a 1937 graduate of Vandergrift High School. Frank and his wife, Anita (Capretto) Gervasi celebrated 68 years of marriage earlier this month.
“Gervy”, as he was known to his friends, served on the Vandergrift Police force upon his return from duty in World War II until 1959 when he was hired as the head guard at the U.S. Steel Research Center in Monroeville, retiring in 1981. He was a member of the Vandergrift Borough Council and a member of the committee that worked to implement Rainbow Control, the area’s first emergency management system. Frank was a member of St. Gertrude Roman Catholic Church, St. Gertrude Mens’ Club, the Vandergrift Order of Sons of Italy in America, the V.F.W., the Knights of Columbus and the Veterans Breakfast Club. He enjoyed times spent with his family and friends, gardening and playing cards.
Gervy was proud to have served in the Army during World War II from 1942 to 1945 as a member of the First Infantry Division, 16th Infantry Regiment, “A” Company, also known as “The Big Red One”. His division participated in three first-wave amphibious landings. The initial one was the first wave of the invasion of North Africa. It was in Tunisia where he and 150 surviving members of his 1000-man battalion were taken prisoner by the German Army and later liberated by British forces. The second first-wave was the invasion of Sicily on July 10, 1943, and on June 6, 1944, “D-Day”, he saw his third first wave invasion in 18 months when his division landed on the Easy Red Sector of Omaha Beach, advancing inland until the St. Lo Breakthrough. Frank served as a squad leader with 250 men in his company, 58 of whom survived the day. He was wounded on July 28, 1944, during a mortar barrage, sent to England to recover and rejoined his outfit in Stolberg Germany in September 1944, fighting through the Huertgen Forest, later referred to as the “meat grinder”. In December 1944, Frank was assigned to the Ground Force Officers Training School in Fountainbleau, France, to train new officers in infantry tactics. During his service to our country, Frank attained the rank of Master Sergeant, classified as essential with 118 discharge points, and was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, six Campaign Stars and Arrowhead, four Presidential citations, the Prisoner of War medal, the Good Conduct Medal and the European Theater of Operations ribbon. Earlier this year, Frank was honored by the French government with The French Knight’s Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor, for his participation in the D-Day invasion and its contribution to the liberation of France. Frank memories of the “Big Red One’s” involvement in the European Theater of World War II have been recorded and preserved in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., the Soldiers and Sailors Museum in Pittsburgh, and John Bailey’s “Alle-Kiski Valley Goes to War”. Frank’s participation in the invasion of North Africa and the ensuing battle with Rommel’s army at Kasserine Pass has been filmed and can be seen in the History Channel’s documentary, “World War II from Space”. He is recognized in Cornelius Ryan’s book, “The Longest Day.”
Frank was devoted family man who is survived by his wife, Anita, and four children, Kathleen (William) Karazsia of Washington Township, Francine Gervasi, of Vandergrift, Michael (Alison) Gervasi, of Spring City, Pa., and Linda Gervasi, of Orlando, Fla.; and four grandchildren, William Karazsia, of Milan, Italy, Ian (Jenny) Gervasi, of Washington, D.C., Marie (Travis) German, of Spring City, and Aurelia Gervasi, of Orlando, Fla.; a sister, Eleanor Gervasi, of Vandergrift; and many nieces and nephews. He will be dearly missed by all. He was preceded in death by his parents, Michel and Luigina; sisters, Amelia Gervasi and Carmen Camilli; and a brother, Frank.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated. Entombment in Greenwood Memorial Park Mausoleum, Lower Burrell, where military honors will be accorded by the Vandergrift Veteran’s Honor Guard Inc.