Saturday, July 27, 2013

TFH 7/27,29,31: PFC Frank J. Petrarca, USA

Frank Joseph Petrarca was born in Cleveland, Ohio on July 31, 1918. He joined the United States Army in October 1940 and was assigned as a medic in the 145th Infantry Regiment, part of the 37th Infantry Division. The 37th was part of the Ohio National Guard, and was activated for federal service as the United States prepared for possible involvement in World War II the same month.

The 37th Infantry Division deployed overseas for combat in the Pacific on May 26, 1942. The division first garrisoned Fiji, and then Guadalcanal after that island had been recaptured from the Japanese and secured. On July 20, 1943, the 37th landed on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands for their first combat action of the war.

On three different days at the end of July 1943, Private First Class Frank Petrarca repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fires and action to render aid to wounded men. He lost his life struggling to reach a fellow soldier, and as he succumbed to shrapnel wounds, hurled verbal insults at the enemy as he tried in vain to reach his comrade. A grateful nation decorated him posthumously with the Medal of Honor.


Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Medical Detachment, 145th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division. Place and date: At Horseshoe Hill, New Georgia, Solomon Islands, 27 July 1943. Entered service at: Cleveland, Ohio. G.O. No.: 86, 23 December 1943. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. Petrarca advanced with the leading troop element to within 100 yards of the enemy fortifications where mortar and small-arms fire caused a number of casualties. Singling out the most seriously wounded, he worked his way to the aid of Pfc. Scott, Iying within 75 yards of the enemy, whose wounds were so serious that he could not even be moved out of the direct line of fire Pfc Petrarca fearlessly administered first aid to Pfc. Scott and 2 other soldiers and shielded the former until his death. On 29 July 1943, Pfc. Petrarca. during an intense mortar barrage, went to the aid of his sergeant who had been partly buried in a foxhole under the debris of a shell explosion, dug him out, restored him to consciousness and caused his evacuation. On 31 July 1943 and against the warning of a fellow soldier, he went to the aid of a mortar fragment casualty where his path over the crest of a hill exposed him to enemy observation from only 20 yards distance. A target for intense knee mortar and automatic fire, he resolutely worked his way to within 2 yards of his objective where he was mortally wounded by hostile mortar fire. Even on the threshold of death he continued to display valor and contempt for the foe, raising himself to his knees, this intrepid soldier shouted defiance at the enemy, made a last attempt to reach his wounded comrade and fell in glorious death.

He perished on his 25th birthday.

Frank Petrarca's remains were repatriated to the United States and he today rests in peace at the Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland. The 145th Infantry Regiment is currently inactive. The 37th Infantry Division was returned to National Guard service in 1946 and was federalized again during the Korean War between 1952 and 1954, but was not deployed for combat.

The division was disbanded in 1968 and its components reorganized into other formations. On September 1, 2007, the Army stood up the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team which uses the insignia and carries on the unit lineage of the 37th Infantry Division. The 37th IBCT is made up of National Guardsmen from both Ohio and Michigan and was deployed for combat to Afghanistan during 2012.

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