Frank DeFrates grew up in Audubon, New Jersey, hunting, fishing, and playing sports. During the depression, his father, a tool engineer, purchased old cars, repaired them, and sold them for a profit, and Frank remembers helping in his father’s shop. After high school, he worked as a bank teller, and then as a welder because it paid more. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, he and a friend volunteered for service in the 10th Armored Division, and enlisted in March 1943. Before deploying overseas, he completed training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, Camp Perry, Ohio, and Ft. Benning, Georgia. At Benning, he had the opportunity to go to college at the University of Georgia under the Army Special Training Program, before being called back to the unit for deployment. His unit sailed to Europe in September 1944 on USS Brazil, and landed in Cherbourg, France. His first fighting was in the hedgerow country before advancing to St. Lo and Paris. The 10th Armored Division liberated town after town in France before being drawn into the Battle of the Bulge. After the Bulge, the Division continued to advance, eventually crossing into Germany. Frank was wounded in both arms in Kaiserslautern, and was initially treated in a captured German hospital. After a period in a hospital in Verdun, he was evacuated on a ship bound for America. Returning home, he endured multiple surgeries in hospitals in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Upton, New York. After being released from the hospital, he started working in the insurance business, eventually starting his own agency in his hometown, Audubon, where he’s lived ever since.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, joining the military, his service in Europe, and running his own insurance business. He describes his training, and the benefits of attending the University of Georgia. He discusses capturing towns in France, and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. He recalls being wounded, and his convalescence. Finally, he reflects on what his service means to him.