Remembering Private First Class Frank D. Foltz

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My Great Uncle Frank occupies the small piece of ground in Hamm, Luxembourg pictured above. He was the brother of my Grandmother Pernie, and she spoke about him frequently enough when I was growing up that I still recall his story. My brother Keith who is the keeper of family history also reminded me of a few details of Uncle Frank’s life.

Frank Daniel Foltz was born on the family farm in Goltry, Oklahoma on August 25, 1910. He was the youngest son and the 11th child of John and Mary Foltz. He was just a little more than six years old when his mother died, but by all accounts, he grew up to be a fine man. Handsome and good natured, he was a star athlete in high school, especially in baseball.

Frank was married with a young son and working as a Railway Mail Clerk when he was drafted into the Army in 1944. He was trained as a mechanic and shipped out to England in December of 1944. When General George S. Patton was making his great push into Germany he called for “men, more men, more men!”. Frank was deployed to the 3rd Army as a replacement and on March 3, 1945 was killed by a German sniper, just a few short weeks before the war was to end.

Grandma Pernie was a good Christian woman with love in heart and forgiveness for all–except she could never quite bring herself to forgive “Blood and Guts” Patton. As she was wont to say–“Patton’s guts, Frank’s blood”. Of course, this was unfair, soldiers in war get killed, that’s just the way it is. Frank was just unlucky. He had been deferred from the draft for most of the war because of his job and child. When manpower shortages necessitated expanding the draft, he was taken at the relatively old age of 34 (the maximum was 38). But mostly I think he was unlucky because he had the misfortune of being a “replacement” troop, a group that suffered a notoriously high casualty rate.  As Army historian Rich Anderson noted:

“At the other end of the replacement pipeline, replacements were trained by replacement centers (or stripped from divisions), shipped as anonymous replacement increments to a theater of war, and held at the repple-depple until needed by units. These men were military orphans with little esprit de corps and no cohesion. Many thought of themselves as replaceable parts in the giant army “machine,” or as rounds of ammunition. The sole virtue of this system was that it allowed divisions to stay in near continuous combat for days on end, theoretically without eroding their numerical strength. As casualties left, replacements came in. However, the reality became that replacements came in, and with no combat experience and no one in their new unit looking out for them (the “I don’t know him and don’t want to know him, he’s only gonna be a casualty” syndrome), they quickly became casualties.”

So, that’s Uncle Frank’s story. Just one of the 416,800 Americans killed in action during World War II. But on this day we set aside to remember all the men and women who have answered the call to duty and made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation, I wanted to honor his memory.

Thank you for your service.

And he’s one more arrow, flying through the air

One more arrow landing in a shady spot somewhere

Where the days and nights blend into one

And he can always feel the sun

Through the soft brown earth that holds him

Forever always young.

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