By FRANK DESORBO
Someone was watching over Angelo Picarazzi.
World War II brought us millions of stories, “The Greatest Generation” and memories that we must not let fade away. On June 4, 2011, I arranged a two-hour event to honor and recognize our military veterans who participated in the Normandy Invasion – better known as D-Day of June 6, 1944. I produced booklets for the first three years of the event, and now I will create a book of the events and my good friend Angelo Picarazzi. He inspired me to do many things, and some of his quotes still ring in my head.
Angelo was in the 9th Infantry Division when he hit the shore on Day 3. Being a young 18-year-old on the beach, he said he “ate a lot of sand that day.” He told me many times the driver of the Higgins Boat “was more afraid that we were.” When the gate dropped, he sunk with 75 pounds of gear. He shed the gear and swam to the shore with nothing but his clothes. He told me of the swim, “You’d be amazed what the human body can do.”
His survival that day on Omaha Beach was the first of a 9-month journey through France, that included the Hurtgen Forest and the Ardennes before his military service ended with his third wound in the village of Remagen. During that period, he saw action in major battles along the way. He told me that the combat veterans were the soldiers who saw the enemy face to face.
He fought in the Battle of St. Lo and the Hedgerows, and he had a book that he used to pinpoint a picture of the road he walked down. He said, “many French people did not like the Americans and blamed us for ruining their town.” And he constantly reminded me, “I turned 19 years old in a foxhole during the Battle of St. Lo.”
Then they walked from St. Lo through the hedgerows and into Belgium. He received his first wound on Aug. 4. He recovered and was sent back to the lines and moved forward into the Battle of the Bulge. He cursed our bombers because his “unit was so close to the enemy that they felt the bombs and trees falling.” On Dec. 23, 1944, he received his second shrapnel wound that kept him out of action for about 10 days. Then it was back to lines and into Germany as he crossed the Remagen Bridge before it collapsed. His group was fighting in the village when the bridge collapsed on U.S. engineers. On March 15, 1944 he was wounded in his leg. “I felt I was going to get hit that day, and that SOB in front of me wasn’t running fast enough.” The wound ended his combat duty. He spent eight months recovering, which left him with an “admiration for nurses.” His last two wounds occurred on two days before important holidays: Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day. I always felt his name Angelo was so appropriate because “he lived with the angels.”
Every June 6, I have deep-hearted feelings for my friend, all veterans and that tragic and triumphant day of June 6, 1944. When I spoke for Angelo’s eulogy in June 2017, I ended it with “maybe you’ll see them in the next life.”
Frank DeSorbo is a Capital District resident and president of D-Day Revisited Association.