|John M. Krol
422 I & R
106th Infantry Division
|KIA between 44-12-16 & 4-12-21.
Email from daughter 2/2008.
My father graduated with a Bachelor degree from City College. of New York. The only thing he wanted was to teach. He was drafted in 1942 (90-day wonder). He always said, " I have 50 men depending on me; I'd rather lose my life than to have one of my men lose theirs."
They arrived at the front on December 11-all green troops. Since officers were allowed to ship an additional trunk....my father did. His men thought it wasn't like him to do that. When he got to the front lines, he opened it up. It was filled with long johns and dry socks for his men. That's the kind of man he was.
Around Dec 16, he was on his way (to or from) headquarters when he and and other soldiers were captured and taken prisoner. One man escaped-got back to his lines-and told them Lt Krol had been taken prisoner. A rescue party was formed. (with many volunteers).
From his men we heard............There was a group of 11 to 16 GI's being guarded by a Nazi soldier. The soldiers were in the open-forced to lie down in the snow. As the rescue party drew near..........my father saw them and ran in the opposite direction to draw the attention of the Nazi guard. He succeeded. He was killed, the rescue party saved the others. He earned a Purple Heart and a Silver Star.
From the Wallace's from Hattiesburg Ms...who wrote to my mother, their son was young and vowed to them he would never volunteer for any mission. He broke his word to them when he volunteered for the rescue party...because.... several days earlier......he was a driver....and was left outside in a jeep to guard it...and it was bitter cold. My father was inside HQ and called Pvt Wallace inside....told him he could watch the jeep from there. Pvt Wallace came inside, and within minutes the jeep was shelled and destroyed..but Pvt Wallace was safe, warm, and alive. His family was ever so grateful to my dad.
My Dad's Captain and Sgt Pilkington wrote us lovely, heart warming letters. My earliest childhood memory was at age 5. I was at Pinelawn National Military Cemetery in Long Island when my father was re-interred in the US. I remember rows of flag-draped caskets and the 21 gun salute. It was 1949.
I passed on the 6x9 foot flag to my oldest son last year. He's 37 now. I gave him the 106th Lion patch I still had, the silver bars, the dog tags and letters we received. Our family history rests on a single warm caring man, intelligent, conscientious, and dedicated, who died in the service to his country, and in deference to the lives of his men.......and we sorely miss never getting to really know him. I'm still emotional and cannot bear the sight of a flag-draped casket without breaking down. I'm proud of him, but I'm also bitter about his loss.
What is stranger still.....all of my life....even through the narrowest of escapes from whatever, I have always felt his presence. He has been my guardian angel.....and believe me.....he should be pretty well worn out by now...I take chances.....I fall down..... he's always been there to pick me up. We do have the strongest, strangest spiritual connection. And I thank him just for being there. In those famous words lies our truth...
"Johnny, we hardly knew ye!"
This picture of Dad and me in Indiana is my favorite.
Mom and I moved back to Pennsylvania in September 1944
Page last revised
James D. West