The danger in researching hundreds of shared experiences is the risk of becoming desensitized over time. The sheer scale of WWII consumed/affected vast resources and countless lives. Thus by default – depending on the branch of service – WWII vets share common narratives. Much of Mr. Louis Graziano’s service is not unique but we must guard against any tendency to gloss over simply because his story is one of millions. It would be a fool’s errand to capture every story, but we can become more appreciative by simply being fully present to those veterans we are lucky enough to encounter. Graziano experiences include a stormy (near capsizing) Atlantic crossing, the terror of V-1 bombs in London, D-day carnage on Omaha beach and, perhaps more uniquely, witnessing the momentous event of Germany’s surrender.
Facilitated by his daughter, Kim Evans, Graziano honored The Log Book with his signature on 7 December 2019 allowing us the awesome privilege of carrying his story.
Graziano joined the US Army in January 1943. After months of training he made the Atlantic crossing to the UK on the Queen Mary with sixteen thousand other troops. He describes in his memoirs a major storm seven hundred miles off the coast of Scotland. The ship was hit by a massive wave estimated at over ninety feet high. The ship rolled some 52 degrees, narrowly avoiding capsizing. One simply can not imagine the crippling and overwhelming fear encountered during such an experience – and yet this was just a foreshadowing of things to come . Safely ashore in England he boarded a train, bound for Camp Weston where he was put in Headquarters OISE Section Command-Z (APO 513).
Combat training continued at Camp Weston in UK for several weeks. One day a General came in and asked Graziano to go to London on a special mission for the army. Orders included strict instructions to keep his mandate classified. To this day, Graziano has not revealed the contents of the classified mission to anyone. The mission to London lasted about 6 weeks during which he experienced the terror and effects of V1 and V2 bombs – a common experience shared by fellow Log Book signatory Les Grafton .
“Mayor of Tent City”
Returning from London, Graziano was was made Utilities-NCO Sergeant, overseeing thirty-five men. He supervised them in plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, road building and construction – required to accommodate the large numbers of troops arriving in advance of invasion. In addition to the Nissen huts already built they have to erect some forty tents. This earned Graziano the nickname “Mayor of Tent City”.
His next assignment was to travel 700 miles south. Here he would board the ships that would take them across the channel for the invasion. It took three full days to before all the ships were loaded. Graziano drove his tanker full of gasoline onto the Landing Ship, Tank (LST).
D-day, Omaha Beach
Onboard the LST, Graziano had no idea he would be landing in the 3rd wave on Omaha Beach. He would later drive his gasoline truck off the LST into the carnage of Normandy. Faced with heavy machine gun fire, and no cover on the beach, Graziano and his comrades scrambled out of their vehicles trying to hide among dead soldiers before making it to the limited safety of a cliff – pinned down by German troops firing down at them from a cliff side bunker above.
Reaching the cliff Graziano got a flamethrower and shot up underneath the bunker. Setting fire to the grass and brush it creates a fire big enough to force the Germans out of the bunker.
Hedgerows and frostbite
Mr Graziano will also experience combat through the hedgerows of Saint-Lô. Later suffering severe frost bite during the Battle of the Bulge while out on a quest spanning several days. In an unheated Jeep he attempts to locate a company of Gen Patton’s troops who were needed in Bastogne. Somehow they had gotten lost and needed to be found. By the end of the mission Graziano’s feet are severely frostbitten. Spending the next three weeks in the infirmary avoided amputation by the smallest of margins.
In France his unit sets up Special Headquarters Command in Reims. He will be charged with keeping all of the buildings occupied by Americans in working order. Among the structures that Graziano is in charge of is the Little Red Schoolhouse. Here he will later witness the momentous historic occasion of Germany’s unconditional surrender in Europe. Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, German General Jodl, and Russian General Susloparov signs the German Instrument of Surrender at General Eisenhower’s Headquarters on 7 May 1945.
“I was honored. It was a great pleasure to be there. I felt sorry for all the men we had lost that helped us accomplish that.”Louis Graizano, present at the German surrender in Reims, on the monumental moment in history.
On the Facebook page dedicated to Louis Graziano and his published book “A Patriot’s Memoirs of World War II” the below image is posted -from the VE Parade in Reims May 8th, 1945 with Louis Graziano second from the right.
Hear Mr Graziano tell his story with his own words below.
Facilitated by his daughter Kim Evans, Graziano graciously signed the Log Book on 7 December 2019 in Thomson, GA – the 78th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Also present to witness the signing of The Log Book was Nick Devaux’s sister Mary and her husband Chris as well as Nick’s other brother in law John Day.
Thank you for the honor of carrying your story Sir.
Last Updated on 20 January 2023 by Nick Devaux