PITTSBURG — Late Pittsburg resident Frank Walker had chronicled his life in a simple spiral notebook which included — to his families’ surprise — untold details regarding D-Day.
Walker’s children knew he was in the military before they were born and they knew that he had been part of D-Day, but he had hardly spoke about the details of his experience.
“He was a great man and hero, he was not one to brag,” his youngest daughter Jody Walker-Flora said. “I feel like some of it was just so bad over there that it was easier not to embellish on it and possibly why he didn’t ‘share’ the experience sometimes.”
According to Walker’s journal entries, he was part of the Medical Corp, attached to the 4th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division with General Raymond Barton as the Division Commander.
Before getting into his military experience, Walker started from the beginning when he was around 13 years old working part time for NuGrape Bottling Co. This is where he began his career, starting as a truck driver.
He graduated in 1940 from Pittsburg High School and continued to work for the company. The following summer he met his future wife, Gertrude M. “Gertie” Gallagher, “although at the time I didn’t know it,” Walker said in his journal.
He then mustered the courage to ask his wife if he could take her home and she said yes.
Walker then wrote, “This was December 7, 1941, (Remember Pearl Harbor),” in his journal.
“After the war broke out with Japan and Germany, we had to sign up for Selective Service,” he said. “In fact, I could have already been signed up for the draft.
“I could have signed up when I got out of high school. I had a draft notice - but was deferred the first time because I was alone taking care of my mother.”
In October 24, 1942, Walker married his wife and on December 10, 1942 he was drafted into the Army. He would then be taken to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was inducted into the Army and then to Little Rock, Arkansas, at Camp Robinson for basic training.
“From Little Rock I was shipped to Camp Gordon, Georgia,” Walker said. “The units were already packed to go to Africa. We had all our shots and waterproof equipment. But something was changed at the last minute so we got to stay in the States.”
This was around March or April, 1943.
Walker also wrote about his training which included 25 mile-long hikes “with full pack, blisters on foot and heel and all fatigued out and maneuvers.” He had amphibious training in Florida, south of Tallahassee near the Gulf of Mexico. They called this the “Alcatraz of the Army”.
After several months in Florida — training him for what is to come — he moved to Camp Jackson in South Carolina and finishing in Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he spent the last several months before being shipped overseas.
“The time was coming to be shipped out,” Walker said. “We were under strict orders not to say anything; when, where or how.”
Around mid-January 1944 he was loaded at New York Harbor on the USS George Washington, Walker said. The ship was converted from a banana ship into a transport ship. He received his photo identification card and sailed out with a fleet of ships.
“I think it was around the 23rd day of January 1944,” Walker said. “I never saw so many sick people in all my life.
“Sea sick with paper bags all the time. I was lucky — I only got sick a few times.”
It took them 11 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
“We didn’t go straight,” Walker said. “We zigzagged to miss the German submarines and U-boats.
“We landed at Liverpool, England last of January or early February. We unloaded there and took a troop train to Bovey Tracy, England, about 30 or 50 miles from London.”
For four months he began more training, he went to the English Channel and other beaches around to “use combat maneuvers to land on beaches and infiltrate the enemy.”
Walker did note that in the evenings they were in fact allowed to go to the “pubs” and drink beer and buy “fish and chips”.
At night, Walker said he could hear the sirens go off.
“Everyone would find cover,” he said. “The German planes would fly over and drop bombs.
“They had these large V-2 Bombs which would be launched from France & Germany and land in different parts of England.”
Around the first of June 1944, everything was packed and ready to be loaded on ships again, Walker said.
“Time was vital to come up with a day to invade France,” he said. “On June 3rd or 4th we were on our ship.
“June 5, 1944 was supposed to be D-Day but the weather was so bad and the planes (Bombers and Paratroopers) couldn’t get off the ground. So it was postponed to June 6, 1944.
“General Eisenhower spoke to all on ship/ground & airforce, saying ‘This is the day to remember. It will be the largest masses of bombers to attack at one time in the history of our lives’.”
Tens of thousands of planes would start bombarding the coast of France and inner part of France to the largest invasion in history, he said. The paratroopers start landing after midnight, troops would land behind the German troops to cut them off from replacement.
“The Infantry — Engineers, Medics, Tanks, Guns — whatever it took started landing on Utah and Omaha Beach at Cherbourg Peninsula at 6 a.m. June 6, 1944,” he said. “This was D-Day — that would never be forgotten.”
His “outfit” included tanks, engineers and medics.
”... [we] started unloading from the ship with full pack and equipment, going over the side of the ship which was about two stories high or more, going down a rope ladder, and into our LSVP boat which held around 30-36 personnel,” Walker said. “We landed at Omaha Beach H-hour + 2 which was 8 a.m.
“As our LSVP was going back to the ship to pick up more troops, it was hit by an 88 shell. That was the most popular shell the Germans used. How fortunate it was that we got off in time.”
His boat could not land on the beaches, “they get you as close as possible and then you had to wade ashore from belt high to neck high,” Walker said. “When we got on the Beach, there was nowhere to go.
“The advance troops were shelled under and they were dug in. They were being bombarded — until they could move, we had to settle laying flat and be content.
“Later in the day the ship with the large guns began to pound away at the fortress of the German Army and finally by night we were able to get off the beach.”
This is where his entry ends.
Walker came back to Pittsburg to work for the bottling company until he retired and began working at St. Mary’s, Our Lady of Lourdes, where he worked the concession stands during the games. Walker and his wife lived in Pittsburg and had eight children Cheryl, Ronnie, Nancy, Marilyn, Debby, Tim, Susie, Jody and Mike. Walker’s wife died in 1996 and he died in 1999.
His discharge announcement said in a newspaper clipping from 1945 that “Sergeant Frank Walker, recently returned from the European theatre where he spent eighteen months with the medical corps of the fourth infantry division, received his discharge from the army at the hospital separation point Camp Butner NC Oct 5. Sergeant Walker is the wearer of the purple heart, bronze star, the good conduct medal, the ETO ribbon with five bronze stars and an arrowhead, and the distinguished unit badge with one cluster.”
“He was a very proud American,” his daughter Walker-Flora said. “Anything that reflected the flag and what it stood for was very important to him. He was proud to have been a part of keeping America free.