USN LT JOHN DISMAS FRANK
John Dismas Frank was born August 17, 1921, to Dismas Frank and Bessie Blanche Chase Frank of Phillips, WI., one of 2 brothers, John and Barney and three sisters, Irene, the oldest, then Elaine and Dorothy, who were about 10 years younger. When John was about 5 years old the family moved to a small town, Morse, located about 50-60 miles north of Phillips , where Mr. Frank worked in a logging camp. Mrs. Frank and the children lived the the small town while he was gone all week in the camp., The family lived at Morse for approximately 8 years, then moving back to Phillips, as it was hard times and money was scarce.
Mrs. Frank's parents owned a section of land, which he split between his children. Mrs. Frank got a portion. They bought a house in Morse which they completely dismantled , numbering the lumber, which they brought to Phillips and rebuilt on the property. They then built a barn and bought 5 or 6 cows. Money was scarce during the Depression years.
The boys worked hard on the farm, plowing, making hay, so there was plenty of exercise. Mr Frank, John and brother Barney cleared the land as it was all trees, brush, etc,. using work horses and plenty of dynamite.
The family lived 5 miles from Phillips and the children walked to and from school, rain, sleet, snow, since there were no buses. During the winter they could shorten the distance to school by crossing on the ice of Lake Duroy. This also curtailed any extra-curricular activities. John and Barney were tall, athletic boys. The 3 older siblings were very close, working and playing together as they grew up.The other two sisters were about 10 years younger. The boys enjoyed fishing as they lived only a short distance from the river.
The Franks farmed and Mrs. Frank taught school until Mr. Frank had a heart attack, resulting in selling the farm and moving into Phillips, and both retired
John played baseball for a short time in his freshman year, graduating high school in 1939. He finished in the top ten of his class, winning a scholarship to River Falls State Teachers College, where his major was Ag Business, for 2 years before the war started.
When the war began, both John and Barney enlisted in the Navy. Barney was assigned to a P. T. Boat in the Pacific, while John was admitted to flight training. When the boys signed up, Mrs Frank was terribly upset. She wanted Mr. Frank to go down there to that office and get them out of it. He refused, saying if they were old enough to sign up, they were old enough to make that decision themselves.
John Frank and Navy friends
John enlisted in the Naval Reserve on August 18, 1941. He received his prelimanry training at Wold-Chamberlin air field in MN and after two and half months there, he went to New Orleans for further training. He received his wings at Pensacola FL, and was asigned to patrol duty at Panama and later Jamaica. In October, 1943, he returned to Norfolk, VA for further training. At Norfolk he was transferred to a fighter plane and training continued until July, when the carrier, USS Kasaan Bay, was sent into action. On May 29, 1943, he was married to Miss Eleanor Curtis at Pleasantville, NJ.
Fifty-eight years ago, August 15, 1944, the Allied invasion of Southern France, Operation Anvil - Dragoon, began. Hellcats, Wildcats, Spitfires, American and British aircraft carriers and destroyers struck at the German coastal defenses in southwestern France, and the islands of the Mediterranean. The days would be hard fought as the Allies fight to gain a foothold in France, and many would die
Flying cover for the infantry, the skies were filled with Allied planes. Their missions were to attack the gun emplacements, road convoys and munitions trains hurrying German troops to intercept the Allied invasion. Destroyers, USS Augusta, Quincy and Nevada pounded the coastal defenses constantly, guided by the Hellcats above. Bombers of the 12th and 15th Army Air Corps dropped their loads on designated targets, to further protect the troops.
At dawn, August 17, 1944, VF-74 Squadron, Flight #21, lifted off from the deck of the USS Kasaan Bay. The flight of 6 Hellcats, followed a course to the coast, proceeding inland seeking enemy troops on the road and concentrations of troops beyond Brignoles. At Cuers, upon entering the valley country, visibility became poor, smoke and haze lay close to the ground and an electrical storm was developing ahead. The two division separated, the flight leader taking his division to Tourves and on to St. Zacharie on a northerly route around the mountains, which rise to 2200 '. Lt. Robert J. Johnson ( who with his wingman, Lt. (j.g.) John D. Frank, did not return from this flight) led the second division on a southerly course direct to Cuers to St Zacharie, where the divisions then rejoined flying NW to Fuveau and swinging back East to Trets. The flight continued a short distance ENE toward Pourcieu, but found no objectives, swung around to the WNW, past Aix, where it was joined by two Spitfires, which directed attention to enemy truck convoys.
"Visibity was poor" the flight leader says, "we were weaving done the highway outside St. Cannat.". If one of the pilots saw a truck, he went down after it. A concentrated strafing attack was made on a truck convoy near Lambec. The flight leader reports that all eight planes were still together at this point and Johnson called him. It was the last call from either Johnson or Frank. Neither flight leader nor any other pilot that returned from the mission knew at what time or place Johnson and Frank become separated from the flight. The returning pilots reported at least eight strafing attacks, either by single planes or two or more diving in turns. They claim a total of 19 trucks or other motor transports burned or destroyed and 10 more trucks damaged and a tank destroyed.
Lts. Johnson and Frank lost contact with their formation of of F6F-5 Hellcats due to low ceiling and storms near the mountain of Sainte Victoire. After trying in vain to resume contact, they joined a formation of of the Royal Navy composed of 12 F4F Wildcats from the escort carrier of Task Force 88. The flight attacked a troop convoy just to the south of St. Cannat. The report indicates the formation of Hellcats and Wildcats attacked in low level flight, 30' above ground, where flak cut down the Lts. Frank and Johnson.
Lt. Frank was hit head on by the flak, very certainly gravely wounded, his F6F-5 crashed to the ground in front of a sheep barn that caught fire on the edge of the road # 7. A 350 lb bomb under the belly of the plane entered the ground at the impact. The pilot was thrown from the plane some meters from the road. The Germans took Lt. Frank's possessions, life jacket, flight jacket, shoes, watches, identity cards and military dog tags. A German officer and soldiers transported the body to the city hall of St. Cannat. Lt. Frank was buried wrapped in his parachute, on August 18, without religious ceremony in the presence of enemy troops and equipment.
Lt. Frank was reburied 20 November at the Military Cemetery Luynes Brignois near Aix -in- Provenence, with a religious ceremony and wooden cross. On 4 October, 1948, the bodies of Lts. Frank and Johnson and 29 other American KIA were returned to the USA via Cherbourg Harbor France. Lt. John Dismas Frank rests in the Hopeview Cemetery at Phillips, WI.
Navy Lt. John Dismas Frank was awarded the Purple Heart; Air Medal Distinguished Flying Cross; European-Africa-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; Bronze Star; WWII Victory Medal, and Presidential Unit Citation for his service.
On May 14, 2002, a monument and memorial service was held in St. Cannat, France was dedicated to Lt. John Dismas Frank and Lt. Robert Joseph Johnson. This was attended by delegates from the United States, including the sister, Irene Johnson Rygg and family of Lt. Johnson, Cmdr Leo Horacek and Cora, former pilot of their squadron , other families of the pilots, representatives of the "French Memory " and "National Order of Merit" organizations, and the officials and people of St. Cannat.
After the beautiful ceremony and dedication, a reception was held for the participants.
Marcel Ertel was a career airman in the French Air Force, specializing in Military Air Control, flying on a Boeing KC-135-F, refueling in flight, jet planes for the FAF. After he retired, his love of flying and admiration for the US pilots that died in the Liberation of South France, led to researching and locating the sites of the crashes and deaths of these pilots. His efforts have culminated in formal dedication ceremonies of memorials for many of "his pilots". He has received numerous certificates and accolades from US Air Force personnel for his achievements at recognizing fellow US servicemen, who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in France.
You can check out his page here on the Liberation of South France. Please be patient as it has many photos.
The information for this Memorial for USN Lt. John Dismas Frank has been supplied by the researcher in France, Mr. Marcel Ertel, and Frank family members. Thank you all for making this possible. Thank you, Lt. Frank, and all our military men and women, for your sacrifice for Freedom.
"People sleep peaceably at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf"......George Orwell
"Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands.
Protect them as they protect us. Bless them
and their families for the selfless acts they
perform for us in our time of need. I ask this
in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
Web Page December 30, 2002
Return to France Remembers
NOTICE: All research materials regarding VF-74 and VOF-1 Squadrons, including but not restricted to, documents, research, photos are the exclusive property of the French Military Historian and Researcher, Mr. Marcel Ertel, Les Villettes, Haute-Loire, France. The personal photos of various pilots provided by their families are the exclusive property of the pilot's families. Phots from the collection of Captain Harry Basore, USN, remain the exclusive property of Capt. Basore. Mr. Ertel, Captain Basore and the families have graciously permitted me to use the information for this Memory Album dedicated to those pilots. Thank you all.
This information compiled, prepared and submitted to this site by Ethel Taylorand remains the property of the submitter
NOTICE: Ethel Taylor grants that this information and data may be used by non-commercial entities, as long as this message remains on all copied material, for personal and genealogical research. These electronic pages CAN NOT be reproduced in any format for profit, CAN NOT be copied over to other sites. It may be linked to, or other presentation only with written permission of Ethel