Private 1st Class Francis A. (Frank or Francesco) Thomas, of Muskegon, Michigan enlisted in the army in 1942, was quickly trained for combat and became part of Operation TORCH, the first American military involvement in the European conflict of WWII. Operation TORCH involved various invasions of North Africa, with the intent of capturing North Africa and moving north across the Mediterranean Sea into and through Italy. Frank was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division – the Big Red One – and served in the 18th Regiment, 4th Platoon, 1st Battalion, C Company. He was captured in Tunisia at the battle for Long Stop Hill on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1942. He and others captured were shipped north to Campo #98 in Palermo, Sicily, where he was held for 10 days and fed only twice, then to Campo #59 near Servigliano, Italy. He was a POW there until the Italian Armistice allowed a general escape on September 14, 1943. He was then aided by the Italian people in the area and settled in the area of Comunanza (20 km SW) where a family kept him and his comrade, Guss Teel from New Mexico and an Englishman safe from the Germans who were constantly looking for the escapees (usually successfully). His “home” was a hunting shed for the next nine months until the American forces coming north repatriated him in June, 1944.

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