July 31, 1943: Death of Private Petrarca


Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

It is a trite but true observation that war brings out the very worst and the very best in men.  In the category of very best, sacrificial courage has to be high on the list.  Such was displayed by Private Frank J. Petrarca on three occasions in the bitter fighting on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands.  One of ten children he had attended parochial school before following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a carpenter.  In October 1940 he enlisted in the Army.  On July 27, 1943 he began displaying a courage that was rare even in the Pacific theater where, as Admiral Nimitz stated, valor was a common virtue.  Here is his Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty Private First Class Frank J. Petrarca, Medical Detachment, 145th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division, distinguished himself at   Horseshoe Hill, New Georgia, Solomon Islands, on 27 July 1943. PFC Petrarca advanced with the leading troop element to within 100 yards of the enemy   fortifications where mortar and small-arms fire caused a number of casualties.   Singling out the most seriously wounded, he worked his way to the aid of PFC Scott, lying within 75 yards of the enemy, whose wounds were so serious that he could not even be moved out of the direct line of fire. PFC Petrarca fearlessly administered first aid to PFC Scott and two other soldiers and shielded the former until his death. On 29 July 1943, PFC Petrarca, during an intense mortar barrage, went to the aid of his sergeant who had been partly buried in a foxhole under the debris of a shell explosion, dug him out, restored him to consciousness and caused his evacuation. On 31 July 1943 and against the warning of a fellow soldier, he went to the aid of a mortar fragment-casualty where his path over the crest of a hill exposed him to enemy observation from only 20 yards distance. A target for intense mortar and automatic fire, he resolutely worked his way to within 2 yards of his objective where he was mortally wounded by hostile mortar fire. Even on the threshold of death he continued to display valor and contempt for the foe, raising himself to his knees, this intrepid soldier shouted defiance at the enemy, made a last attempt to reach his wounded comrade, and fell in glorious death.






Private Petrarca was 25 when he died.  July 31 was his birthday.

Published in: on July 31, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 31, 1943: Death of Private Petrarca  
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