Eleven Two, One WWII Airman’s Story of Capture, Survival, and Freedom

A fantastic biography of an airman during World War II as he fought for our nation, was shot down over Germany, rescued and captured by the German military, and his life during all of that as well as his active life after his official military service. Frank Kravetz was born and raised in small towns in and around East Pittsburgh, Pa. He had several brothers and sisters all living in tight quarters. Frank’s father worked at the Westinghouse plant in East Pittsburgh when Pittsburgh was still the dirty and busy industrial city. Frank tells of his early life, his siblings, and his parents and how they all got along and existed during the tough depression years. The family was religious and that helped get them through some tough times. In 1940, with the war raging in Europe, the draft took affect where all males had to register for the military draft at age 18, Frank and his brothers included. Frank was accepted in an apprentice program at Westinghouse.

On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in a horrific sneak attack killing thousands of our military and civilians in that area of the world. Frank’s brother Mickey had enlisted in the army before the war started so he was entrenched in the military already and knew he would be one of the first to go to an active area. Frank’s brothers enlisted when their medical examinations were of a passing grade. Many area men were now in the military so Frank thought he better enlist in the Air Force to give him his choice of the branch of service he wanted. While awaiting his approval, Frank did spend time with his girlfriend, Anne Cerjanic who had graduated and was working at The National Biscuit Company plant in East Liberty, Pa. His first attempt to join the Air Force was rejected because he was five-pounds overweight. Frank lost that weight fast so he could enlist and after a short time that’s what he did. He always wanted to be a pilot but he was assigned as a crewmember of a B-17 Flying Fortress. During his training he, and all crewmembers, learned how to perform many jobs in the B-17 s in the event that someone was injured. Frank was finally assigned as a tail gunner where he had to fit into a tiny space in the tail. With all his equipment on he had to really squeeze into that tail!

After all his training, his group flew eventually to Valley Wales, United Kingdom, where they would be sent by train and bus to Glatton, England where they would be assigned their own B-17. His airplane had made several bombing missions, being shot at on most of them but being fortunate to survive while many others on a mission did not come back, either from being shot down or blown out of the air. November 2, 1944 his group was given the target of Merseberg, Germany where the German’s had many defense fortifications on land and in the air. It was a very dangerous mission. It turned out to be Frank’s last mission of the war as they were shot down and eventually taken prisoner. Frank was wounded mainly in his leg from flak, so badly that his crewmen had to extricate him from the tail section, wrap him in as many layers of clothes topped by a parachute that had come open by mistake. They then threw him out of the falling B-17 praying that the chute would open and get him safely to the ground.

Eventually Frank was captured and handled quite well for a prisoner of war with bad injuries. He was taken to a makeshift medical facility where he received as good of care as possible. Frank’s medical treatment and progress, or lack of, kept him out of the main German prisoner of war camps where no one was treated decent. When he had improved enough for a move to one of those camps he was moved even though he could not navigate on his own very well. Frank’s telling of his experiences as a prisoner of war will stand you on your head trying to figure how our military men survived. Frank and his fellow prisoners were moved to other camps, some by train and some by marches.

Upon the ending of the war Frank and his fellow soldiers were taken as soon as possible to allied medical facilities where they would be medically treated very well until they could be shipped back to the United States. His story is one of learning to exist in the worst of circumstances. Frank returned home eventually, married Anne, and continued his apprenticeship at Westinghouse. Frank’s story doesn’t end there. He has been so active in veteran’s affairs, especially POW (Prisoner of War) treatment by the government. He has started as well as being active in many veterans organizations nationally. I can’t praise enough Frank’s activities pre and post war. His actions have improved the care of vets and vets that are ex-prisoners of war vastly. You must read the story of this man. Frank is now 87 years of age and his wife, Anne, is 84. As you read this story you KNOW how deep down these two have loved and lived as one together and pray for many more happy and healthy years together.