Bio: Zank, Frank (Service Recognition - 2014)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Zank, Miller, Domenski, Lewerenz, Hake, Wulf, Eddy, Kunze, Schmidt, Walker

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co, WI) 9/17/2014

Zank, Frank (Service Recognition - 2014)

Zank recognized for military service

Frank Zank, 95, Neillsville, is being recognized by the
Neillsville American Legion for dedicated service to his
Country as a pilot link trainer in WWII

(Photo by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)

By Todd Schmidt

The Neillsville American Legion is recognizing Frank Zank, 95, Neillsville, for his dedicated service to his country.

Zank does not wish to make an official appearance at a monthly Legion meeting to accept any accolades, but he was willing to share time at his kitchen table Friday to review his life and unique role training pilots in WWII.

Zank enlisted in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) March 3, 1942. “I would have been drafted anyway,” Zank said. WWII was in full force at that time.

His journey started at Camp Grant in Illinois. He moved on to Jefferson Barracks in Missouri for basic training and then to Tallahassee, FL, to join a training unit. Zank was transferred to Santa Ana, and Murock, CA, to work in the field of communications. He was then sent back to Scotfield, IL, to finish concentrated schooling as a radio operator and mechanic.

While stationed in Scotfield he married Jeanette Miller, May 1, 1943.

Zank was assigned to a facility in Lomita, CA, where many pilots were trained. He got to come home on leave for two weeks before being sent overseas as part of the 383rd Fighter Squadron, 364th Fighter Group.

He was part of a group of approximately 5,000 men who left from the New York harbor on the Queen Elizabeth luxury liner for a five-day trip to Liverpool, England.

“Most of us slept below the deck in quarters fixed with bunks four-high,” Zank recalled. “We didn’t see much. The weather wasn’t bad going over. They were scared of enemy submarines, so we dodged all over the ocean.”

Because it was an English ship, rations were mainly English food. “Many of us were farm boys,” Zank said. “They fed us a lot of boiled pork. It was not our idea of how it should have been fixed. Fried or in a stew would have been better.”

They traveled by train to the airfield in Honington, England. Zank spent 19 months there, advancing swiftly from a radio operator to a link trainer. He achieved the highest test score, qualifying as the top instructor.

The USAF was upgrading from the P38 to the far superior P51 fighter plane. Zank trained pilots to boy with instruments, a vital skill needed due to the often overcast and gloomy weather conditions and the need to fly many missions at night.

“We lost a lot of pilots before I got over there,” Zank said. “We needed to give them something more to go on. There were a few wise guys who thought they knew it all, but most of them realized they needed the training.”

Pilots in Zank’s squadron escorted bombers to their targets.

When the war ended in May of 1945, Zank and other members of his squadron flew over Germany at altitudes of 200 feet to assess the damage from the relentless bombings and other ravages of war.

“The damage was so extensive, I wonder how anyone could have survived,” Zank said. “Everything was blown apart.”

Zank and other elated troops left Honington on a small ship called the Liberty. They sailed back into the New York harbor and then traveled to Fort Sheridan, IL, where they were honorably discharged from the USAF. Zank served his country for three years and six months, getting out early due to the point system and the fact the war was over.

“I’m very proud of my service time,” Zank said. “It meant a lot to me.”

Zank received recognition as a link trainer/instructor 970. He achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant with four stripes. He was decorated with three overseas service stars, the European/African Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon with one Silver Battle Star and one Good Conduct Medal.

After his discharge, Zank hitchhiked all the way home with Adrian Domenski from the Cadott area. “We were really lucky,” Zank said. “People seemed glad to give us rides.”

Frank Zank (kneeling, fourth from left) and other members of the 383rd Fighter Squadron, 364th
Fighter Group poses for a photo in May 1945, the day after WWII ended. The group flew over
Germany, at low altitudes that day to assess damage from bombings and other ravages of war

(Contributed Photo)

Zank then went to work at the American Dairy Store plant in Neillsville, which was located where the new fire station is now. In the spring of 1946, he and Jeanette went to work on the Otto Lewerenz farm. They got little time off and never owned a car.

Two years later, they took over his parents’ farm in the Sydney area (on Maple Ave). They stayed there for 15 years until they purchased the Hake farm, where Zank still resides.

Through the years they expanded to 420 acres and increased the dairy herd from 40 cows to 110 cows. They added two Harvestores (silos) and constructed an addition on the barn. Zank farmed there until retiring at age 69. His wife passed away in September of 2011.

Zank loved to bowl. At one point, his average was up to 180. He finally had to quit bowling two years ago due to leg problems.

He still does a lot of reading, particularly Zane Grey stories. He enjoys watching old westerns on TV and cheering for the Packers, Badgers and Brewers.

Zank served on the board of directors for a dairy cooperative and a transportation company. He was on the church council when the merger took place forming the Neillsville United Church of Christ.

Zank is the son of Bill and Emma Zank. He was born on the home farm Sept. 25, 1918.

He grew up on the farm, doing everything from milking cows to doing fieldwork with horses. The family also put up countless gallons of maple syrup.

He was raised with two sisters, Leona and Grace; and seven brothers, Edward, Walter, Albert, Robert, Louis, Harold and Charles. Leona and Louis are still living.

Zank attended the Silver Crest Grade School (corner of Sydney & King) through eighth grade. He graduated from Neillsville High School in 1937. He and his siblings walked over three miles to high school each day.

Zank played as a pitcher/outfielder with the Neillsville city baseball team before he entered the service. He fondly recalls coming back from the service and pitching a win over the Black River Falls team.

He and Jeanette raised seven children, Linda (Stu) Wulf, Ronald (Amber) Zank, Donna (Dennis) Eddy, LuAnne (Bud) Eddy, Wanda (Mark) Kunze, Dale (Stacey) Zank and Lori (Brad) Schmidt. They have been blessed with numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Zank’s family participated in a Legacy Stone ceremony at The Highground Aug. 26, 2006, recognizing his military service.

“My dad is the most honest person we have ever met,” said his daughter Donna, husband Dennis and son Greg Eddy at the legacy Stone ceremony. “Today, we honor dad but realize our mother was at his side doing the same things to make all of us children better people.”

Zank said the American military today is overreaching its bounds.

“We went too far, especially in the Middle East,” he said. “We should get out of those Middle East countries, and let them do what they want to do to each other.”

(Added Note)


Hi: I was scanning through 364th topics and happened to see the article about Frank Zank. I was a member of the 383rd Fighter Squadron stationed at Honington AF Base in England. I remember Frank and the position he had with the squadron. I remember him also as part of our baseball team as well as Bjork, who I think had a tryout with the NY giants (in civilian life.). The 364th had reunions in the years past and I think Frank attended one of them. We've had reunions until 2011 and have since discontinued them due to lack of members. We only had 9 active 364th FG members (and their families ) attend that one. I remember Frank and his area with the Link trainer. I was in supply (finally ended up as supply sgt.) at the time and when franks' trainer was free I had a trip in the blind cockpit. It was sort of a thrill for me. I am glad to see that Frank is being recognized for his service.

If you relay this e-mail to Frank please tell him I still remember the times we had in England. I am now living in Casselberry, Fl. near Disney, I still hear from a few members that are located all over the country. It is nice hearing from them. If he is on Facebook, a son of someone who was in the 385th FS. has started a Facebook 364th set. I don't do Facebook so I would just e-mail him. Glad to be in touch with him in some manner. HAPPY THANKSGIVING .



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