Frank Miale made four combat jumps with the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II. He survived the war, came home and wrote a book called “Stragedy” about his war experiences.
His unit arrived in Casablanca, North Africa, on May 10, 1943, aboard the “Monterey,” a former ocean liner. Two months later, Miale made his first combat jump into Sicily as part of the 505th Regimental Combat Team, part of the 82nd.
It was a night jump and there was a hard wind blowing when his unit jumped. The unit was scattered all over the place when it hit the ground.
“I landed in a drainage ditch, hit hard and fractured my arm,” Miale said. “The only Americans I saw after I hit the ground was a captain who was a medic who introduced himself as Capt. Pete Suer, a private who was also a medic and a private in the infantry.”
When daylight arrived, the four soldiers were trying to figure out where they were when an Italian soldier wandered by and they took their first prisoner. After interrogating their prisoner, the Americans learned he was from a nearby fort.
One of the men snuck up to a pillbox guarding the entrance to the fort and discovered the Italians had abandoned their post and were having coffee. He disabled the machine gun and threatened to lob a hand grenade into the fort if they didn’t come out.
“Out walked a platoon of Italian infantry from inside the fort. And some more Italian soldiers manning a couple of other pillboxes surrendered, too,” Miale said. “Altogether we must have had 50 or 60 soldiers.”
The four Americans learned from their Italian captives that the Italian government was about ready to capitulate. Col. James Gavin, from regimental headquarters, arrived the next morning and took charge of the Italian prisoners.
Gavin would eventually become the general commanding the 82nd Airborne Division in the Second World War.
Miale made his second jump on the second day of the Battle of Salerno in Italy. The 505th Regimental Combat Team jumped the night of Sept. 15, 1943, in support of American forces on the beach who were being pounded by the enemy.
“It was our unit’s job to blow the bridges and stop the Germans from advancing,” he said. “Every so often the Kraut Air Force would mount a bombing raid on the American armada anchored in the bay.”
Eventually German resistance crumbled and the American forces on the beach no longer faced being run into the sea by the enemy. What was left of the 505th boarded a ship and headed north up the Italian boot to a little town called Maiori. From there they went to Naples.
After spending months in Italy fighting in a number of operations with British and Canadian troops, the 505th Regimental Combat Team sailed for England. It regrouped with the rest of the 82nd Airborne and began training for its next jump.
“It was the evening of June 5, 1944. It seemed as if our plane was flying for hours before we found the rendezvous point and headed inland over France,” Miale wrote in his book. “Our objective was to capture the Duove River Bridge at St. Etienville.
“I landed in the river, which was deep and wide, weighed down by more than 100 pounds of equipment. I was lucky because my chute landed on shore and hadn’t collapsed. My opened chute pulled me ashore.”
Most of Miale’s platoon landed in St. Etienville. They were killed in a firefight with the Germans.
Shortly after hitting the ground he hooked up with a lieutenant and another enlisted man. The trio tried to cross the river but were driven back by a German machine gun fire. After awhile, they found other members of their unit as they encountered more and more enemy soldiers. Together they went to Saint-Sauveur, another nearby French town, where Gen. Gavin, who was a brigadier by this time, established his base of operations.
After a month on the ground in France fighting while surrounded much of the time, the 82nd Airborne returned to Burbage, Leicestershire, England, about 15 miles from Coventry. The whole town turned out to greet the paratroopers.
“In the Normandy jump we lost more than 50 men killed and wounded,” Miale said. “There were 142 men in our company.
After more training in England, the 82nd took part in the ill-fated “Market Garden” jump in Holland in mid-September 1944.
“Montgomery’s Folly,” he called it. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, commander of the British 8th Army, wanted three divisions of paratroopers to capture all of the bridges along his path to the “Fatherland.” The 82nd, 101st and a British 1st Airborne divisions took part in the jump — some 60,000 paratroopers in all.
Their primary objective: The bridge at Arnhem, Holland, which spans the Rhine into Germany, became known as “A Bridge Too Far.”
“This was the only day jump I made. I was the jump master for this one. As I stood at the door of the C-47 (transport), I watched the German 88 gunners shooting at us,” Miale recalled. “They had trouble hitting us because we came in so low. We jumped at about 250 feet, so it took about 10 seconds to hit the ground.”
His unit immediately started capturing bridges. The 505th Regimental Combat Team was ordered to take the heavily fortified bridge at Nijmegen across the Waal River.
The Americans took the bridge and Montgomery’s tanks advanced to the far side but refused to go farther and attempt to take the final bridge at Arnham which became known as “A Bridge Too Far.”
A short while later British and Canadian troops moved up and relieved the paratroopers who were trucked out of the front lines. The 82nd Airborne regrouped in France just in time for the Battle of the Bulge.
Shortly after the “Battle of the Bulge,” the biggest battle on the Western Front broke out in mid-December 1944, the 82nd was trucked to the battle in which more than one million soldiers on both sides fought. Their job, like in the past, was to blow up bridges to stop the massive German offensive.
Miale and the men of the 505th Regimental Combat Team succeeded. Within a month the Germans were falling back for the last time and his unit found itself at the Siegfried Line protecting the western border of Germany.
Within four months, Germany surrendered. By then Miale’s unit had reached the Elba River. He could go home or become part of the American occupation forces in Berlin.
Staff Sgt. Miale opted for the U.S.
Name: Frank Miale
D.O.B: 15 May 1924
D.O.D.: 2 Feb. 2010
Hometown: Johnston, RI
Currently: Venice, Fla.
Entered Service: February 1940
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Unit: 505th Regimental Combat Team
Commendations: Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, European Theater Medal, World War II Victory Medal
Battles/Campaigns: Sicily Invasion, Battle of Salerno, Italy; St. Etienville, France; “Market Garden” Jump, Holland
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005 and is republished with permission.
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Frank M. Miale
15 May 1924 – 2 Feb. 2010
Frank M. Miale, 85, of Venice, formerly of Johnston, R.I., died Feb. 2, 2010.
A Mass of Christian burial will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Venice. Farley Funeral Home in Venice is handling the arrangements.
He went to meet the Lord Feb. 2, 2010. He was born in Providence, R.I., to Francesco and Incoronata (Granieri) Miale.
Survivors include his loving wife of 63 years, Sadie; three sons, Michael (Pamela) and David (Linda), both of Johnston, and John of Venice; a brother, Michael of Johnston; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
He was the brother of the late Cosmo, Joseph, Dolores and Rose.
He graduated from Mt. Pleasant High School and attended the University of Rhode Island. His education was cut short by the start of World War II. He proudly served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in the European Theater. He made four combat jumps in France, Italy and Holland, during which he was wounded in action.
He published the book “Stragedy” about the experience he and his platoon endured. One of his goals in life was to return to the site of each jump before he died; he achieved his goal over the course of six years with family members by his side.
He was employed by the Exxon Corp. for 33 years before retiring, then traveled the country with his wife in their motor home.
He was a member of St. Raphael’s Catholic Church in Englewood, where he sang in the choir. He lived his life as he left it, on his terms.
Memorial donations may be made to the Make a Wish Foundation, 950 Tamiami Trail, Suite 103, Sarasota, FL 34236. To send condolences, visit http://www.farleyfuneralhome.com.
Francesco Marco Miale – Father, best friend and hero – Airborne!