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World War II Veteran is Looking For a Job

Damiano Beltrami (November 11, 2008)
Frank Carbone, 87, one of a vanishing breed of World War II Italian American veterans, would like to get a job in the construction sector, where he worked a number of years after the war


As some of his comrades in arms were enjoying their parade in Manhattan on Nov. 11, Frank Carbone, a 87-year-old World War II veteran, was flipping through the pages of a design book in the library of Kittay nursing home in The Bronx, thinking about how to get a job.

“I don’t have time to waste,” said Carbone, an Italian American grown up on Cortland Avenue in The Bronx . “I don’t get no benefits from the government. Last week I had a runny nose and I went to the VA hospital to ask for a flu shot. They told me I was not entitled. I didn’t argue, I just left.”

Carbone is one of a vanishing breed of World War II veterans, but he still remembers the war as if it were yesterday. He suffered frost bite in the winter of 1945 while fighting with the American army and French resistance fighters against the Germans in the Voges Mountains of France. He was hospitalized near the battlefield, but no records exist and he isn’t entitled to any benefits. He feels more lucky than mad about the lack of records.

 

“In that evacuation hospital there were guys with legs and arms missing, guys shot,” said Carbone. “They had no time to write down names.”

Carbone was drawn into the war by his passion for planes, sparked when his 7th grade teacher asked him to build a model of Charles Lindbergh’s airplane. Years later, in the fall of 1939, Carbone, then a seasonal worker, went to the army command center at 420 Lexington Avenue and introduced himself.

“What do you wanna do, they asked me,” Carbone said. “I wanna fly an airplane like Charles Lindbergh’s.”

Carbone did not qualify. But the letter from the army arrived a year later, as he was operating a diesel Caterpillar in New Hackensack at an airport building site.

“I was really discontented,” Carbone said. “They told me that I was in the infantry and not in the air force. They sent us to Kansas for training. It was like a desert, we walked all day long and when you took your shoes off at night you had horrible blisters.”

After moving to Biloxi, Mississipi, for patrolling the cost to prevent a possible invasion from the Germans, finally Carbone thought he had the chance of his life.

“Volunteers in the air force were needed,” he said, “so I applied and finally was accepted by the reviewing board of the high ranking officers. When I had my fist training session in Slipper Rock, Pennsylvania, I was very happy, it was my passion.”

But in spring 1944 Frank Carboni wasn’t flying an airplane. He was on board the ocean liner “De La France” with 15,000 other soldiers, heading to the war in Europe. He stayed in Portsmouth, England, getting ready for D-Day.

“When I landed on that beach there were about 10,000 dead bodies around,” Carbone said. “The water was red.”

Malnourished and sick, Carbone got back to the Bronx in the fall of 1945 and went to the army command on Lexington Avenue.

“They didn’t tell me nothing,” he remembered. “They said good night and good luck.”

Now Frank, as all his neighbors call him, lives on Social Security money and would like to get a job in the construction sector, where he worked a number of years after the war.

“It’d be a challenge for the brain,” Carbone said. “I have a background in engineering. I know how to put buildings up.”

As he looked through the windows of his room at a construction site, Carbone considered the past presidential elections with disenchantment. He shows no particular sympathy for President-elect Barack Obama, nor for former naval pilot John McCain.

“I admire McCain because he turned down the offer to be released and spent three more years in prison,” Carbone said. “But would he have done something for the veterans? I don’t know.”

If Carbone were president, he would protect veterans’ benefits.

“We gave our life for the protection of the country,” he said. “You gotta give us at least a house, education and medical service.”

Looking at a yellowed newspaper photo of Lindbergh’s airplane, Carbone described what President-elect Barack Obama should do.

“He gotta lift the country,” he said. “Gotta do what Roosevelt did with the New Deal. Build roads, post offices, highways, dams. Create jobs. People gotta eat, gotta find jobs.”

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