It’s not often that I get to wish a 100th birthday to one of my wonderful World War II veterans!
I met Frank a few years ago while doing research for my book, We Gave Our Best: American WWII Veterans Tell Their Stories. His is one of the 34 stories included in the book.
Frank Bever was born in 1921, Bever grew up on a farm in Lagro, Indiana. After graduating from high school in 1939, he worked in a factory making radios before being drafted into the Army in August 1942.
After completing basic training at Camp Swift in Austin, Texas, Frank’s unit left from Boston on the USS West Point to cross the Atlantic to England, then Normandy, France.
It was a joy to see Frank and his family at my book launch in 2018. He’s such a sweet man!
Here is an excerpt from Frank’s story from my book. Thanks to Frank and all of our World War II veterans for their service during that great war. We owe our freedoms to you!
In July 1944, the 95th division, Co F, 379th Infantry Regiment worked their way through hedgerows in northern France. The area had been occupied by Nazis for four years. American troops could see where combat had happened a few weeks earlier during the D-Day invasion. Bever’s unit passed through where the D-Day invasion had taken place on Omaha Beach a few weeks earlier, they saw debris from the fierce battle. “It was not a good greeting for us recruits,” he said.
The troops halted near Metz, France, at the confluence of the Moselle and Seille rivers. Frank Bever was confronted with a life-threatening situation. “We planned to cross the water at night,” he said. “The river was wide and at flood stage which made it dangerous. Barges filled with armed German soldiers would kill us if they spotted us.”
Bever made a covenant with God: he promised that if he got across safely, he would attend church. Bever made it across that night and kept his promise during and after the war.
As the war raged on for several more months, Bever replicated that same prayer for safety in battle many times.
At one point when the 95th was fighting with German soldiers Bever was crouching beside an American tank. Germans lobbed a shell into the vehicle, destroying it and causing shell fragments to fly in all directions. Bever sustained facial and leg wounds severe enough to be evacuated to a hospital in England.
Still, he knew he was luckier than another American soldier who died when his throat was cut by the shrapnel. That was two escapes for Bever.
A few weeks later, he encountered a woman rescued from a German labor camp. Bever gave her a chocolate bar from his K rations. “I had always wondered what good we were doing in the war,” he said. “After I saw the labor and death camps, then I knew.”
Frank Bever considers his involvement with World War II to be “the greatest experience of my life.” For many years, he attended military reunions with family members.
Among those who attend is a French family from the Metz area of France. “They come every year to honor us and what we did for them,” he said. “They know what freedom is about.”