Mr. Frank Gruber was a good ole boy from Florence, Alabama. He attended school and helped out on the farm with his father. He served in the army and was drafted before his final year of high school in 1943. This came the same year his elder brother was killed in service as a marine in the Pacific.
Upon being drafted, he was sent to Ft. McClellan and received chemical warfare training. His unit was then put on a boat to the European Theatre, without any knowledge of where they might end up. They landed in Le Havre, France, and were welcomed with snow. The next morning, covered in mud from the melted snow, they stumbled around to find the mess hall. Through the next few years, Mr. Gruber would march across Europe, relieving concentration camps and guarding various posts.
In the deserted towns, the army would settle into the vacant houses during Mr. Gruber’s time. With a laugh, he remembers how the men would immediately run to find the cellars. These ghost towns would house his unit for two days, or sometimes two weeks. During their travels they used the autobahn, as it was well-guarded and clear.
In one fight, they had bunkered down in an abandoned building. As night fell, a guard thought that a German soldier had slipped past him. Till dawn, everyone was on pins and needles because there was no way to look for an enemy among their ranks. The next morning, they breathed a sigh of relief to find out there was no German among their ranks, as the guard had been mistaken.
At the end of their duty in Europe, the unit was sent to the Pacific Theatre. Mr. Gruber enjoyed a rich time with the army parades around the Northeast. He went to the Smithsonian on leave while he waited to be discharged from Ft. Lee in Virginia.
Upon his arrival back home, Mr. Gruber admits to causing a lot of trouble. He finished his high school degree and began working as a carpenter. Eventually, a union carpenter convinced Mr. Gruber to become a union carpenter himself. He was given a gold watch by the union for fifty years of good-standing service. To this day, Mr. Gruber is extremely proud of this accomplishment.
Mr. Gruber married in 1951 and is about to celebrate his sixtieth wedding anniversary.