Frank Hromadka


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Frank Hromadka's
Letters home

A Company 645th TD Bn. and POW


Information provided by his daughter Judy Filipi; excerpts are from the "Milligan Review" News paper.

edited by Eric Rieth

Frank Hromadka was born the 2nd of July in 1917, in Milligan, Nebraska to Frank and Anna Hromadka. He was raise as a Nebraskan Farm Boy would in those days Hard Work. In his family there was in order from oldest to youngest Emma, Anna, Helen ( who was the army nurse), Frank ( who served in the 645th TD), John (who served in the Pacific), Ralph (served in the African and European theatre) and brother Milo. There were 3 girls and 4 boys in his family.Frank (dad's father) attended the Nebraska School of Agriculture in Lincoln, Ne. Frank and Anna enjoyed farming, gardening, their fruit orchard and grape vineyards. The Hromadka family operated a dairy farm. They delivered fresh bottled milk and cream to Milligan residents and businesses. Cows were hand-milked and glass bottles were washed and sterilized by hand. The dairy was discontinued during World War II when their family was no longer there to help.

Frank nicknamed "Atlas" was a member of the graduating class of 1936. He earned many awards as a student and a basketball player. He won first place at the Nebraska State Agriculture Contest in Dairy Products judging and won a gold medal as State Farmer in the organization of Future Farmers of America. (The medal he carried with him during the war. It was taken away from him when he became a German prisoner of war.) Dad helped run the family dairy farm after graduating from Milligan High School. In June of 1941, he enrolled in the Lincoln Aeronautical Institute and graduated on August 6 of '41. For a brief time he was employed by Bell Aircraft in Buffalo, New York.

Sgt. Frank H. Hromadka was in" ducted into service on Oct. 17, 1941 and was first stationed at Ft. Sill, Okla. in the Field Artillery Bn. He was then transferred to Camp Bar-keley, Tex. with the Tank Destroyer Bn., then in succeeding order, Ft. Dix, N. J., Camp Pine. N. Y., Indiantown Gap, Pa., and Camp Pickett. Va. At the last named camp, he injured his ankle and was hospitalized for several weeks at the Station Hospital. After leaving the hospital in April 1943, he was sent overseas, landing in North Africa, where he remained three months. Following that he took part in the invasion of Sicily and Italy. He was in the battle of Salerno Sept. 9 and Cassino through January of 1944, when the 645th TD was withdrawn to be sent to Anzio.


Frank received the Bronze Star medal for meritorious service in combat on the Anzio Beachhead in Italy.

A section sergeant of a tank destroyer unit, Hromadka was in charge of two tank destroyers [medium tanks fitted with special three-inch guns] and was assigned the task of keeping two roads open. Faced with overwhelming enemy forces, his TD was hit by a shell from an anti-tank gun and it's driver killed. After holding out until his two TDs and their crews had been isolated by the enemy, Sergeant Hromadka received orders to destroy his machines and, with his men, attempt to make it back to their unit on foot.

Instead, they chose to attempt a break-through with their TDs, Hrom-dka taking over as driver of one, of them. His tank Was again hit by direct fire and knocked out, but the Nebraska sergeant and his men broke through enemy .lines and made it back to Ameriean lines in the second TD. This action took place Feb. 16, 1944.

Anzio,Italy; March 30 1944

Dearest Folks:

The fruit trees are starting;' to bloom here! I believe the season is just about like at home. It gets pretty cool here though., I guess it's right near the water and, these mountains are covered with snow.
About a week ago I got out of the field hospital. I had .some shrapnel wounds. One piece got stuck below my left eye and had to have it chiseled out. I was there eight days and back at duty so you know I am getting along O.K.
How long does it take for my letters to reach home? *
o Frank
[It takes 18 days for Frank',s letters to reach home. His folks were overjoyed at hearing from
Frank himself, that he was O.K. and back on the job. ]

Anzio, Italy; April 3, 1944

Dear Bob: ' :

About eight weeks ago I sent you a thirty-eight page letter. It seems that by now you should have received it. I wrote a part of it while we were on the southern front and managed to finish it here. There is very little about what I can write about this beachhead. We came here the later part of January and have been catching hell ever since. The American Yank Magazine calls this the hottest spot on earth. Will try to write more next time.
I am still getting the Milligan Review. Thanks a lot.
As ever,


Italy; July 10, 1944.

Dearest Folks,

It's time I write you folks a letter not vmail.

Today I received my coffee. It came in good shape. I have now received all the packages you sent but the bill fold. I was just going to write for one. Thanks a lot for sending it. Before I do any more writing I will have to brew a little Butter-Nut and it will be the first I have had since I left home. The Eastern States don't have it, nor do the foreign countries. I don't know what coffee the government buys, but I doubt it is good old Butter-Nut.

Oh yes I did see Rome, also the Vatican City. Sure quite an ancient city. It is known for its churches and they are beautiful. The farther north you go, the better the country gets.

'Anyway it looks marvelous towards x Anzio beachhead, a place where every spare inch was in reach of German artillery. They even shelled us with huge guns, guns they fired across the English channel. They tried in vain to shove us into the sea; sacrificed a lot of men and equipment and failed. We have suffered very few casualties in spite of all the shelling and bombing at nights. During an air raid at night, you would wonder how any 'Kraut' could get back to his 'droon' for the sky was full of tracers plus large aerial bursts from our aircraft batteries. The flak would be dangerous to the men below. Well that is a thing of the past . The men who have completed the beach learned more than they think they did. They learned to take as well as to give. They became stubborn, determined, and learned what they might well expect.

I have been awarded, the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service in actual combat, a Star for another major battle on my Mediterranean ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal or ribbon, the Purple Heart, and an Oak Leaf Cluster. The latter is given for a second injury. May 23 I had a chip fracture in my right ankle and tore two main ligaments. We were very busy at the time and I refused to go to the hospital. All I had was a tight tape put on and went through the attack.

In one of your letters, you write that some day my neighbor and best pal who met me in Africa will probably see me here. Well, personally, I don't think so. I know in what unit he is and what kind of work he does. A unit like that is never near the front line, must say a very good place to be in. We are used everywhere. Many times we spearhead an attack. At one time we were given up as prisoners of war but managed! to get back to our unit. So you can tell why I don't think I will see him so soon. But I sure would like to. One never can tell.

ell time is running short. My letters are coming in fine, so are my Reviews. I've gotten so many letters from neighbors, relatives and friends; that I don't think I will be able to answer all of them. Will try my best though. Anyway they were well appreciated and the senders will not be forgotten.

Hoping everyone is well and happy. My ankle is feeling pretty good. I walk ok. but must be careful so I wouldn't sprain it. It may lake quit a while for it to be just right, but let Nature take its course.
Closing with lots of love,


Southern France; Aug. 17, 1944

Dearest Folks,

There isn't much that I can write now but will try to write more later.
We landed on D Day. Well so much for that. When we started, we all felt good. I believe I must have weighed 185 Ibs. You know that Army food is well balanced.
How is everybody at home? I did not get any mail for nearly two weeks but that is understood. We should get our mail soon now. I should get a lot of letters and a stack of newspapers.
This is just a short letter but just enough to let you know I am feeling just fine, getting along okay. Am sending everyone "Hello". You can give this letter to Dvoraks. Lots of Love,



On Aug. 15, he took part in the invasion of southern France and wrote home that his unit was used several times to spearhead an attack once being separated from the others for quite some time. On Sept. 1, he was reported missing in action but hope is held that he will be heard from even though it may take time

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hromadka of
this place received the shocking
news Tuesday that their son, Sgt.
Frank. H. was reported missing in
action. The telegram follows:

"The Secretary of War desires
me to express his deep regret that
your son, Sergeant Frank H. Hromadka has been reported missing in action since one September in France if further details or other information are received you will be promptly notified.
Adjutant General,
. .Washington, D.C."

Sgt. Hromadka participated in the African campaign; Italian campaign and now in the invasion of southern Prance. : He was serving with Co. A, 645th Tank Destroyer Battalion: He was wounded previously in another engagement for which he- received recognition. ' This war is ever being driven closer to home. The entire community is in sincere sympathy with the stricken parents and relatives and with them hope that Frank may still be alive.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hromadka received the following air letter from son, Sgt, Frank, who was recently freed from a German prison by (the Russian soldiers.)

:Dear Mother and Dad,

AM free and in Allied hands,! Safe and in good health. Within the near future a more detailed letter will follow. trust you are well, may see you soon.

[The letter was a form with the ,Few words inside mimeographed. It bore the date of March 11, 1945 and reached here March 23. It was passed by Army censor and was presumably sent from Great Britain as it had a British .Stamp. ]


Milligan Review May 10, 1945

Five Months a Prisoner.

Sgt. Frank Hromadka, who served five months in a German prison camp, is spending a sixty-day rest period at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hromadka,, and son Milo. He returned home the night of April 18.

Sergeant Hromadka was captured on September 1, 1944, by the Germans. The Hromadkas were notified by the war department September 26 that their son was "missing in action." However through the parents of Frank's buddy, they had been informed that friends had learned that Frank was being marched towards Germany as a prisoner. The first word received from Frank by the Hromadkas since he was a prisoner was February 2 and after that other correspondence from him followed in rapid succession, all of which was several months on the way. However by that time Frank had been liberated by the Russians.

About the latter part of January the prisoners noticed that something was happening. The German guards were all excited, walking their posts with steel helmets for the first time in the five months. German fighters and bombers were flying .steadily east and coming back in a matter of a few minutes. The Gestapo was not around. At night one could hear distant artillery fire. There was no more coal to be drawn, and all the coal that could be had per day was seven pieces, to heat a boarded barracks with forty men in a room, three rooms to a barrack. At one time snow was six inches to a foot deep with ten degrees below zero. At night four times as many guards were put on duty. Yes, the Russians were comming. "But they will never get Kustrin," said the German guard. The camp was on the west side of town near the Oder river. The Krauts said, "Kustrin is well dug in and well fortified."

Report of: 1992-1996 Findings Of The WWII Working Group
A.2. Camp. Stalag III-C, Kustrin, Poland
Location. In Drewitz, northeast of Kustrin; 52(40'N-14(50'E.
Camp population. At its peak, prior to evacuation, Stalag III-C held about 2,000 US ground forces enlisted personnel.

Circumstances of liberation. When Soviet forces approached Kustrin on 31 January 1945, the Germans evacuated the Allied POWs by foot to the west. The evacuation column got only a mile or two from the camp before running into Soviet troops, who fired on the POWs killing five before clear identification was made. After this firefight the German guards fled. The Soviet combat troops continued their advance toward the west, uninterested in the POWs who returned to the camp they recently had evacuated.

The US POWs remained at Stalag III-C under their own control for several days before other Soviet troops arrived, about 1-2 February 1945; but even then, the Soviets did virtually nothing to provide for or to exercise control over, the American POWs. The liberating Soviet unit was likely the 5th Shock Army of the 1st Belorussian Front. In early February 1945, the Soviets ordered the POWs to leave Stalag III-C and go to Warsaw, Poland, a distance of more than 200 miles. The Soviets provided no food, shelter, or transport; most of these POWs organized themselves into small groups, perhaps half a dozen men each, and found their own way to Warsaw, walking much of the way, but catching occasional rides on Soviet army trucks. In Warsaw the Soviets organized the Allied POWs into larger groups and moved them by train to Odessa.

Accounting of US POWs & other remaining questions. The Germans evacuated to the west perhaps as many as 200 to 300 of the US POWs from Kustrin. The remaining group was evacuated to the east by the Soviets, straggling under little control, therefore precise accounting from this camp is problematic. But the largest group was liberated by the Russians and eventually repatriated through Odessa, although a few Americans from III-C returned by way of Moscow or Poltava.

The Veterans Administration list prepared from the Prisoner of War Information Bureau IBM cards contains 1,420 names of US prisoners of war who were returned to military control from Stalag III-C (code 005).

It was the 30th of January when the Russian tanks reached the outskirts of Kustrin, which was as far as they could get then. But the next morning or the prolonged day of nearly every person staying up waiting for the great day to come, the Russian tanks swept way north of the town. Frank heard the American 30-caliber fire from Sherman tanks. "It is our weapons," they all said, "but it can't yet be the Americans." The Russians had the camp partly encircled. And this was the day of liberation.

Leaving the prisoners' camp near Kustrin, under the advice of the Russians, the Americans all left in a body and walked about twenty miles the first day to Zourndolf, and next day made thirty miles to Landsberg. Then they split up in groups of fifteen or twenty and still later in groups of four or five to be able to be readily picked up in small groups by Russians who were driving vehicles for supplies. The Russians advised them the route to take and how they should conduct themselves in obtaining supplies for maintenance and trying to find lodging.

The idea was to stay within supply lines and keep away from the pockets where the fighting was going on. Other towns gone through were Kreuz, Schonlanke, Poznam, Gniezno and on to Warsaw, which place some of the group reached on February 14, then on to Lublin, Krasne and Odessa. Then at Port Said, Egypt, they went through processing again, receiving vaccinations, new clothing, and so on. Then they got to Naples, from where they
took an English ship to the United

The daily rations at this Stalag III C near Kustrin were pretty well standardized: For breakfast a cup; of ersatz, which may be called tea or coffee, made of roasted barley. For lunch a canteen cup of weak soup, the ingredients of which will likely never be learned.

Usually the soup had kohlrabi, sugar beets, potatoes and rarely little meat. The soup was mostly greasy water. The bread ration was one-sixth of a loaf a day. At about 3 p. m. and a pound of margarine for sixteen men and sometimes coffee, and that was supper.

Tuesday brought a ration of seventy-five grams of ersatz jam which looked and tasted like apple butter, but wasn't. It provided some sweets
which were lacking in the diet of the prisoners. Thursday they got sixty grams of cheese.

In September they got two American Red Cross food parcels. None came in October. Upon request they got the American Red Cross man from Geneva. He came with a '42 Chevrolet plainly marked on both sides, rear and top. He said the boys were slowly starving to death and they need' more and new clothing for the winter months. Parcels then started coming in quite regularly and clothes came four days before their liberation.

Frank saw some of the most terrible and unbelievable sights in Poland, including the Nazi torture chambers, where they burned the Polish people to death. Gas also was used. One of the places visited was Lublin, Poland, where this work seemed to be at its worst.


Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hromadka
were overjoyed to hear, according to the following telegram:

"WUX Washington, D..C.
March 20, 1945. Mrs. Anna Hromadka Milligan, Nebraska.
Am pleased to inform you report received from United States Military Mission in Moscow states your son, Sgt. Frank H. Hromadka, previously reported a prisoner of war has been released from a German prisoner of war camp and is now presumed to be in Poland. The War Department invites submission of a message not to exceed 25 words for attempted delivery, to him. Message .should- be -addressed to Casualty Branch AGO, Room 2515 Munitions Building. Further information will be furnished when received.
J. A. Ulio, The Adjutant General."

"WUX Washington, D..C.
April 7, 1945 Mrs. Anna Hromadka Milligan, Nebraska.
The Chief of Staff directs me to inform you that your son Sgt. Frank H. Hromadka is being returned to the U.S. within the near future and will be given the opportunity to communicate with you upon arrival.
J. A. Ulio, The Adjutant General."


July 2, 1945

Sgt. Frank H. Hromadka of Milligan Nebr., who is in Hot Springs, Ark., at the Ground and Service Forces Redistribution Station for reassignment, was honored soon after! his arrival in the resort city at a ceremony in which he received the Bronze Star medal for meritorious service in combat on the Anzio Beachhead in Italy.

Sergeant Hromadka, who wears the Purple Heart and OakLeaf Cluster for wounds received on Anzio, received the medal from Col. John P. Wheeler, commanding officer of the station. Veteran of four campaigns, the former employee of the Bell Aircraft Company at Niagra Falls returned; to the U.S. recently and spent a furlough at his home before reporting for reassignment. His bride accompanicd him to Hot Springs. The Special Service Dept. of the Hot Springs, Ark., redistribution center honored Sgt. Hromadka with a birthday party at their hotel on July 2, and he was presented with a jungle knife as a souvenir gift. A pretty birthday cake was the center
of an attractive table complimenting Sgt. Hromadka.

The Review received a picture of Frank receiving the medal and presented the photo to his parents as i Frank had a similar one. Below the picture was the following citation. :
Sgt. F. H. Hromadka of Milligan Nebraska received the Bronze Star medal from Col. John P. Wheeler, commanding officer of the Army Ground and Service Forces Redistribution Station Hot Springs,- Ark. He was cited for meritorious service in combat on the Anzio Beachead in Italy.
Editors Note-Since the news release received from the Public relations office at Hot Springs, Ark. Sgt. Hromadka left for Ft. Leaven-worth, Kans. last Wednesday where; he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, having 101 points to , his credit, and 33 months service, . with about 6 months spent in a German prison camp.

Frank then joined his wife in Lincoln Friday to which place she had gone directly from Hot Springs, and spent the 2 days visiting her former roommate, Mrs. Antoinette K. Wagner.
Mr. and Mrs. Hromadka were then joined by Mrs. Ray G. Siedleman, Frank's sister, who arrived in that day from Tacoma, Wash, where she had been visiting her husband and the three proceeded to Milligan. Mr. and Mrs. Hromadka are temporarily making their home with his parents while Frank is enjoying working long hours in the harvest fields, taking up where he left off thirty-three months ago.

Frank was united in marriage to Alma Nohava on June 1, 1945, and to them 2 daughters were born, Diane and Judith. Frank and Alma spent 31 years farming near Milligan, Ne. After retiring, they lived in Tobias, Ne for 15 years. They celebrated their 45th anniversary together. Frank enjoyed gardening and sharing his produce with family and neighbors. His special treat was the little children who would come for Halloween pumpkins that he grew.

Frank and Alma had 6 grandchildren. They looked forward to watching the grandchildren participate in sports and attending their school functions. Sunday dinners with the whole family was special also.

Frank was among former POW's from Nebraska, who were honored at a special Veteran's Day service in 1988 at the state capital. Medals were presented to the veteran's by Governor Kay Orr.
Frank was very troubled when the U.S. entered Desert Storm. He watched all the news about it on t.v. He would have been very proud of the way our troops handled Saddam, but he lost his battle with cancer on January 20, 1991.

Awards he received:
PURPLE HEART with 1 bonze oak leaf cluster
EXPERT BADGE with Machine Gun Bar

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