80 Years Since D-Day Invasion, Son of Coast Guard Gunner Preserves History

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Media, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

Frank DeVita wore this jacket with pride, nearly every day for the last 10 years of his life.

His medals and patches tell a story of bravery, but DeVita had a different recollection of June 6th, 1944.

“Everybody in that generation was called heroes, and he would say, ‘I’m not a hero,’ not to be humble or anything, but he would say, ‘I’m not a hero. The people who are heroes are the people that are buried there still.’ He continually vocalized that.”

DeVita passed away in 2022 at age 96. This treasure trove of history, albums, documents, and even Frank’s uniforms will soon be displayed in the National Coast Guard Museum in Connecticut. But for now, it lives at home with his youngest son, Richard, in Hoboken.

D-Day – the largest sea invasion in history. DeVita, a 19-year-old from Bensonhurst, was a Coast Guard gunner on the U.S.S. Samuel Chase. He was in charge of dropping the ramp on a Higgins boat carrying soldiers from the Army’s 1st Infantry Division during the first attack wave on Omaha Beach, exposing them to German machine gun bullets.

In a 2020 interview with the American Veterans Center, DeVita was still haunted by his memories of the sea, dyed red with blood.

“And the guy that was two feet away from me, the machine gun took his helmet off and part of his brain, and he was crying, ‘Help me, help me, help me!’ I had no morphine. I couldn’t help. The only thing I had was the Lord’s Prayer. And he died. He was just a little boy.”

Plagued with survivor’s guilt for decades, DeVita went on to live a happy life. He married his childhood friend Dottie Guardino at St. Finbar Church in Bath Beach, raised three children, and provided for his family as a pattern maker in New York’s fashion industry before becoming a Knight of Columbus.

“I said to myself, ‘What the hell just happened? And how come I’m still alive? How come I’m still alive?'”

But no amount of happy memories could replace what took up room in his subconscious.

“You wouldn’t notice it day to day. I noticed it more when he was sleeping. He talked in his sleep, he tossed and turned, and he moaned a lot in his sleep. I think that’s how his PTSD or subconscious tried to deal with it.”