Monday, January 5, 2009

T5 Francis "Choc" Piacine 153rd Engineers

Francis “Choc” Piacine
153rd Engineers

Today January 5, 2009 is a sad day for me because Choc is gone. Now I must try and write this little blog story about one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. A man who in the forty some years that I had the pleasure to know was about as straight as you could be. I can’t think of time I ever heard him denigrate or say horrible things about any person. A man who helped me over the years with the things I could not do, like plumbing, cementing etc. He was always there for us. Choc always treated me great! And in the words from time gone by I can truly say “I knew Choc Piacine and I have no complaints”. He was my father in law.
I find it hard when I try to write up these blogs about all the men who served our country. Because its hard to get all that they did and what they stood for in a few paragraphs. I wanted to write his story up a few months ago, but as usual I let it go to long. But today I want to write up his story for he to is a hero, a hero to me and his family, another of that “Greatest Generation” who are leaving us at a too fast a rate.

T5 Francis “Choc” Piacine lived his whole life in Palo Alto. He served with the 153rd Engineers Company C, a heavy construction battalion from April 1943 until January 1946. Choc served in the Pacific Theatre of operations at New Guinea, Phillipines, and the occupation of Japan. Choc trained at Ft. Lewis Washington before shipping out the Pacific and landing in New Guinea.
The following narrative was recorded by me in an interview with Choc about 12 years ago.
“We shipped out as a battalion and were by ourselves. The troopships took the southern route, leaving San Francisco and arriving in Australia about thirty days later. From Australia, we went up to New Guinea and further on up to the northern coast, a place called Mathan Bay. They were still fighting in this area and when we landed the perimeter was right off the beach. You couldn’t go beyond the beach or you were in the jungle and that’s were the Japs were. We could see our aircraft bombing the Japs in the jungle. Most of the heavy bombing took place about a mile north of our position on the perimeter line. At this time there were no American troops north of the perimeter. It was a strange place, some of the local natives were head hunters so you couldn’t just walk off by yourself.
The main type of work we did in New Guinea was the building of runways, and air strip maintenance, road repair and what ever else was necessary to maintain an airbase. The famous P-38 pilot Dick Bong was there and flew out of the airfield we repaired. We stayed in New Guinea from May 1944 to September 1944, and then we boarded LST’s and landed in Leyte in the Philippines. The Philippines were stilled occupied by the Japs and there was a lot of fighting going on there. We once again were assigned the duty of maintain the airfields and landing strips for P-38’s. Our field was bombed by the Japs pretty hard and there was a lot of bomb damage that needed constant repair. While in Leyte, we also maintained the docks, ran a rock quarry and built a reservoir that supplied fresh water for the ships. We built floating docks for the invasion of Manila, and also lots of barges for the troops to use in the invasion of Luzon. After staying in the Philippines for a few months my unit was slated for the up coming invasion of Japan. We were taken out of the heavy construction and put into the Combat Engineers. Our responsibility was the clearing of mine fields when we got to the beaches. Fortunately the invasion of Japan never took place, because we dropped the atomic bomb. But then they sent us to Japan as an occupation force.
On the way to Japan we were on a ship [that was damaged in a typhoon. We had to abandon the ship and were transferred to a destroyer. We went over to the destroyer on a boatsin chair. That was a pretty hairy event in the rough seas. We landed in Yokohama and were near the Jap sub base that was located there. It was never touched by all the bombing raids, they actually kept the torpedoes up in the mountains in caves. We stayed in Japan for a few months and then we returned home to the states and the war was over.”

Choc worked all of his adult life as a Pipe Fitter/ Welder working for Wertz Engineering out of Reading Pa. Hre was a life member of the Amvets and Post 2198 VFW Orwigsburg, Pa. He was married to Margaret Wood Piacine and had two children, Danielle, and Francis. His son Francis retired as a Lt.Col in the Army having served in Iraq. Franks story is in another blog on this site.

Choc, his Daughter Danielle, Son Frank and Great Grandson Nathaniel

You are sadly missed by all Choc.



Bob Hadorn said...

My father is 88 years old and was recently at our home in Kansas City. We googled 153rd Engineer Army and found your story of Choc. I could not believe my eyes as we read Choc's account of where and when he was in New Guinea, the Philippines etc...his entire account was exactly word for word the same as my fathers. My father had been placed into that division and specifically recalled that many of the men were from Pennsylvania area. I have another story of how my uncle was near Ernie Pyle when he was shot. If you have any resources to help me confirm some of the details I could share the rest of the story as I know it. Thanks for the story on "Choc"!

Courtney said...

My grandfather was also in the 153rd combat engineers. He never shared his experience however, I'm able to corroborate Choc's tale as his tale via the photos I have of him during his WWII days. Thank you for sharing so many details. It's shed a great light on our family history!

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was in the 153rd combat engineers. I google the 153rd engineers after finding some old pictures of him in the war. We have pictures of him and his friends at New Guinea and Leyte Islands. Thanks for posting this article.

Bob Hadorn said...

Where was your grandfather from? Could you possibly post or email copies of the pictures? Thanks for sharing