in Our Midst
Corporal Frank Sanzi, Paratrooper Korean
NORTH ANDOVER - On June 25, 1950
the North Korean Army, bolstered by Soviet tanks and
aircraft, invaded South Korea.
Immediately, President Harry Truman ordered General
Douglas MacArthur to transfer ammunition and supplies
from Japan to the ROK (Republic of Korea) Army and
provide limited air support. On June 27th, Truman
authorized the use of U.S. land, sea and air forces in
South Korea. The newly formed United Nations also
condemned this act of
aggression and a week later placed the forces of 15
member nations under U.S. command to oppose the North
Korean Army. President Truman appointed MacArthur as the
The U.S. 8th Army, stationed in Beppu, Japan, was rushed
to South Korea to stem the invasion and assist ROK forces
retreating to the southern tip of the peninsula. One
member of the 8th Armys 24th Division, 19th
Infantry, was Frank Sanzis brother, Sergeant First
Class Robert D. Sanzi. Sergeant Sanzi was a World War II
infantryman who had decided to stay in the Army at the
conclusion of the war. Now he was being sent into battle
in a new war.
Shortly after Robert was sent to Korea, the Sanzi family
received a telegram from the Army dated July 17, 1950
stating that their son was missing in action
somewhere on the South Korean peninsula. The news
devastated the Sanzis, but one member of the family
decided to take action and do something about it. Frank
Sanzi, Roberts close brother, immediately told his
father that he was going to join the service, get sent to
Korea and look for his brother. The following day Frank
went down to the Marine recruiter to sign up, but the
Marines would not guarantee that Frank would be sent to
paratrooper school, a requirement that Frank had strongly
stipulated. But the Army was more than accommodating and
promised Frank paratrooper training. And thats
where he signed his enlistment papers.
Within three days of the telegrams arrival, Frank
Sanzi had been sworn in and was on his way to Ft. Dix,
N.J. for twelve weeks of basic training. From here he was
sent to jump school at Ft. Benning, Ga. to train as a
paratrooper. After three weeks of grueling physical
instruction and jumping out of airplanes, Frank received
his parachutist wings and was sent to Ft. Campbell, Ky.
for further training as a member of C Company, 1st
Battalion, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (ARCT)
of the 11th Airborne Division.
It was here at Ft. Campbell, in the late fall of 1950,
that Frank volunteered to go to Korea. Two days later,
while Frank was undergoing airborne training, a staff car
pulled up and out stepped General James Gavin. The
general approached Frank and explained to him that there
was no further news about his brother. He then told Frank
that he didnt have to go to Korea because of his
brothers status as MIA. Frank simply told the
general, I want to find my brother.
Two weeks later Frank Sanzi received orders to Korea with
the 187th ARCT. After a brief leave to go home, Frank was
sent to Ft. Lewis, Wash. and then was put on a plane to
Honshu, Japan. This was the first time the military had
used airplanes instead of transport ships to get its
troops to a battlefield thousands of miles away. Frank
remembers that the trip over was first class.
In late November of 1950, before Frank arrived in Korea,
the Chinese had joined the North Koreans to counterattack
General MacArthurs brilliant amphibious landing at
Inchon. The Chinese knew that the North Koreans would be
quickly defeated without their help. The rejuvenated
enemy forces began to push MacArthurs forces back
towards the 38th Parallel.
The paratroopers of the 187th ARCT
had already made one combat jump on October 20, 1950 at
SukchanSunchon, about 20 miles northwest of Seoul.
Frank Sanzi had arrived too late to participate in that
jump, but was prepared for the next one.
That came on Good Friday, March 23, 1951 into an area
known as Munsan-Ni near the 38th Parallel. This was to be
part of Operation Tomahawk.
The 4000 troops of the 187th were crowded into C46, C47
and the C119 Flying Boxcar transports for the
All went well until after the landing when Franks
unit was ordered to take one of the nearby villages. At
that point, Frank says, All Hell broke loose!
Enemy soldiers poured into the area, backed up by
mortars. The fighting was heavy with hand-to-hand combat
as the G.I.s fought their way up a hillside. Frank Sanzi
was right in the thick of the battle. As he moved
forward, a North Korean or Chinese soldier caught Frank
off guard and bayoneted him in the inner thigh. Frank
recalls that the enemy had much longer bayonets on their
rifles than did the Americans.
The enemy soldier took a step backwards and proceeded to
finish Frank off with his bayonet. Wounded, Frank
couldnt get to his .45 side arm, but he was able -
just barely - to raise his M-2 sniper rifle
and fired off a burst that stopped the enemy soldier dead
in his tracks.
Sometime later, after medics had initially treated
Franks wounds he also had picked up some
shrapnel during the fighting Frank was rushed by
helicopter to an Army MASH unit behind the lines for
emergency surgery to stabilize his injuries. From there
he was transferred to a hospital in Sasebo, Japan for
further care and recovery. He would eventually spend two
months in the hospital, much of it to recover from some
gangrene which had set in after the first operation.
At this point in his life, Frank was only 19 years old.
But he was a battle-hardened soldier. So he was sent back
to the 187th to fight once again. Several months later in
September of 1952, with only one nights notice,
Frank Sanzi was asked to jump again into a combat
situation. The target drop was Taegu.
Frank landed without incident and was proceeding along
with the rest of the troops to the units objective
when Franks bayonet wound started to bleed. It had
not healed completely as the doctors had thought. At this
point, Franks commanding officer removed him from
combat and sent him back for further medical treatment.
Shortly afterwards, Frank was permanently
disqualified from any further military jumps.
Because of the wound, Franks C.O. told him he could
go back to the states and be discharged. But Frank
wasnt done looking for his brother yet. When the
C.O. told him that he needed a truck driver to take ammo
and supplies to the troops at the front, Frank quickly
volunteered. Based out of Uijongbu, Frank started driving
ammo and supply trucks up and around winding mountain
roads seven days a week to bring the needed goods to
Frank would continue driving supply trucks until shortly
before the end of the war when, in June of 1953, he was
finally sent home. This time Frank traveled back to
Seattle by slow troop transport, the USS Marine Adder
(AP-193). Frank chuckles when he notes that the military
was quick to send him over to Korea by airplane when it
needed him most, but was just as quick to put him onto a
slow boat back home when it no longer needed him.
The first thing that Frank did after getting home was go
to the North End for spaghetti and meatballs. He sorely
missed that old-fashioned Italian cooking.
Frank had spent two years in Korea and was no closer to
finding out what happened to his brother than when he had
left. That is, until he got home. When he arrived back home after the war, his father
told him for the first time that his brothers body
had been located by the Army approximately a year after
he was listed as missing in action. Roberts body
was subsequently sent back to Boston and he was buried in
Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain. During the entire
time Frank was in Korea, his parents had never told him
that his brother had been found. His father explained to
Frank that with all the stress he was under in Korea, the
family didnt want to burden him with the news that
his brother had been located. Frank still regrets to this
day that he was not at his brothers funeral.
Sergeant First Class Robert D. Sanzi would eventually
have a VFW post in the South End named in his honor and
to this day Castle Square in Boston is also sometimes
referred to as Sanzi Square.
Frank settled back into civilian life after the war and
went to work for his father in the furniture antiquing
business, eventually starting his own similar business.
That last-ed until 1967 when Frank decided he wanted a
little more excitement in his life and joined the
Merchant Marine. After only three weeks of training,
Frank was certified as a mariner on Group 4 fuel ships.
As one who is now used to danger, it is not surprising
that his first assignment was on a gasoline tanker
delivering fuel to Vung Tau, Vietnam during the Vietnam
War. Shortly after that harrowing trip, he switched to
tugboats out of East Boston. He worked on the tugboats
for 13 years until he retired in 1991.
In the early 1960s, Frank was introduced to Suzie
Bouchard by a family member in Charlestown. Frank asked
her for a date the following night, but on his way over
to her place his car broke down and he never made it. He
called her the next day and fortunately she forgave him
and they rescheduled the date. On November 11, 1961,
Frank and Suzie were married at St. Catherine of Siena
church in Charlestown. This Veterans Day will mark their
45th wedding anniversary.
The Sanzis have three grown children: Dianne, Daniel and
Francesca; and five grandchildren. Daniel would
eventually follow close in his fathers footsteps.
He became a Marine and as part of the 2nd Marine Division
fought in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in 1991. He is
currently a firefighter in Lawrence, after having worked
previously as a firefighter in North Andover.
Frank is a lifetime member of the Disabled American
Veterans. Frank was awarded the Purple Heart and other
campaign medals from the Korean War. However, he never
accepted or received them, explaining that the Purple
Heart reminded him too much of his brothers tragic
death on the battlefield.
Corporal Frank Sanzi, we thank you for your service to
Final note: Frank would like to dedicate this column to
All the boys who are overseas in Iraq. He
adds, I think about them often.
*Send your questions comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com
The November, 2006
Edition of the Valley Patriot
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