Book reunites WWII vets in Monroeville
Although their paths never crossed while they worked at Westinghouse Electric Company for more than 40 years, a mention in a book brought retirees Harry McCracken and Frank Kravetz together to recall their World War II experiences.
When McCracken, a retired supervisor in Westinghouse’s nuclear division, read Kravetz’s personal account about his capture and survival at a German prisoner of war camp, he learned their paths had crossed in Moosburg, Germany, where he was part of a convoy that found the camp where Kravetz was held.
McCracken tracked down Kravetz through a local VFW post, and then went to see him at his house.
Kravetz penned a personal note to McCracken inside the book. “He signed the book: ‘Thank you for liberating me,’ ” McCracken said.
Before McCracken left for the war, he made a promise to his mother that he would find his brother, Milton.
And he did.
McCracken, who served as a combat medic during World War II, was part of a small convoy that arrived at a prisoner of war camp in Moosburg, in April of 1945. There, he found his brother, Milton.
McCracken who lives in Penn Township, described the improbable sequence of events, that ended when he “happened to rescue” his brother, with the same nonchalance you might recall a restaurant order.
“There were so many — I call them coincidences. But our mother was a godly woman, and her prayers were being answered,” he said.
McCracken, 92, joined Kravetz at a book signing Sunday, the 70th anniversary of his capture by German soldiers, at Concordia of Monroeville. Like McCracken’s brother, Milton, Kravetz, 91, was captured after his plane was shot down during a bombing mission.
Sunday’s date, Nov. 2, has special meaning to Kravetz, who named his book “Eleven Two” in reference to the way that day seemed to define his war years.
On that day in 1943, he left his childhood home in East Pittsburgh to join the Army Air Corps.
Exactly one year later, he volunteered to fill in for his bomber’s tail gunner.
During that mission, a cannon shell from a German fighter struck him in the leg before his crew mates threw him from their crippled bomber as they bailed out.
A year to the day after that mission, Kravetz was discharged from the Army.
The generation that came of age during World War II was a stoic bunch, and many compartmentalized the war years as they got on with their lives.
“None of us talked about it,” McCracken said.
Kravets describes in his book how other returning soldiers jeered at him when he told them he’d been a prisoner shortly after he returned. He married his sweetheart from his pre-war years, Anne. They settled in Chalfant.
“Sixty-eight years later, we’re still married,” Anne said. “It must have worked.”
Kravetz eventually became a purchasing agent for Westinghouse Electric Company.
Some close confidants and family knew Kravetz’s story, and he later joined the American Ex-Prisoners of War Organization, where he volunteered as a service officer, helping other former prisoners of war apply for benefits. He served a stint as the group’s national director.
Later, the concept for his book began when he decided he wanted to leave a 10- or 15-page booklet he could pass on to his family.
Kravetz’s daughter, Cheryl Werle, met with him at night for more than two years, recording his recollections to type them up in a manuscript. The book that took shape — a memoir 286 pages long — was published Nov. 2, 2010.
Gideon Bradshaw is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2369 or [email protected].