HAWTHORNE, NJ - Frank Boyd, the second of six children, was born in Paterson on August 20, 1909. As he grew up, he lived in Hawthorne with his sister Bessie Langenburg at 54 Roosevelt Avenue, working in the silk mills. In January of 1941, Boyd received a draft notice.
For most of the Thirties, as the world struggled through the Great Depression, the Japanese and China had been in conflict, culminating in a Japanese invasion in 1937. War had been rumbling in Europe as well. Between 1936 and 1939, the Spanish Civil War pitted the country between Republican and Nationalist forces, led by General Francisco Franco. With aid from Italy and Germany, Franco crushed his opponents and installed a dictatorship which lasted until 1975. In 1939, Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union had brutally invaded and divided up Poland. The Second World War had begun in Europe. In the Spring of 1940, Denmark and Norway had fallen. The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg were overrun and France was falling. In June, Mussolini's Italy declared war on France and Great Britain, launching their own invasion of France and bringing the war to North Africa with the hopes of driving the British from Egypt. With the collapse of France, the United Kingdom stood alone against the Axis in Europe. The Royal Air Force doggedly duelled with the Luftwaffe over the skies of Great Britain and the English Channel as the Blitz pulverized British cities. Britons from Scotland to Dover sought refuge in the urban Undergrounds or in the countryside.
Boyd had been sent to training at Fort Knox, according to Paul Chepurko, who has been coordinating "Operation Fallen Hero" to memorialize Hawthorne's members of the armed forces who lost their lives. The United States was still neutral and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that ultimately pushed the nation to war was not to occur until December. When it did, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war and soon the US would be fighting both in the Pacific as well as in Europe.
In May of 1942, Boyd was in the United Kingdom getting ready for Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of Vichy French-held Morocco and Algeria to open another front against the Italian and German forces there. "Although assigned to a supply company, Private Boyd likely saw combat in North Africa," Chepurko said.
As the desert campaign ground bloodily forward, eventually Italian and German forces had to evacuate Tunisia to Sicily, and the allied invasion of southern Europe soon followed. "The 1st Armored Division participated in the Italian campaign and fought in such notable battles as Monte Casino and the Anzio beachhead under some of the most extreme conditions," Chepurko said, describing "blazing heat" in North Africa and "sub-zero temperatures" experienced in the Italian mountains.
The Italian campaign, largely overshadowed by the Normandy Invasion of D-Day, was a long and vicious slog against the Axis, which also plunged Italy into a civil war between pro-German Fascists in the north under Benito Mussolini, and pro-Allied monarchists in the south under King Vittorio Emanuele III and his new Prime Minister, Marshal Pietro Badoglio. As the Axis defensive lines were slowly pushed northward, up the Italian peninsula at great cost of human lives and property, Boyd, now a corporal, had seen his share of horrors on those Mediterranean battlefields.
Boyd had 30 months of overseas service on his record before finally having an opportunity to go home, arriving on November 10, 1944. According to Chepurko, Boyd had been welcomed home by friends and family for a three-week furlough and lived with his sister, Mrs. Herman Langenburg, during that time. He was to report to Camp Butler in North Carolina for a reassignment on December 2. But Boyd, sadly, never would.
"On the 29th of November, 1944, Corporal Frank Boyd, most likely suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or battle fatigue as it was termed at the time, took his own life," Chepurko said. "Corporal Frank P. Boyd was buried with full military honors at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Paterson. Frank's suicide, at thirty-five years old, was a tragic end to a short life."
Seventy-six years later, Bob Langenburg, Frank's grand-nephew, joined with Mayor Goldberg, Cherpurko, Pastor Howard Van Dyk, bugler Faith Noah, Hawthorne Police Department, and Department of Public Works, to honor Boyd's life. The ceremony included the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Chris Tamburro, an invocation by Pastor Van Dyk, and rifle salute along with the playing of "Taps", culminating in the naming of a section of the street Boyd had once called home in his memory.
"The citizens of Hawthorne, New Jersey," Chepurko said, "honor and salute the sacrifice of Corporal Frank P. Boyd, United States Army."
Judy Kopitar contributed to this report.
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