HOME­TOWN HERO

Thank you for your ser­vice, Cpl. Pavese, his amaz­ing mem­ory

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY GLENN MILLER

Amer­ica’s Great­est Gen­er­a­tion

Fort My­ers res­i­dent Frank Pavese couldn’t have known on the af­ter­noon of Dec. 7, 1941, that three years later he would be a U.S. Army cor­po­ral sta­tioned in Italy facing down what seemed like the en­tire Ger­man army. The 17-year-old Fort My­ers High stu­dent sure as heck couldn’t have pre­dicted that one day a Ger­man colonel would want to sur­ren­der to Amer­i­cans. Just not to lowly Cpl. Pavese. But first came Dec. 7. “… I was wa­ter­ing my lawn and Mus­cles McNabb― he didn’t weigh 100 pounds soak­ing wet,” says Pavese, the 93-year-old founder of a Fort My­ers law firm. “I was wa­ter­ing the lawn on 1118 South Jack­son Street and Mus­cles came over. ‘Did you hear the news?’ I said what news? He said, ‘Pearl Har­bor was bombed by the Ja­panese.’”

Every­thing changed that day for Pavese, the day that pro­pelled Amer­ica into World War II. A year later he en­listed in the Army; found him­self af­ter train­ing on a Lib­erty ship with about 2,000 other sol­diers bound for North Africa. His boat was part of a six-ship con­voy es­corted across the At­lantic, de­stroy­ers on ei­ther side. Pavese knew Ger­man U-boats were lurk­ing, ea­ger to sink Amer­i­can troop­ships. He re­called it took 12 days to cross the ocean. They reached Oran, Al­ge­ria, where he was sta­tioned for two months, train­ing in­ten­sively and pre­par­ing for bat­tle.

Mov­ing north, Cpl. Pavese’s job in Italy was keep­ing his com­pany supplied with food. Ev­ery day he and a truck driv er would go to a nearby “food dump” and re­turn with meals that kept the Army go­ing. And then one mem­o­rable trip he and the driver en­coun­tered Ger­mans. Lots of them. Pavese and the driver, a pri­vate named Kowal­ski, would hit an S curve above a val­ley. “I said, ‘This doesn’t look good, Kowal­ski,’” Pavese says, re­call­ing the mo­ment. “We went around the cor­ner and there was the whole Ger­man army.”

Of course it wasn’t the en­tire army. But there were many Ger­mans around that cor­ner and it looked like an en­tire army to Pavese. “Kowal­ski said, ‘What are you go­ing to do, cor­po­ral?’” Pavese re­calls, adding that he replied, “We’re go­ing to park this ve­hi­cle and stand out in front of it and hope they don’t kill us.”

Pavese re­calls a sort of tank-like de­vice with “a big ri­fle on it” ap­proach­ing. There was also a com­mand car. “And this colonel, spick and span … rid­ing trousers and shiny boots and one of those swag­ger sticks,” Pavese says. “And he had a hat on. One of those Ger­man hats, and he had a pis­tol on his side. And he got out of the com­mand car and came up to me and said, ‘Are you Amer­i­cans?’ And I said we’re Amer­i­cans. He said he wanted to sur­ren­der.”

Just 18 years old, Cpl. Pavese un­der­stand­ably was ner­vous. “If I had a tie on, it would have been go­ing up and down,” Pavese says, ges­tur­ing his hands up and down off his chest, in­di­cat­ing how fast his heart was beat­ing.

The colonel told Pavese they didn’t want to sur­ren­der to the Ital­ian guer­rilla force, which he be­lieved would have likely killed all un­der his com­mand. The colonel asked about Pavese’s rank. “He said, ‘I can’t sur­ren­der to you,’” Pavese re­mem­bers.

Pavese told the Ger­man about an Amer­i­can colonel back at his base. Then, Pavese says, Kowal­ski asked the Ger­man colonel for his sidearm. The colonel said no. “I told Kowal­ski, get your a— back in that truck,” Pavese re­mem­bers say­ing.

Then the Ger­man colonel and the Amer­i­can cor­po­ral went their sep­a­rate ways. The Ger­man went to sur­ren­der to an Amer­i­can colonel, and Pavese con­tin­ued his morn­ing mis­sion of pick­ing up food. “I was run­ning late and had to get food for over 100 sol­diers,” Pavese says.

Pavese would re­turn to Fort My­ers to be­come a prom­i­nent at­tor­ney, found­ing the Pavese Law Firm in 1949, which is still in op­er­a­tion.

Not many peo­ple likely know about his war ser­vice. Now, more than 70 years later, Pavese is proud of his ser­vice and de­scribes him­self as “very pa­tri­otic.”

World War II wasn’t fun, by any means. “A bad or­deal,” Pavese says. “Glad I went.”

So is Amer­ica.

At left is Frank Pavese, a World War II Army vet­eran and founder of Pavese Law Firm in Fort My­ers. He's pic­tured with the late F ort My­ers at­tor­ney James A. Franklin Jr., who died in October 2015 at age 91. Franklin had en­listed in the Navy in 1942 and served as act­ing chief quar­ter­mas­ter on a de­stroyer es­cort in the Pa­cific.

Frank Pavese (left) in younger days, re­lax­ing in the woods with two friends.

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