Frank Carafa, World War II veteran who rescued Lt. Dole on the battlefield in Italy.
FL: What were your first impressions of Bob Dole?
Well, the very first day they brought him up to the lines and told me that he
was taking over my platoon, I didn't like him. I really had no reason except
that in a sense I was jealous 'cause I was acting as platoon leader for the past
14, 16 months and we were getting along very well. And I was concerned about my
men, their safety and whatnot. And I didn't know anything about him. I just
heard that he was a new lieutenant, and they scared me. We had a bad thought
about 90 day wonders. That's more or less how long it took to become an officer
at that time. But I did change my mind real fast after we were introduced and
everything else. The company [RTISFO] went back to his office, his field
office and I was talking to the lieutenant and I wanted to give him everything
that belongs to the lieutenant. The map cases, the maps, compass, his .45,
things that belong to a lieutenant. And I tried to explain to him how we were
operating to give him an idea. And he turned around and he said to me,
"Sergeant, you run the platoon as you have been. And if I see any changes I'll
let you know. And I'll fit myself in." Well, that took me by surprise. I'd
been in the army quite some time, a number of years before that, I was in the
National Guards and all these new lieutenants, they wanted to make sure that
you knew who was the boss. But for some strange reason he was completely the
opposite and that took me by surprise.
As the days passed by we were more or less taking it easy. We had just
finished a push. And we were resting to get our replacements and he was joking
around, he fitted in with the fellas, he had his lunch and his breakfast and
his dinner with us laying on the floor, on the ground or sitting on a log or
something like that. And we would joke around and everything else. He was
just one of the guys. The men took to like him. And then on April
12th, we were supposed to make a big push. But the weather was
rainy. It was raining like heck and it was very, very foggy, so they postponed
it. And the next day was the 13th and they postponed it. And we
thought the reason they postponed it really was not because of the weather, but
because President Roosevelt passing away. But it wasn't that. It was actually
the weather because we were supposed to have air support, we were supposed to
have artillery fire giving us support and tank support. And so we started off
around 9:00 AM, it was a daylight attack. We had Hill 914 to take. And being
that my platoon took the brunt of the company's casualties, and we had been
always the lead platoon, we...reserved this attack. The first and third
platoons were the lead platoons, and my platoon was the reserves and of course
the fourth platoon was the heavy weapons. Fifty caliber machine guns and sixty
So we started going up the hill. We started going up at a very slow pace. The
Jerries had that hill for a number of months and they had everything planned
and prepared. They had wires from tree to tree, low to the ground, and they
were hooked up to hand grenades and what you call bouncin' betties, which is a
mine, when you trip a wire it bounces up off the ground about a foot and a
half, then it explodes and it shatters. And it either kills or wounds the
So we were having a hard time. We were trying to get up as fast as possible to
try and avoid this stuff and they were firing artillery shells and 81
millimeter mortars. And finally, all of a sudden we came to a halt and that's
bad when you have artillery fire coming toward you. So it's about a few
minutes we wanted to know what's going on. There's no place to hide and
finally the company runner who stays with the Captain all the time comes
running back and says, "The Captain wants to see the Sergeant Carafa and
So we went in the front and the Captain was behind a stone wall and we couldn't
imagine what the hold up was until we got there and just beyond the stone wall
was like an open football field. And out in the field, no trees or anything,
it was all clear and we had about 25 or 30 of our men out there that were
laying in the ground. And they tripped mine fields. There was quite a few
wounded and some dead. And off to the left there was this stone farmhouse and
they opened up a machine gun and they were shooting the men who were already
out there wounded or dead.
So the Company Commander said our platoon should try to go around the left
flank and see if you can't stop some of the firing. He told me to take the
squad of men and that the Lieutenant would give me covering fire. And the only
reason he said that is not that he didn't have faith in the Lieutenant, but
cause I'd been Acting Lieutenant for all these months and he knew the way I
operated and everything else and he thought I had more experience. When we
got back to the platoon and explained to our men what took place and what's
happening up front, and what our mission was, the Lieutenant changed the orders
and said that he would take the squad and try to knock out the machine gun that
was placed in the house and I would give him covering fire. So, I told him
that as soon as we got in place, and I had my men situated where they could
fire on the house, once we opened fire, he should start crossing. There was a
ravine off to our left, it dropped down and came up and there was a wooded area
on the other side. If he could get to the wooded area he'd be able to move up
very close to the house with rifle grenades, and hand grenades and things like
that he may have had some luck to knock those guns out.
So I got my men in position, we started to open fire and they took off. Well,
we couldn't see them from where we were. I heard a lot of firing and
everything else but that was going on so I couldn't tell whether they were
firing at them or still firing at the men out in the field. I don't know how
much time has elapsed or anything, but all of a sudden I heard him calling my
name, "Sergeant Carafa. Sergeant Carafa." Well, I just ignored him. I
realized he was hit then and I was just too scared to go out there. So he kept
calling me, and I don't know how long he had been calling me, but finally my
men started calling me, "Hey Sarge. The Lieutenant's been hit. He's calling
you." So I said to myself, "What the hell do you want me to do?" But I had to
do something because if I didn't, the men would lose all respect for me.
So I crawled down close to the opening of the ravine and I looked up in the
ravine and I could see the whole squad of men laying down. I don't know at the
time how many was shot or anything, and I just lay there crying. Didn't know
what to do. I could see the Lieutenant moving. I saw one other man move, and
I just didn't know what to do. Then there was one man about ten yards away
from me. He started moaning and he moved. Seeing him, I don't know, something
came over me and I started crawling out to see if I could help him. When I got
to him I started dragging him back. He wasn't wounded that serious, but once
you start bleeding or you start to feel blood, you just don't know how bad you
are and you're scared. And I brought him back and not realizing what I was
doing I left him with a couple of other soldiers and I turned around and
started crawling out.
The next two fellows I came to, they were dead. I kept crawling to the next
person. He was wounded and I brought him back. And like I say, not knowing
what the hell I was doing, I just turned around and started crawling out there
again. I could hear the bullets going over my head. I kept crawling. Two more
were dead. I finally reached the Lieutenant. His arm was outstretched and I
grabbed his arm and I yanked him. He gave a holler and passed out. I couldn't
even budge him. I was 5'5", 145 pounds. He was a six footer and close to 200.
I just kept praying to God to help me. I finally got some strength and I
started dragging him. And I dragged him a little ways and I couldn't drag him
any more and I started to roll him down the incline which is much easier. I
finally got him back and he was all shot up. His whole right side, from his
shoulder down to his waist. My second in command, Sergeant Kruschek was with
me at that point, and I asked if he had any morphine and he said he did. I
told him he better give the Lieutenant a shot of morphine because he's in bad
shape. And then I told him to stay with him. But he was bleeding so much, I
says, "You're better off taking somebody with you, take a couple of men and see
if you can get him down to the aid station" which was about a quarter of a
mile away. Our orders were not to take anybody back, just to leave them for
the first aid men, but he was bleeding so bad that I gave them a direct order
to see if he could get him back to the aid station. Then I went and reported
to the company commander and told him that the mission didn't work out the way
we would have liked it to work out and we had too many casualties. So finally
got the engineers out and they came over with bazookas and they took care of
that and we just went forward.
I have never seen the Lieutenant after that. Since it was I believe, 1988. In
fact I didn't even know his name was Dole. I thought his name was always
Lieutenant Doyle. So I never knew that Senator Dole was my platoon leader. And
right after World War II in fact, they disbanded the Tenth Mountain Division
and much later, my wife got a call from Senator D'Amato asking if her husband
was Frank Carafa who was with the Tenth Mountain Division, and she told him
yes. And he said that on such and such a date they are reactivating the Tenth
Mountain Division up in Camp Drum, New York. And to make sure I got there, but
did not tell me, she was not supposed to have told me, just to make sure I got
there. He also called a buddy of mine, a Burt Terranova, who since then has
passed away. The same thing, to make sure he got me up there that day. He
didn't say why. Just to make sure I got there.
So on the day of the, when they reactivated the Tenth Mountain Division at Camp
Drum, we went there that day. And we were sitting in the grand stands and
there were quite a few officers down there, in uniform. A General. And
standing next to the General was this fellow in civilian clothes. So I looked
at him. And I just says to my buddy next to me, "Gee that guy in civvies looks
awful familiar." So he smiled a little bit and said, "Yeah, he does." But I
never dreamed I knew. I just thought his face looked familiar. And the General
introduces Senator Dole as being in the Tenth Mountain Division in Italy where
he was wounded. And he was in command of the Second Platoon of I Company,
85th. And I turned around and said to my buddy, "He's full of crap.
That was my platoon." Not realizing that the last six or seven weeks of the
war, Lieutenant Dole took over the platoon. So he introduced Senator Dole.
And Dole gets up to the mike and he says, "Before I speak," he says, "I'd like
to introduce somebody who's in the stands, who's in the audience and if it
wasn't for him I wouldn't be here today. I'd like to introduce Frank Carafa."
And with that you could have blown me over.
FL: Could we go back in time? How many people were lost in that sortie.
Eight. Eight out of twelve.
FL: You said you didn't think it was a particularly good idea, a good plan
taking that hill.
No. That was a very bad order given by the captain. What they should have
done, number one, whoever gave the order to cross the open field, that was the
biggest mistake. I'd been in National Guards prior to the war and in all the
training they always told us, "You never cross an open field." Especially when
there's wooded areas on either side. That was the first mistake. And then the
second mistake was the stone house. The stone homes in Italy are built like
fortresses. The walls are two feet thick for God's sakes because it's all
stone and we had nothing. Well, the Lieutenant was carrying a burp gun which
is like a Thompson machine gun. And the other guys had rifles but they did have
rifle grenades that they could use with their rifles. And hand grenades. But
those were the orders and you know, we have to carry them out. That's why I
respected him so much. He knew it was a suicide mission in a sense. But if we
could have even knocked out a couple of those guns it would have saved quite a
few lives. And instead of me taking it, he was the platoon leader, he thought
it was his responsibility so he was the one that changed the orders.
FL: Was this particular battle unusual because of the amount of men that
Yes. Definitely. That was the first time when I was in Italy that we lost
that many men at once. We'd lost men before in battles. One, maybe two. But
this was like a massacre. You lose 8 men out of 12, that's 75%. You don't
forget things like that. But that's the only reason I can think of, why the
order was given to cross the open field, was to try to get the guys out of the
woods because of the enemy mortar and artillery fire being poured on us.
FL: Did you know the men personally that died?
I knew them all. They were my men. I trained five of them right here in the
States, right here on Fordham Road -- all through Italy with me. And when I
was active platoon leader that was my job to see that they didn't make any bad
mistakes and I have to think of their safety. That's the leader's
responsibility. Yeah. I notified some of the mothers and some of the wives
and explained what a heroic death it was, how heroic they were. But that
didn't help really.
FL: You told me that one of your friends said when he went to visit Dole in the
hospital, he was initially angry with you.
I never went to see Dole in the hospital.
FL: That was one of your friends.
Yes. Tony Cillio. He went to see the Lieutenant when he as in the hospital.
And when he got back he jokingly, so he claimed it was jokingly, he says, "Boy
the Lieutenant's pissed off at you." And I said, "What's he pissed off at me
for?" He said, "When you paralyzed him by pulling him." And you know even
though he was joking that rested on my mind constantly all the time. And I
never even wanted to look him up or anything like that, only because that was
on my mind, that I was the one that paralyzed him. But then again, I didn't
ever realize it was Senator Dole. I thought his name was Doyle. In fact when
he ran for President before, he was in my hometown and I didn't even know it.
I heard that the Senator Dole who was running for President was in town, but
that didn't strike a bell.
FL: Did you ever wonder about that arm, did you think about it.
Well when I [saw] it, he was in such bad shape I didn't think he was going to
live in the first place. I thought he was going to lose his arm and I was
surprised when I pulled him that it still stayed on. That's how bad it was.
And then later on, once I found out who it was and everything else, then I
bought the biography of Elizabeth and Bob Dole and I learned a lot more from
the biography of how he suffered and was hospitalized for a number of years and
he had the strength and the courage to fight it even though doctors said he
would be helpless and he wouldn't be able to walk or do anything. And it was
surprising, you know, that, hey, the only thing is he can't use that one arm.
But thank God he's basically healthy otherwise. So it was really amazing. He
had everything against him while he was in the hospital and everything else. He
couldn't use his fingers. If you notice now, he can. But he can't move his
arm. But you have to have determination and faith and doctors can just do so
FL: There were two men that died trying to save him. We don't hear very much
about them. Who are they?
Not that I know of. There was two men that took him to the aid station. That
was Sergeant Kruschek and one of his men.
FL: What about the lessons of war. Did you come back changed?
I was just going to say that, yeah, I was in my early twenties. And at first I
was gung-ho. It was great to be in the service and everything until the first
time you go into combat. And you think you're great until you see one of your
buddies get hit. Then you realize it's not playing anymore. It's the real
thing. I learned really to respect people. Age has nothing to do with a
person. I had a bunch of younger kids because the Tenth Mountain Division was
made up of well, teenagers in a sense, 18 and 19-year-old kids. That was
supposed to be a playboy's division. In those years, nobody skis except the
rich. So they used to all send their sons to the Tenth Mountain, and they
weren't supposed to see action. But we got a gung-ho general who'd seen action
before. And after the Fifth Army being pinned down for a year or two at the
foot of the Apennines, they needed mountain troops to open up the enemy line.
And the only way that could have been done, there was a sheer cliff and the
only possible way that could have been taken is to set up fixed ropes and
they'd have men climb it. And the reason they thought that would be the best
way to do it, was if you have your back against the wall you know nobody could
shoot you in the back and that was the idea. The Germans had a sheer cliff
that they claimed was impossible to climb. They had very few troops up there.
I don't think they had more than a platoon or two. And at night, especially
in rainy weather, we'd be putting pitons and hooks into the mountainside and
put fixed ropes. And it took us about six or seven nights to complete it. And
we waited `til a big rain storm and we put the last line the night of the
storm. Because with all the rain making all the noise and everything, they
couldn't hear us hitting the pitons into the rock. And then we finally got the
last pitons in and the men started climbing and they took the Germans by
surprise. It was hardly any casualties whatsoever.
FL: You said earlier that you don't like going to Vet reunions or anything that
romanticize the war.
I never went to any of the reunions. I only went to one since I've been home
and that was just, it wasn't a big reunion. It was just what they call the New
England area. And I've got friends that live in Boston, Vermont, New Hampshire
and I don't get to see them that often, but they always call me up and want to
know why I don't come to the reunion. We'd like to see you. And when a bunch
of men get together, it's just like a bunch of women getting together. They
Now you can say certain things now. Sure I can say my experience in the army
was beautiful. I loved it because I'm home safe. I was wounded a couple of
times myself, nothing that serious. But when you're talking to them, it brings
memories. I mean just talking over the phone to some of the fellows that were
in the company with me. I could just visualize certain times when we were in
certain areas and at Lyon. Certain people were there and now they're not with
us any more. So I don't care for reunions. I don't drink. And that's the only
thing I don't like about reunions because it brings back the past. And I had a
responsibility and I took it whereas anybody who got wounded or got killed in
action, that was my responsibility. I just feel that way. People tell me that's
not the way to look at it, but I'm a father and I got two boys. If something
happened to them it's my responsibility because if they went on drugs, I didn't
teach them enough about it not to go on it. That's the way I feel with my
I went to a reunion up in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. I was very happy to see
the fellas. I hadn't seen them since World War II. But I really can't say
that I honestly and truly enjoyed myself. The only thing I enjoyed was
actually seeing them and talking to them and wrapping my arms around them. And
thankful that they came back with me.
FL: You said there was a long period in which you never spoke about the war.
I never talk about it. I still don't talk about it really. But I've never
spoken to my family, my kids or anything like that. Like I said, when they
reactivated the Tenth Mountain Division and Dole made that announcement and of
course the papers got it. And then it was in all the papers, my hometown
papers. And I'd be getting calls from my neighbors, my friends, and whatnot.
And then the kids wanted to know what happened and everything else. And I just
didn't want to talk about it. I don't feel it was anything great I did, it was
just that God gave me the strength and the courage to do what I had to do.
But I was as much a coward as any other man that ever lived.
Do the memories of war ever leave you? Do they show up at odd moments?
That's why I don't talk about it. I'm talking about it today, and tonight and
tomorrow night, I'll go through hell. I'll have nightmares. It bothers me
something terrible. It's something that you can never just say you can forget
FL: Why is this particularly difficult for you and for Senator Dole to talk
You gotta understand that things aren't as open years back in our generation
as they are today. So we in our generation aren't as open maybe as we should
be. But I don't know, I just think it's the bringing up. The generation now,
compared to the generation when I was a young kid in the army. So many things
have changed. And I don't want to knock the young generation, but they can't
compare with the respect that we had in our generation, they can't compare with
almost any of our family upbringing. You can't blame that on the kids of
today. What I feel is disturbing is that there's so many single parents today
in comparison as in our generation and in our generation it was always the
husband who worked, the largest percentage. Not like today where to even make
ends meet you have to hold two jobs and have both parties work. And that
leaves the children unattended in a sense and I think that's were the
generation has changed.
FL: But what about that whole sense of being silent and strong as a man in your
I was brought up that once I became a man, then I had certain responsibilities.
If I got married, it was my job to go out and work and support a family.
Otherwise I shouldn't get married. My wife wasn't supposed to go out to work
and help support or support me. I don't know. There's no one that you could
blame except society itself. Society has changed. You can't say that the
women are trying to take over. That's not true. They have more rights than
they ever had and they should. But times themselves have changed. I had to
respect the policemen. My God, if a policeman ever took me home, because I did
something bad, my God, that was worse punishment than if they has sent me to
FL: Can war test you and change you. Can you come out the stronger for that
test? Or the weaker for that test as well.
Well, you come out both ways. People that I've seen were strong, after the war
what they went through, it just made them pulp. I myself. The war's helped
me. I was never really a sissy, but I was more on the timid side. Until I got
in the army and then I started getting gung-ho. It showed me how to respect
people, I want to be respected so that means I have to respect. You know you
treat others as you'd like to be treated. I learned that from the service. I
learned how to take care of myself. How to make a better person of myself.
How to help people. And I still help people. I wasn't able to have any
children because of a war injury. But I adopted two. I became a scout master,
I became a little league coach, I became a football youth tackle coach. Even
after my sons were grown and beyond the age of playing youth tackle and little
league, I kept with them. Because I was helping kids. And people would say to
me, "Mr. Carafa, what the hell are you wasting your time with these kids for?
Your kids aren't playing any more." I'll tell you what I got out of it. Years
later when these kids graduated school and I totally forgot them cause I hadn't
seen them. Some of them got married. And I'd be on Main Street in New Rochelle
and someone would yell, "Hey Mr. Carafa!" And he'd wave. And I'd look over and
I'd recognize him but I couldn't really place him. He looked very familiar.
And I'd cross over, "I'm sorry you look very familiar, but I can't place you."
And he'd tell me who it was, and "You were my scout master." Or, "You were my
coach. " Then to holler out to you. That means I had to be good to them.
Otherwise they would never even remember you.
FL: Do you feel more comfortable with men your age who have done through the
war? Is there sort of an unspoken bond there?
It doesn't make any difference. Because if I'm with them or if I'm just with
other people my age who haven't been in service, we don't talk service. Or I
don't. So it doesn't bother me. In fact it bothers me even more when they talk
about service. You know, I always say that anybody who talks about his
experience in the service is a lot of crap. They may have been in the back
lines and stuff like that.
But you very hardly ever hear anybody who's actually seen combat, actually
seen killing, and did killing himself, I mean I was in the Pacific, I did hand
to hand combat with the Japanese. I don't go and tell people about that. How
many Japs did you kill? How many Germans did you kill? What the hell do they
think? I keep score. You know, I'm just thankful that I didn't get killed.
But I can tell you how many men I lost. Those are the things you never forget.