Early Life

Training and Preparation

Landing in North Africa

Torpedo

Italy

Taking Rome

France and Returning Home

Texas and Florida

Korea

Work and Family in Germany

Tanks, Mules, and Terrain of Monte Cassino

Taking A Tank Out

Losing Faith, Crack &Thump, and Spitfire

Being Wounded

Reunions and Post War Life

The Letter

Effects of the War

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Frank Mancuso was born and raised in the 9th ward of New Orleans and attended C.J. Colton High School. His father died when he was 13 leaving behind his brother and two sisters, causing him to drop out of school and get a job at a service station. After saving two dollars a week, Mancuso was able to save enough money to purchase a Model A Ford. During this time he became an automobile enthusiast and visited his uncle’s car shop down the street from his house. After that he started to rebuild his car using leftover parts from a local junkyard as well as the tires off his father’s 1925 Model T. His father died shortly after and left Mancuso his car. His mother had no way to pay for the funeral and turned to Huey Long for help. She quickly became a police matron for the Chez Paris nightclub in West End. Mancuso’s next job was driving trucks for his uncle moving cattle from St. Bernard Parish. His mother remarried and Mancuso moved to San Francisco. Once there he worked for a subcontractor of Pacific Gas and Electric Company. He began making blueprints which included the underground lighting of the San Francisco Zoo.

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Once while Frank Mancuso was out with his friends, they began talking about how bad things were getting in Germany, leading them to join the Army together. Two of his friends did not pass the physical but Mancuso was accepted into the 30th Infantry of the 3rd Infantry Division and began training. Once a year he would travel to Fort Lewis, Washington to train with the rest of the division. This is where Mancuso was when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. His unit was placed on the coast of Washington in preparation for a land invasion by the Japanese. Mancuso began training, running five miles before breakfast, four times a week, unless it was Friday, when they would run 25 miles. After one of these runs, they received new helmets, which was a signal that their deployment was approaching. Mancuso next travelled to Marysville, California where he was put on a train to Hampton Roads, Virginia. Once there he discovered he was going to Germany. Mancuso, a buck sergeant, was taken to the ship yard where he saw dollar line ships. His job there was to place guns and other necessary equipment onto the ships. There were detailed orders about the measurement and weight of each item that was going on the ship, including guns, artillery weapons, command cars, signal equipment, 300 tons of mines and dynamite. For three months Mancuso lived with the Navy while helping to outline with chalk where these items were to be placed on the ship before their arrival. They announced the boats launch and the men boarded. Mancuso had a state room. One day they got called onto the deck where they were told they were going to North Africa. Later he learned they were going to fight the Vichy French.

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During the overseas voyage Frank Mancuso was in charge of checking the tie downs, therefore he had privileged access to the ship. They arrived in Africa on 8 November 1942 and landed seven miles south west of Casablanca in Fedala. His unit successfully took the city. The search light would be turned on as a signal. A straight up beam meant no combat. Instead the light shone out to sea, so Mancuso fought his way through the beach. When daylight came the following day they successfully moved equipment from the holds of the ships and Mancuso’s unit moved into the city to utilize the cranes for heavier equipment unloading. They then returned to Fedala. Mancuso got invited to a special dinner with his lieutenant by his roommate, a mess sergeant whose name was Fontana. While standing in the galley they both were thrown from a blast created by a torpedo. This torpedo knocked out the engine room. Mancuso began to run up the remaining two decks. Another torpedo hit the ship and Mancuso fell down the stairs. The ship began to lean on its port side. Mancuso took his life vest off and threw it on the deck, but later returned to look for another as the ship was beginning to sink. Within the next half hour four additional ships were sunk, leaving 2000 men in the water. Because of additional impacts from depth chargers, Mancuso tried to stay as close to the surface of the water as possible by swimming on his back. When he reached the shore he covered himself in sand because conditions were cold. He fell asleep on shore and was woken up by the French who were giving out blankets.

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The next morning Frank Mancuso is awoken by a lieutenant. He quickly learned that his unit had moved out of the city. He got a ride and met up with his lieutenant. Together they got in their jeep and reconnected with the rest of their unit. At this point Spain had not joined either side in the war, which caused concern for strategic moves. Mancuso’s division moved to the Spanish Moroccan border and stayed there for two to three months. During this time they received replacements and new equipment. His unit was also involved with the British 8th Army where they trained with the commandos so that they could bring that knowledge to the rest of their men. At this time they were stationed in Marrakech. Conditions were very hot during the day and freezing at night. His unit was told to break down camp because they were to take Iran. Conditions here were even worse. There was an excessive amount of flies and many men developed impetigo which gave them sores on the face and mouth. They were at the border at Ferryville [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] when they boarded ships to invade Sicily. His unit got on an LTC with 37mm guns that were changed to 57mm once in Africa. All together on the ship, there was one gun, a pickup truck, and half a platoon. The men arrived at Licata, Sicily where Mancuso experienced the roughest D Day of his five landings. Mancuso was worried about being hit by falling aircraft, both German and American. The mountainous terrain did not allow for tank attacks which was his unit’s specialty. Additionally, mules had to be used to carry supplies up and down. The men then took Palermo, pulled back, and went into Trapani. They staged there for four days to replace the men that they previously lost. Mancuso was told they were going back to England to train for Normandy. At the same time another unit nearby needed reinforcements so they joined up with them instead under the leadership of Patton. Mancuso moved north into Italy taking it town by town, pushing the Germans back. The best place to set up a main line of resistance was the Cassino front where Mancuso managed to get through to. His unit was elected to move all wounded and dead off of the mountain during constant artillery fire.

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Frank Mancuso’s unit went back to Naples to get more replacements and newer landing craft, landing onshore without incident. They needed to break two highways, 5 and 6, which were heavily reinforced. The men weren’t shot at until three days later. The terrain of Anzio was similar to that of New Orleans. Mancuso lay in the water until they went to a local cheese factory. Next they went to Carano where they fought house to house. Platoon headquarters had three guns dug in around it. Mancuso’s biggest problem was artillery shells. After three or four months there, they told them to leave at five in the morning. Two days later they took Calitri and finally Rome, where they became garrison troops. Mancuso stayed in a hotel where they had Italian maids who mopped the floors with gin. The Pope then made an announcement that they did not want combat troops within the borders of Rome because of possible German bombing. The men then moved to the port city of Pozzuoli. They were on the Mediterranean for eight days until they landed in Cannes, France where they invaded again. The Germans could not fly their airplanes because of a lack of fuel which helped lead the allies to a victory. Mancuso’s unit had trouble in Aix with tanks where his friend, Stewart, had his kneecap blown off and returned to the US.

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Frank Mancuso next went to Bessence [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling], France where his commanding officer gave him a battlefield commission. The officer told him that if he was to stay alive a few months it would be changed to silver [Annotators Note: Mancuso was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. If he lived long enough he would receive the silver bar of a 1st Lieutenant]. He chose to stay with his unit instead of transferring. He had been through seven separate platoon leaders. The one he had during this time relayed a story to him about his time in Naples and Mancuso decided he would have to look after him in combat. Shortly after he got wounded, went to hospital, and left. He refused his purple heart and instead went and hitchhiked until he found his unit. Mancuso still had shrapnel in his leg so he had to go back to the hospital. Eventually, he had to join another unit. While visiting the doctor, he asked him if he wanted to go home, and Mancuso complied. He again travelled by boat from Cannes to Naples. From there he got on a ship to Charleston, South Carolina.

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Frank Mancuso landed in Charleston, South Carolina then he travelled on a hospital train to McKinney, Texas and then to Dallas. Because he was back in the US before the war ended, it was easy for him to find dates. Before now, Mancuso had no previous knowledge of rationing. He was allowed a pass up to three days. Mancuso had no money but received partial pay of a few thousand dollars from a finance company. Mancuso received a bag from the Red Cross that had toiletries in it. Once in Dallas he stayed at the Baker Hotel for five or six months. Hotels there were so full that you had to sign onto a waiting list. Mancuso signed it but was approached by the manager who told him that he could get him a room in exchange for a few packs of cigarettes. Mancuso instead gave him his entire carton and received a room. Next he was sent to an infantry training replacement center in Gainesville, Texas. Before that he was sent on R and R in Miami Beach at the Albion Hotel. By this time Mancuso had three years of combat experience. He was chosen to teach recruits how to use flares. There his company commander told him to teach the men by the books and not by his experience. Next he was sent to see the captain who told him he wasn't going to stay, but this was fine with Mancuso and he went to Camp Leroy Johnson [Annotators Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana].

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Once sent back to New Orleans, Frank Mancuso was assigned as a special services officer [Annotators Note: at Camp Leroy Johnson]. His jobs were to run the movie screenings and set up an athletic program and a service club. By this time people were getting sent to Korea but Mancuso was sent back to Germany. He went to the 1st Infantry Division with his branch changed to transportation officer. There he met Captain Perkins from Anzio. He stayed for three years but was again sent back to the United States. Mancuso did a tour at the port of embarkation at New Orleans before he got orders to be sent to Korea. He flew into Tacoma, Washington and went to Fort Lewis. He stayed a week and then travelled by boat to Yokohama. There he was made troop train commander and flew into Pusan before going by train to Seoul. Mancuso then went to the 55th Truck Battalion to haul ammunition to the artillery unit. There were problems with the trucks they were using because they were automatic transmissions. Two weeks later there was a cease fire but Mancuso had to stay at the 32nd parallel for six months until he returned back to Seoul to continue transportation duties. There he finished his 15 month tour and went back to New Orleans. After New Orleans he was sent back to Germany, got involved with aviation and stayed until 1960. After that he was given the choice to reenlist or retire. Reenlisting would make him eligible to go to Vietnam.

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Frank Mancuso adopted a 20 month old girl from Ludwigsburg with his wife while in Germany. When his father in law became ill, Mancuso’s child had to get a passport to go back to the US with his wife. Because of the cold war, he had to accompany his wife back. While here his daughter became an American citizen. Mancuso returned to Germany and had to wait two weeks for his family. During the last year of Mancuso’s tour he bought a 1960 Volkswagen, took a 30 day leave, and travelled with his family through Austria and into Italy. Gas had to be purchased with coupons that could only be purchased at specific places at six cents a gallon. His two year old understood both English and German. On their trip they stayed at a hotel in Sorrento. There Mancuso saw a tree that could grow both oranges and lemons. They returned to Ludwigsburg where Mancuso encountered a replacement who could do his job. Mancuso won a coin toss and was able to come home to New Orleans.

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Frank Mancuso served in an antitank company in the 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He had a platoon of three 57mm guns that he was responsible for. The 57mm was too heavy so they got pickup trucks to transport them. At regimental meetings he was shown maps and from there tried to figure out how to move tanks across the terrain. One of Mancuso’s guns knocked out a tank by digging the trails in a ditch and leaving the barrel flush to the ground and knocking the track off the tank. This caused the gears to stick into the ground and turn the tank 90 degrees. They were fired upon but only lost the gun. Mancuso also had a 30 caliber machine gun in case the personnel of the tank disembarked. This was the only time in four years that they had to do this. Mancuso’s combat engagement in Africa was limited to the torpedoed ship because of his movement to the Spanish border.In combat in Sicily, Mancuso mostly had to face artillery shells. Here they used mules extensively to bring supplies up and down the rough terrain. The mules had a handler from the Grand Canyon. Mancuso described Cassino as full of shell holes with a lot of chopped up trees.

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Originally, when Frank Mancuso entered the army he was a Catholic. This changed when the Pope said they could not bomb the convent on the top of Monte Cassino. Because of how many men he watched die, he is no longer a Catholic. While in Anzio Mancuso took cover under a cow that had been hit with shrapnel. From there he moved into Corana because the allies were advancing. The US had 15 to 20 tanks dug in and they mowed the Germans down with their machine guns. After that they moved out. When this happened, Mancuso’s tanks moved as well. Sometimes they had to man a listening post to look for tanks and point to where they were. Mancuso describes the crack and thump method of identifying where a round was fired from by the sound it makes as it passes overhead. Mancuso did not think that he was coming back from the war. He was worried about the 88mm antiaircraft gun because of the amount of damage that they did. While he was in Italy, he was able to distinguish German airplanes from American airplanes. Up to two years after he was discharged Mancuso would still be awoken by the sound of an airplane. There was a place on Anzio where they could relax, be sprayed, hosed, and given new clothes. While there Mancuso heard a Spitfire and ran towards it so he would not get hit. He saw the pilot’s parachute open and quickly put their fires out. At a D Day indoctrination Mancuso met the British officer who was shot down. Mancuso helped the Normandy invasion because they knocked out fuel storage and ball bearing factories. Mancuso made it to the Eagles Nest at Berchtesgaden.

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Frank Mancuso crossed the Volturno River prior to Monte Cassino. His unit gathered in a courtyard to refuel their trucks and check their guns. They used their gasoline stoves to make coffee and while that was happening, a mortar shell hit their coffee tin. Mancuso spun around while his friend Patton flinched back. Patton received a wound in his chest that could have almost killed him. Mancuso was hit in the knee. The men were then taken to Caserta where they were treated in a museum building that had been set up as a medical station. Mancuso and his friend wanted to stay with their men so they returned to Anzio where his first sergeant called him. He told him to send two men to deliver rations on a truck that same night. Mancuso chose Wang and brought him to company headquarters. Later that evening the men were heavily fired upon, which caused Wang a great amount of distress. Wang left on a jeep and returned home later that night. Mancuso was also hit in the chin with a piece of metal that was knocked off of something by an 88. When he was hit that time the doctor informed him that he could go home.

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During one of his breaks in Sicily, Frank Mancuso wrote a letter that was never answered. When he came back to the United States there was a company reunion. Mancuso and a few others agreed to meet in different places including Chicago, San Diego, New York, Texas, and New Orleans. One of Mancuso’s fellow antitank men even lived in Slidell. 10 years later all except three of the men had passed away. Montague wrote Mancuso including the letter that he had written to a girl while in Sicily. Montague explained that it was given to him by Patton who was now living in San Francisco and included his phone number. Mancuso called Patton and found out that one day when he was at an antique auction Patton bid two or three dollars on a few packages and discovered the letter in there. He then got in touch with Montague and asked him to pass it along if he ever came into contact with Mancuso. A lot of Mancuso’s photographs did not survive Hurricane Katrina but many of them were copied by other men during the reunions. Mancuso was in the United States when he found out the war was over. He was stationed in Alexandria when he first returned to the United States. He became commanding officer of a German prison camp at Port Allen where 300 prisoners were to harvest sugar cane. Mancuso was there with another sergeant where he had his own cook. The first night there at four in the morning he heard the trucks coming to get the sugar cane but he thought Germans were trying to escape. His sergeant explained to him that most of the men there had never lived a life so well therefore most of them did not want to leave. German barrack sergeants were in charge of their men.

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For Frank Mancuso, the war took away four years of his youth and there were many things he did not get a chance to do. He stayed in the service after the war because he did not get a chance to make decisions about his future. As a reserve officer he had to leave after 20 years of service. Mancuso believed he was lucky to have survived a torpedo hit [Annotators Note: during the landings in North Africa. See segment titled Landing in North Africa]. The war helped him to appreciate G.I. ingenuity. For example they placed chains on the wheels of the tank so that any mines they ran over would be lifted out of the ground before they went off. During the war the windshields of jeeps were taken off because of the glare they created. Mancuso went through Italy on a German BMW motorcycle but had to get rid of it before an inspection. Mancuso believes that the war could have ended much sooner if we had smart bombs and helicopters. That technology could have saved many lives. He believes that through the study of World War 2 men can learn from their former mistakes. African American participation in the war in terms of what Mancuso saw personally was limited to the driving of trucks. Mancuso participated in the opening parade for the museum [Annotators Note: The National WWII Museum] where he road in a 1911 Model T. Many people thanked him for his service during this event and that had a profound effect on him. He believes he is very lucky for surviving when so many others did not. [Annotators Note: video ends mid sentence.]
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