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American Veteran: His mom hoped he'd patrol Coney Island. Instead, he was a witness to history

Frank DeVita, veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, holds a picture of himself in uniform when he served in World War II.
Amanda Lalezarian
Frank DeVita, veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, World War II.

To commemorate Veterans Day, the American Homefront Project collaborated with the PBS documentary series American Veteranand the companion podcast, American Veteran: Unforgettable Stories, to profile men and women who have served in the U.S military.

As a teenager in the 1940s, Frank DeVita was eager to go fight in World War II. As soon as he graduated high school, he enlisted in the branch of the military that promised to deploy him the fastest: the U.S. Coast Guard.

“My mom was very happy when I went into the Coast Guard because she thought I was going to patrol the beach off Coney Island,” DeVita recalled.

But after just six weeks of training, he was sent to Europe. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, DeVita worked on a landing craft transporting infantry to invade Omaha Beach on the coast of Nazi-occupied France.

Decades later, DeVita shared his memories of that day and the aftermath that haunted him for more than 70 years.

Frank DeVita was recorded by Insignia Films for GBH. 

This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. 

Funding for the American Homefront Project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Funding for American Veteran was provided by the Wexner Family Charitable Fund, Battelle, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, JPMorgan Chase &Co., and Analog Devices.

Elizabeth Friend grew up in North Carolina listening to public radio in the backseat of the family station wagon. She has been reporting and producing at WUNC since 2016, covering everything from Army history to armadillos. She's also the co-founder of the beloved summer event series Audio Under The Stars. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the outside world with her family, dabbling in esoteric crafts, and cheese.