|Raritan's Frank "Mousey" Russo was awarded The Bronze Star Twice|
|Last month The Breeze ran an article highlighting the Raritan men who had been awarded The Bronze and Silver Star during World War II.
Accompanying this article was a chart listing the recipients with their photos and citations. Since we were missing many photos and citations we asked our
readers to contact us should they have any of the information we were looking for.
To our delight, we were contacted by relatives of Frank Russo, one of the Bronze Star recipients. We were provided not just the missing citation for his World War II service, but a second citation for another Bronze Star that he was awarded during the Korean War. We also learned from his family that Frank Russo brought some interesting souvenirs home with him. Things he had “borrowed” from the Germans. Also, Frank had one very special photo – a true gem for any local history collection.
|Frank Russo joined the Army just one month after the attack at Pearl Harbor. Upon completing basic training, he was assigned to a
reconnaissance division. At the beginning of the war the unit often rode horses, but as the war and its weapons progressed (along with mass production)
his unit took to modern vehicles and evolved into a tank outfit. Frank was promoted to Sergeant just before his unit went overseas to England in February 1943.
There they trained and prepared for the upcoming invasion of Europe. They would take part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy - landing on Utah beach. After D-Day they would move along with the U.S. Army traveling hundreds of miles across France, through Holland, and finally into Germany. Along this journey Frank’s duties were to lead groups of men in scouting missions. They would advance ahead of their unit and gather whatever information they could on enemy positions, strengths, and the terrain that lay ahead. They were the eyes and ears for their commanders.
|When he was not scouting the enemy, Frank, as a 1st Major Sergeant, supervised the companies’ logistical setup when they stopped in a town along the way. He would see that buildings were available for his troops and that a command post with a protective perimeter was established. He would then oversee the distribution of vital supplies such as the field rations to his men. Often he had the sad but necessary duty of writing to the families of the soldiers in his outfit that died in battle. His unit along with the rest of the U.S. Army fought through Germany arriving at the outskirts of Berlin where the Nazi leaders were making their last stand. As they were about to cross the Elbe River, which was the final barrier to the German capital, they were surprisingly given orders to halt. The U.S. commanders decided to take the Russians up on their offer to finish off the Germans and take the casualties themselves. This controversial decision saved the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers.|
|Frank Russo did an excellent job leading his men on reconnaissance missions. For this, he was awarded The Bronze Star –
the citation (summarized) read:
Sergeant Frank Russo … for meritorious service in connection with military operations against the enemy from July 1944 through March 1945, in France, Holland, and Germany. Frank Russo rendered outstanding service … on all occasions he displayed sound judgment and great calmness under fire. His great concern for the welfare of his men won him the praise of his superiors and respect of his fellow soldiers.
|As his unit moved across Europe, an ongoing report was kept by one of the officers. Click to view|
|Frank Russo brought home some interesting souvenirs from the war. His family still has them today. One of these souvenirs almost cost him his life. One day while stationed in a home in a German town that they had just taken, Frank went upstairs to look around. Always on the lookout for not just Germans, but German collectables, Frank found a full German officer’s uniform – hat and all. A quick evaluation showed that this uniform was just his size. He decided to put it on and surprise his fellow soldiers downstairs. As he moved down the stairs Frank found that he did indeed surprise his buddies, so much so that they almost shot him. Fortunately as they went to draw their weapons they recognized him.|
|Another collectible Frank was able to bring home was a prized German Luger pistol. These guns were carried by German officers. They are one of the most sought after collectible guns from World War II.
One other item that Frank Russo bought home is an important artifact in the lessons of history - a true collectible - a Nazi Banner. It is 6 feet tall and 2.5 feet wide. Such banners are often seen in history documentaries and World War II movies as the Germans of the era decorated many towns and buildings fronts with such banners.
|One priceless photograph was taken of Frank during the war. Above is Frank Russo with England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It was taken on May 20th, 1944. Prime Minister Churchill was meeting with several troops who were preparing for the upcoming invasion of Europe. Frank is the third head on the right|
|Frank Russo would serve 21 years in the Army. He served in the Korean War where he was awarded another Bronze Star.
That citation (summarized) read:
Master Sergeant Frank Russo is cited for meritorious service – he served as first sergeant of a reconnaissance company under combat conditions, contributing materially to the success of his unit’s missions. His thorough knowledge of armor tactics and his sound leadership earned him the sincere respect and confidence of both officers and enlisted men. … His courage, tireless efforts and his cooperative spirit marked him as a superior soldier.
|Our source for the information on Frank Russo is Frank’s nephew Eric Jacobs who lives in Raritan. He was close with his Uncle Frank. As a teenager he often caddied for him. When his uncle passed away in 2008, Eric made sure to preserve his Uncle’s war memorabilia, photos, and story. In Eric’s den today can be found photos, citations, articles, and medals relating to his Uncle Frank’s wartime and lifetime experience. Every soldier who served in World War II should have a nephew like Eric to preserve his story. These old photos and mementos are a solemn remembrance of the wartime sacrifices that were made by the Greatest Generation. Up until now the viewing of this collection, and others like it, was only done by the occasional visitor that came to the home. But today the digital age offers an opportunity for such treasured photos and keepsakes to be viewed by many from any location using the internet. The Breeze has been glad to work with Eric to put Uncle Frank’s war story on the Internet where it can now be easily viewed by anyone.|
|Eric Jacobs in the middle with his Uncle Frank Russo on the left and Eric's dad on the right|
|An avid golfer, Frank "Mousey" Russo once won the annual golf tournament at
The Raritan Valley Country Club. He also finish second several times.