The Lone Survivor
by Mariel Macdonald
Frank Griffiths
Frank Griffiths, age 20.
Pictiure taken at base in Italy


          Frank Griffiths joined the Air Corps in 1942. He joined on his own terms choosing which branch he wanted to fight under. He was one of the men who fired from the planes. He flew on over 55 missions, all of which were successful.

The Beginning

    After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, everyone was being drafted into the Army, Navy, and Air Corps. Frank Griffiths did not want to be one of the hundreds of men forced into a part of the military that he would not find interesting. In 1942, he volunteered to join the Air Corps. It was better to volunteer because you were able to request which branch you would be a part of. Frank Griffiths wanted to fly.
    The troops were made up of about ten men. In the case of Mr. Griffiths, the men had all come from different states and they were all young men. The youngest were 18 and the eldest was 25. They called the 25 year old “Pappy”. Frank Griffiths was 18 years old when he volunteered for the Air Corps.


          When Mr.Griffiths was training at Kendall Field, Florida, his troop had one problem; they were flying at 2 o’clock in the morning at about 10,000 feet when an engine caught fire. They needed to bail out. For three months before they went overseas, Mr. Griffiths and the rest of the crew flew south out of Florida towards South America and then back up towards Louisiana to search the ocean for subs. 

Mr. Griffiths recieved his wings
when he entered the Air Corps

In The War

    The men moved overseas, flying a B-24 called My Aching Back. They were stationed in North Africa, flying at least 15 missions from this base. They lived in tents that held six men. They always had enough food to eat, and when they were not flying, they could go into the town and do what they wanted. On the first mission, they lost their co-pilot when their planes was hit by flak. He lost both of his legs.

Dog Tags
Frank Griffiths wore these
dog tags throughout the war

          The men later moved out of Africa and moved into a town in Italy just north of Torinas. From Italy, they flew about 40 missions  bombing countries from the African air base and every mission was successful. The men lived in brick houses that had been built by a troop who had been stationed there before and left. There was always something going on. The airbase Foggia in Italy was bombed by Germans many times between 1942 and 1945, which is when Mr. Griffiths was stationed there.“It was a very helpless feeling,” stated Mr. Griffiths.
          During every mission, the Luftwaffe, the German air force, attacked the planes so the mission would fail. However, Mr. Griffiths and his crew never failed a mission. The men could never think about what would happen if they failed, everyone was depending on the others to do their jobs. If one person stopped to think, they could all die and the mission would fail. Everyone had to keep working to keep the pilot safe. “[When flying,] You didn’t know what to expect until you had a few missions under your belt.” Mr. Griffiths said. “The more you flew, the more experience, but you still had the fear.” He continued.
          Mr. Griffiths’ crew bombed over 55 total missions including some in Romania, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Southern France. On June 6, they bombed southern France. On Christmas Day 1944, they bombed outside of Rome. There was a day when the plane was flying at about 2,500 feet and Mr. Griffiths was hit by flak in the leg. Fortunately, this was his only injury. The rest of the men in the crew were not so lucky. Over the course of the war, he was the only member to live through the war. The nine other men died in service.  He says it was ''just fate, the good Lord didn't want me." He calls himself, “The Lone Survivor”.
          After all his companions had died, he flew as an extra on other missions. If a man was killed or hurt/sick, he would stand in. The missions could be completed with the help of extras. No matter how brave these men who fought in the wars had to be, they were still scared. Mr. Griffiths said, “You were either scared or crazy!” 

                    Part of Parachute                                                                                gas mask
                This is a piece of Frank Griffiths                                                                                Frank Griffiths original gas mask
                parachute. The blue writing tell
                the company that made it and the date
                it was made his crew signed it and

Back Home, After The War

          When Frank Griffiths left the war in 1945, he was a very different person. Now, 21 years old, he had different ideas about life. He learned about independence and how important to growing up it is. He learned self-control and friendship. Making up one's mind and learning to be independent are part of growing up. Mr. Griffiths was glad no one tried to stop him from going to volunteer. He learned about self-control when he realized that everything he did affected the whole crew and whether they were successful on their mission or not. Mr. Griffiths learned about friendship as he began to get to know his crewmembers and learn how deeply they relied on each other to live. When Mr. Griffiths returned to the United States, he was unwilling to speak of the pain he had gone through and the horrors he had witnessed for eight months. “As time passes by, [the pain] eases up.” Mr. Griffiths explained. His friends from before the war returned home. However, they all went their separate ways. 

Medals and Awards 

          When Frank Griffiths was hit in the leg with flak, he received the Purple Heart. He was also awarded the Good Conduct Medal and one bar, the Air Medal and two bars,and the European Award which was one bar.

Air Medal           Good Conduct Award               European Award
                                   Air Medal                                  Good Conduct Award                                          European Award.


Primary Sources

Griffiths, Frank. Personal Interview. 3 December 2003.

Griffiths, Frank. Personal Interview. 12 January 2003.

"The Air War." This Fabulous Century. Ed. Time Magazine. USA: Time-Life Books INC, 1988. 20.

Secondary Sources

"Americans In The Second World War." Rise Of the American Nation. 1977 ed.

"The Air War." This Fabulous Century. Ed. Time Magazine. USA: Time-Life Books INC, 1988. 19.