FRANK SCORDINO: "THE GREATEST GENERATION"

MARCH 1999 - Tom Brokaw’s bestseller The Greatest Generation
tells stories of individual men and women who came of age during the
Great Depression and Second World War. Without complaint, they then
went on to create interesting and useful lives and the America we have
today.

Although none of our 51,000
members are featured in Brokaw’s classic, it’s a sure bet that
thousands within our ranks could qualify for their own chapter in his
book.

We had earlier reported on
member John Taylor of Somerville who was blinded in a Japanese Kamikaze
attack, went on to graduate from Notre Dame, raised a family, and
became a career employee of the Commonwealth’s Division of the Blind.

This
month we are featuring member Francis Scordino, a Roxbury native, who
fought and was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge in World
War II.

Times were tough for the
eight-member Scordino family in the 30’s. Frank Scordino was selling
papers and shining shoes in Roxbury’s Jackson Square neighborhood
before he was eight years old.
When he wasn’t working, he attended the James P. Timilty School and the old Mechanic Arts High School.

Upon
reaching age 18, he joined the Army in 1943. After training at Camp
Wheeler, Macon, Georgia and Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, Scordino was
assigned to the Army’s 42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division, which saw
extensive combat action in Europe.

In December 1944, Germany was losing ground in Europe and was on the verge of being defeated.

On
December 16, the Nazis unleashed an unexpected, desperate
counter-attack in the Ardennes, a wooded plateau region, which
encompassed parts of France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The ensuing
warfare ultimately resulted in 81,000 American casualties and will
forever be etched in military annals as the Battle of the Bulge.

Captured

On
January 9, 1945, P.F.C. Frank Scordino’s squad found itself surrounded
by Germans. Overwhelmed and out of ammunition, Frank and his surviving
squad members were taken prisoner.

"We
were facing tanks with their guns trained on us, only thirty feet away.
They could have easily killed us but, for some reason, they allowed us
to live. Others in the same situation were not so lucky."

Ultimately,
Scordino ended up at Stalag 4B in Muehlberg, Germany. "This camp was
pure hell," he said. "The camp was for British Air Force prisoners and
we were the first Americans.

"The
Brits had been prisoners for some time and had better food and slept on
bunks in their own barracks. We slept on a cement floor, had no heat
and were fed nothing but turnip soup, minus the turnips, which I think
went to the British. Occasionally, we received soup made from potato
peelings, but never saw a potato."

Three
months later, wracked with dysentery, suffering with pneumonia and
partially frozen feet, Scordino’s weight fell from 145 pounds to about
95.

"Each morning my job was to
take the dog tags off any Americans who had died and were going to be
buried," Scordino said. "Finally, I couldn’t stand up and my spirits
couldn’t have been any lower. I didn’t think I was going to make it."

However,
fate intervened when a German lieutenant loaded Scordino on a jeep,
gave him some food and personally drove him to a hospital in Leipzig,
Germany.

"We were strafed by a U.S.
P-51 plane but weren’t hit. That German lieutenant saved my life,"
Scordino related. "To this day, I don’t know why he saved me…I like to
think it was one human being helping another. Strange things happen in
war.

"Life wasn’t much better in
the hospital, but my feet thawed and I was given enough food to
survive. Eventually, the Germans were crushed and we were liberated,
but of all people, by the Russians. They did nothing to help us, so
finally three of us hitched a ride from a Russian truck driver who
dropped us off at an American compound."

From
that point, it was on to LeHarve, France, where Frank was deloused ("I
had lice from head to feet.") and fed eggnog for three weeks to
increase his weight. Then, it was a "hellhole" troop ship back to
America.

Brother Killed

His
homecoming was not joyous. It wasn’t until then that he found out his
older brother Anthony, a fighter pilot, had been killed in action. "It
was one of the saddest points in my life," he remembered. There is now
a Lt. Anthony J. Scordino Square at the Orange Line’s Ruggles Street
Station of the T.

Discharged from the Army, like other veterans in Brokaw’s book, Scordino was determined to make a better life.

Working
two jobs, he made time to attend Northeastern University to obtain an
accounting background. He also found time to meet, fall in love with
and marry Dorothy Roscia. They later borrowed $500 from Dorothy’s
sister and bought a house in Dedham for $12,500.

His
first public sector job was with the City of Boston at the city’s Civil
Defense Agency. He then asked his friend Frank Bellotti to help him
find a job with the state. Within a week, he was working for the
Department of Revenue. He went on to rise through the ranks in that
agency, finally retiring as audit manager in the Natick office of the
D.O.R.

Life
hasn’t been easy since retiring. After a lengthy battle with cancer,
his wife died. He is treated on a regular basis at the West Roxbury VA
Hospital for conditions relating to his war experiences. But he is not
complaining. "I have three wonderful children and some great friends,
including Joe Moakley. I believe in the power of prayer, especially
praying on behalf of others who are having difficulty."

What
Frank didn’t tell us is that before he was captured, his bravery as a
19-year-old B.A.R. (Browning Automatic Rifle) point man had helped to
hold off the Germans and prevent other positions from being overrun. He
was awarded two Bronze Stars for heroism and is prominently
acknowledged in the literary chronology of the Battle of the Bulge.

To
Frank Scordino we say God bless. You are truly a member of The Greatest
Generation - a generation to which so many of our members belong.

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