Aug 13, 2014
I was born September 5, 1925 in Long Beach, Ca. My young single mother with visions of Dance or the Theater figured “our” life would be less complicated if I resided in state supported, lions club, or church home. My Father was a WW1 vet whom I did not meet until I was 25 or 35 years old. No maternal love was mutually evident.
I served my years in various homes. At the age of 12-13 I entered the business field. With my 25 cents a week allowance, I bought liberty magazines @ 5 cents each, sold them for …5 cents each-with a total profit of 25 cents and I enjoyed it. Business was great until some kindly store owner said “kid why don’t you buy them at 5 cents and charge 10 cents!” I was dumbfounded. Business was never the same and you can see why I never returned to the business field.
In the homes of 100-300 in number kids, I was always clothed, fed, and well treated. Few parents had money. We attended public schools and I learned an important feature in life…DISCIPLINE!! In high school and supported by the Lions Club and the boys home I joined the ROTC at Hollywood High School.
A few months following December 7, 1941 I was AWOL from the boys home, the ROTC, and HS. On July 4, 1942 I enlisted in the California National Guard (at the fraudulent age of 16). The move from a boy’s home bed to the Army was an easy move and obtained $65 a month at that.
But they didn’t send me to war. After training, they put me to work, picking fruit, fighting fires, and fighting floods. And guarding things, security on sensitive sites…..like Morro Rock near San Louis Obispo.
The Sergeant took me out there and said, “Kid, this is your rock! Don’t let the Japs steal it from you!”. I would spend hours out in the fog and rain guarding that rock. Of course, I didn’t have a radio or anything like that so if they decided that they wanted that rock, it could have been theirs real easy but I did my job and the rock stayed secure. I got to loving that place so much that I actually lived there for 50 years.
I served as a good soldier and made SGT at that. However, a fight with a 2nd LT shave tail ended that. In the courts Martial it was learned I was 16. The matter was resolved with an “educational interference discharge”
Several months later in June 1943 I again volunteered for service (17 years old), no computers in those days.
Four months later, I reenlisted and was sent to Camp Toccoa, Georgia for parachute training. I was put in the 517th Parachute Regiment. It was tough training…but I was a tuff little kid. In September, we went on to jump school. In our regiment of 3000 guys, not a single person quit or refused to jump. That is a record that has never been beaten as far as I know. We all got our wings and were proud of it.
We became an outstanding group of warriors who served well in combat in Italy, France, Belgium, Rhineland, and Germany during 1944-1945 enduring some of the heaviest fighting of the European Campaign that included Operation Dragoon (The Invasion of Southern France by parachute) and the Battle of the Bulge. My role during all of that was a a “scout” leading the unit in its path to meet the enemy.
So, On one ‘company size patrol’ behind enemy lines, I was usually out in front of everyone and we came up on this ridge. I could hear the unmistakable squeak of armor on the other side. I called back that something was there and I crept up to the top of the ridge. My heart pounded as I looked upon a mass of tanks, trucks, artillery, and troops marching and I thought, “Oh, my God, We have run into the whole German Army.”. Then I looked closer to see they were our tanks, trucks, and men…..We were probably 5 miles behind our own lines.
In Operation Dragoon, we exited our planes shortly after 4 AM. I looked around and it was quite a sight with all of the other parachutes around me. Then I looked down and could see the reflection of the full moon on the water. We all thought they had put us out over the wrong spot! Some guys got out of their equipment and dropped shortly before landing thinking they were landing in water…..but ended up dieing on land. What we thought was water was actually fog!
I landed and got my rifle out and I heard voices. I looked and saw what I thought was Germans. All around me…hundreds of them! Then one of them yelled, “Hey, you a yank?”. They were Brits whose parachute helmets were bowl shaped just like the Germans. I said, “Yea, I’m a Yank…don’t shoot me!” So, I joined up with the Brits for a day.
When I got linked up with my group again, shortly afterwards, we came upon a vineyard. We started getting fire from a machine gun located above us. We made our way towards the building through the vineyard rows. They were shooting at us and we were shooting back, not really knowing where we were aiming at. We came across a small building and my buddy, Earl Bolt (We called him Rusty bolt) got on one side of the door and me on the other. We could hear noises in the building. I threw a grenade in. We waited and could still hear noises. So, we were about to throw another grenade in, when out comes a parade ….of chickens. Their feathers all backwards and upside-down and staggered around….even a mama chicken followed by her chicks.
I got hit late in the Battle of the Bulge. I ended up in a Hospital which probably saved my life. In a battle for a Dam there, my platoon stayed behind when others pulled out. Of the 30 man platoon, only around 8 survived. Most of them were captured or killed.
Following WW2 I served for one year with Occupation Forces in Berlin-primarily to ensure no further movement of the USSR to the west included many encounters with the Russian troops.
During my WW2 service I received the awards we normally receive and 2 bronze stars and the usual Purple Heart. Additionally I received the French Legion of Honor for three months of path finding trails in the German lines in the French Alps. All of the above service was performed in the level of Private first class a level most remained for their entire service. I was ultimately promoted to SGT in Berlin.
In 1950-1955 I obtained my BS and MS from CA State University with the assistance of the vets program. I should note it was necessary to attend a vets high school for 2 yrs to make up for missed grades in 1942-1944.
Also supplemented my income for 5 years as a LA Venice Lifeguard and a bar bouncer at night.
In 1950 I joined the US Army Reserve as a combat experienced enlisted and possessing BS and MS was commissioned. I was given the responsibility to organize a US Army Special Forces unit. Did so and served as a unit commander in reserve and active duty roles for 19 yrs.
I have been in law enforcement all of my life in Criminal Investigation and and Terrorism training. I was also Security for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for 11 years. I am presently retired as the President of Worldwide Security Systems (A retired organization looking for a job).
I am a master parachutist with over 400 jumps and 1 combat jump. Recently had back surgery (do you think it had any relations to those 400 jumps?) but I gave up my cane last month.
I am Army Col Gene Frice.
Presented by Lyle Hicks