Biography: Frank Simek was born on March 6, 1926, in Deerbrook, Wisconsin. He was the son of Frank Simek and Victoria Franc and attended Blue Bell School through the 8th grade. His father owned a 40 acre farm and Frank grew up working hard from early morning till late at night.
Service Time: Frank entered the service on June 21, 1944, at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. After his basic and specialized tank destroyer training at Camp Hood, Texas, he was sent overseas as a replacement tank destroyer crewman and driver. He shipped out from the U.S. on January 31, 1945, and arrived in the E.T.O. on February 8th.
We believe he was assigned to the 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion, which had landed at Utah Beach on July 13, 1944, and participated in the Cobra breakout at the end of month. They advanced into Brittany and then raced east across France, passing north of Orleans, and crossed the Moselle River to Luneville in early September. They remained in the general area through October.
The 704th fought in Morhange region in November and crossed the Saar River by month’s end. Deployed to Ardennes on December 19th, they fought around Bastogne in January, 1945, then moved back south. It would be about this time that Frank joined the unit as they advanced into Germany near Sinz, in February. They encountered fighting through the Siegfried Line and into the Saar-Moselle triangle. The 704th supported the drive to Bitburg in March and reached Rhine by mid-month. They crossed the river on March 24th, at Nierstein and then roared east to Gotha by April 4th, passing through the Harz Mountains to Bayreuth in late April. They finally entered Czechoslovakia at Volyne on May 6th.
At some point, Frank transferred out of the unit and into either the 773rd or 602nd Tank Destroyer Battalions. His records identify that he served in both these additional units. His late entry in the Army required him to continue serving for occupational duties. He remained in the ETO until he shipped home on June 11, 1946, arriving back in the U.S. on the 18th. He left the service on the 23rd at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, at the rank of Technician 5th Grade. Frank received credit for the campaigns of Rhineland and Central Europe and was awarded the WWII Victory, EAME, the Army of Occupation and Good Conduct Medals. He also received the Distinguished Unit Badge, possibly for actions of the 704th, from December 22, 1944, through March 27, 1945. One of the items Frank brought back was a ship's newsletter, published on the voyage home. You can see the newsletter below:
Many of the men brought back souvenirs or "War Trophys" from their time overseas. The men had to declare the items and have paperwork (capture-papers) authorizing the property. Frank brought back a German P-38 pistol and a German camera. You can see Frank's Certificate below:
Now back in the U.S., he operated a small, family-owned grocery store. On July 27, 1947, he married the former Angeline Ann Sobon, who was born in Chicago, Il and was the daughter of Thomas Sobon and Tekla Bogacz. Frank also worked as a master carpenter for small companies, which would lead him to a position as construction quality assurance inspector of the US Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Sheridan. He was forced to retire in 1968 due to a back injury. The couple would have two children, Daniel, born in 1948, and Elaine in 1955. In his spare time, Frank enjoyed woodworking, and building homes that the family lived in. Over the years, they lived in Deerbrook, WI, and Chicago, Bensenville, Lake Zurich and McHenry, IL.
The photo at left is Frank, posing with an M18 Tank Destroyer, like ones used by both the 704th and 602nd. This particular TD was on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground's "Mile of Tanks", located in Maryland. Frank visted there with his son in 1993.
Frank passed away on November 21, 1996, and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery in Antigo, Wisconsin. I want to thank Frank's son, Daniel, for providing the information and photos for this tribute. Frank's service made an impression on young Daniel who would go on to serve in the USAF and retire as a Lt. Colonel. We want to thank both Simek's for their service.