World War II veteran tells a unique story about his participation in the D-Day invasion World War II veteran tells a unique story about his participation in the D-Day invasion
Photo by Roger Gavan
World War II Veteran Frank Scharfenberger, 92, proudly wears the “dog tags,” he wore during the invasion of Normandy and the medals and awards he received including the Purple Heart.
By Roger Gavan Warwick resident Frank Scharfenberger, 92, is here today because of a unique experience that occurred in France shortly after the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Frank Scharfenberger was the youngest of three brothers living in Queens. Edward, the oldest, and Joseph, in the middle, were already serving in the Army during World War II when Frank Scharfenberger was drafted in April 1942. After basic training in Arkansas he was shipped to England, where he trained in Wales for an amphibious assault. Nearly three million allied troops were to take part in the Operation Overlord air, sea and land attack more commonly known as D-Day. Although Scharfenberger did not come ashore with the very first wave, once on top he faced a serious German defensive action behind the Norman hedgerows, which were designed to keep cattle in and to mark boundaries. Wherever Scharfenberger looked as he and his unit traveled along the roads, the view was blocked by walls of vegetation. And there were German soldiers on the other side. Suddenly a bullet struck him in the right side of his head. It was a very serious wound but he stayed on his feet. "I had to walk to an aid station with another guy," he said. "I lost my helmet and I was bleeding all over." Both soldiers were wearing bandoleers of ammunition and carrying pockets of grenades. "They ordered us to get out," said Scharfenberger, "so we got rid of the explosives and then they put me on a stretcher. And that's all I can remember." Scharfenberger, now in a coma, was treated but with his loss of blood and the limited medical facilities available in the field, was unlikely to survive. What seems like a miracle is that his older brother, Edward, an officer and a paratrooper also serving in France, had received a letter from his mother. She heard from a neighbor, whose son was also a soldier in the Normandy invasion, that his brother Frank, had been seen, wounded and unconscious, in a medical unit somewhere near Normandy. Somehow, Edward Scharfenberger, who Warwick residents may remember today as founder of the St. Stephen-St. Edward Educational Trust, the Warwick Taxpayers' Association and the Warwick Conservancy, managed to locate his brother. Considering the thousands of troops in the invasion, it was an extraordinary task. But he located his younger brother, secured a Jeep and, although he was an enlisted man, had him transferred to an officer's hospital in Paris. After recuperating, Corporal Frank Scharfenberger served as an MP in Germany, a destination he planned to reach in a journey that began on D-Day. After the war he worked with his older brothers in their father's business, the Ecclesiastical Art Company, and later in a brokerage firm.