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Battle of the Bulge veteran reflects on wartime experiences

By MARY THERESE BIEBEL | The Times-Leader | Published: December 19, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — “This is the Purple Heart, this is the Bronze Star and here’s the Combat Infantry Badge,” Frank X. Steinberg said, pointing one by one to the tiny military medal pins that adorn his hat.

“This is the Good Conduct Medal,” said the Kingston, Pennsylvania, resident, who is soon to turn 95. “That’s the hardest one to earn.”

Why?

“Because,” he said, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “You have to be good. You can’t go AWOL or anything.”

Steinberg, a World War II veteran who was wounded 75 years ago this month — on Dec. 26, 1944, to be exact — in the famous Battle of the Bulge, prefers to talk about the more lighthearted aspects of his service.

For example, while he never went AWOL in the field, he admits he did sneak out of the Atlantic City, N.J., hospital where he was recuperating from surgery on his wounded arm.

“Who should walk in but her?” he said, remembering how he was enjoying a beer at a nearby bar when the military nurse who was taking care of him in the hospital showed up.

Army Lt. Clara C. Hanks was not pleased and walked Steinberg back to the hospital explaining, “I’m not gonna be up all night with you bleeding.”

The patient wasn’t angry at his nurse. In fact, maybe he was even touched by her concern.

Within a few months they were seeing each other romantically, and after they got married , the new Mr. and Mrs. Steinberg moved to the groom’s hometown of Kingston and raised a family.

The next decades were good ones, Steinberg said, explaining he enjoyed more than 40 years working with the Veterans Administration in Wilkes-Barre, watching his family grow and regularly getting together with fellow veterans — including “the Dirty Dozen,” as they called themselves, who had enlisted before they graduated from Kingston High School.

Now only Steinberg and his friend Jim Walsh are left from that group. His wife has died, too.

Steinberg thinks about the old days quite often — how the wave of patriotism that swept the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor led him and his friends to enlist; how he worked as a clerk and as a military policeman, saw action in the Battle of Geilenkirchen and then took part in the Battle of the Bulge.

“We started to go into north central Germany toward Hannover. That was our position to take,” he said. “At night we heard cannons and everything going.”

“The worst thing is having the guy going along next to you get shot and there’s nothing you can do about it. You want to help but (somebody shouts) ‘The medic will take care of him. The medic will take care of him.’”

On Dec. 26, the day after Christmas 1944, it was Steinberg’s turn to come under fire. His left arm took a hit.

“It went in one side and came out the other,” he said, explaining his ulnar nerve was damaged and he has had difficulty moving his hand ever since.

Still, he considers himself lucky to have survived the Battle of the Bulge. And to have had his military service lead him to his bride. And, nowadays, to spend time with his three daughters, Mary Lou Steinberg and Rose Senunas, who live locally, and Clara Marie Derks, who visits from Michigan.

©2019 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)
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