Harry Franko

Rifleman Harry Franko, H10994
Selkirk, Manitoba 
The Royal Winnipeg Rifles 

Harry Franko was born on 13 February  1925 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A. He moved to Canada at 5 years of age. He was the oldest of five children who lived in East Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada. His father and mother, named William and Stella Franko, were married 23 November  1922 in Minneapolis. The Franko family was a member of the Greek Catholic church. He was 13 when he left school in grade 6. Harry spoke only English.

According to the military records he had a happy home life. He was also well built (5’ 4 ¾ “, 136lbs). Has good health. He enjoys reading western books and detective stories and likes modern music but doesn’t play any instrument.  In sports he played softball, baseball, and football.  As well, Harry enjoyed the company of others and went to 2 or 3 dances a week.  He also went to the movies 2 or 3 times a week.

Harry belonged to the “Young People’s Club” and the record states that he “drinks very little and has never been in trouble with the law; helps out on a farm where he would usually work with the tractor.” Harry worked for Manitoba Rolling Hills as a laborer for one year. He did not want to return to that job after the war. He wanted to join the paratroopers when he was enlisting but ended up as a rifleman in the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. He enlisted 18  August 1943.   He would have been 18 years old.

On 18 August  1943 Private Harry Franko enlisted in the Canadian Army. He was taken on strength into unit district depot no. 10 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The same day he enlisted they granted him leave without pay from 18 to 22  August 1943 to say goodbye to his family and friends. On 30 August , Harry was posted to “B” company to unit district depot no. 10 in Winnipeg.  A few weeks later on 19 September he is taken on strength to Basic Training Centre in Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, MB to begin his training. On 13 November  1943 he is struck off strength on transfer to Camp Shilo, Manitoba.  Unfortunately, he is granted leave in early November but is late in returning to base and on 28 December 28 1943 absent without leave from 0600 hours.  He was probably out dancing or at the movies and did not want to leave his friends.  As a result of his absence he loses 6 days of pay.  However, this is not the end of being absent without leave.  Harry loses 12 more days of pay for being absent without leave after a furlough from 31 January  to 13 February 1944.

On 6 June 1944, 0900 hours, the Little Black Devils, also known as the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, landed within 7 minutes of their pre- arranged landing time. As noted in the war diary of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, “despite air bombardments failing to materialize, Royal Navy bombardment, spotty rockets falling short, Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers’ and duplex drives’ being late” the infantry pressed forward on the beach.

“B” company landed at the western edge of the coastal village of Courseulles where the bombardment had missed its targets.  The landing craft arrived on “Mike red” sector just to the west of the Seulles River before support vehicles (Duplex drive floating tanks and Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers’) arrived leaving the infantry vulnerable to withering German machine and mortar fire on the beach. The soldiers of Winnipeg Rifles landed under heavy fire from one of the strong points while they were still off shore. Since the artillery support had failed to hit its targets and the vehicle support was still being shipped in the landing crafts the Winnipeg Rifles had to storm the German defenses “cold”. “B” company took the beach defenses, cleared the small harbor, and drove a gap through the minefield. They cleared the enemy out of the island the island in the river Seulles. The German machine guns and mortar positions on the island only gave up when surrounded by infantry.  A great sight of courage occurred in a pillbox on the west side of the Seulles River. Corporal Klos of “B” company was a big powerful man nicknamed “BULL”.  He got shot once in the stomach and once in the leg on his way to a German pillbox. Using his rage he staggered up to the beach, shot one enemy, dropped his rifle, and fought another German with his bare hands. Bleeding into the sand, Corporal Klos died with his hands around the throat of an enemy. At the end of the day “B” company had been reduced to Capt. P.E. Gower (company commander) and 26 men.

On 6 June 1944, 0900 hours, the Little Black Devils, also known as the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, landed within 7 minutes of their pre- arranged landing time. As noted in the war diary of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, “despite air bombardments failing to materialize, Royal Navy bombardment, spotty rockets falling short, Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers’ and duplex drives’ being late” the infantry pressed forward on the beach.

“B” company landed at the western edge of the coastal village of Courseulles where the bombardment had missed its targets.  The landing craft arrived on “Mike red” sector just to the west of the Seulles River before support vehicles (Duplex drive floating tanks and Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers’) arrived leaving the infantry vulnerable to withering German machine and mortar fire on the beach. The soldiers of Winnipeg Rifles landed under heavy fire from one of the strong points while they were still off shore. Since the artillery support had failed to hit its targets and the vehicle support was still being shipped in the landing crafts the Winnipeg Rifles had to storm the German defenses “cold”. “B” company took the beach defenses, cleared the small harbor, and drove a gap through the minefield. They cleared the enemy out of the island the island in the river Seulles. The German machine guns and mortar positions on the island only gave up when surrounded by infantry.  A great sight of courage occurred in a pillbox on the west side of the Seulles River. Corporal Klos of “B” company was a big powerful man nicknamed “BULL”.  He got shot once in the stomach and once in the leg on his way to a German pillbox. Using his rage he staggered up to the beach, shot one enemy, dropped his rifle, and fought another German with his bare hands. Bleeding into the sand, Corporal Klos died with his hands around the throat of an enemy. At the end of the day “B” company had been reduced to Capt. P.E. Gower (company commander) and 26 men.

Harry was first buried in Mr. Guddeville’s orchard in Graye-Sur-Mer. That is where he would have been killed and buried and then later on his body was reburied in Beny-sur-Mer, Canadian Military, Beny-sur-Mer, France located at Grave 7, Row E, Plot 5. Mrs. Stella Franko (Mother) is Harry’s next of kin. She received everything in his will including his medals. There was no information in his will detailing any particulars.

Written by: Curtis Bernicky, a student at Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Rédigé par: Curtis Bernicky,  un élève de Smiths Falls Collegiate Institute, Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada.

REMEMBER TODAY, REMEMBER ALWAYS.

THIS TRIBUTE PROFILE CONTAINS AVAILABLE BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION ON ONE OF THE CANADIANS WHO DIED ON JUNO BEACH ON 6 JUNE 1944. THE PROFILE ALSO RECOGNIZES THE INDIVIDUAL OR ORGANIZATION WHO GENEROUSLY SPONSORED THIS SOLDIER, AND INCLUDES A MESSAGE OF THANKS AND REMEMBRANCE FOR THEIR SACRIFICE. THIS INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN THE SOLDIER’S NATIVE TONGUE AND HAS BEEN COMPILED BY THE LEST WE FORGET PROGRAM AND, IN SOME CASES, THROUGH THE GENEROSITY OF INDIVIDUALS CONNECTED WITH THE SOLDIERS. DUE TO THE INCONSISTENCY OF HISTORICAL RECORDS AND THE SPARSE AVAILABILITY OF FIRST-HAND WITNESSES, WE KNOW MORE ABOUT SOME THAN OTHERS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE ANY MATERIAL OR HELP IN OUR EFFORTS TO PRESENT THE BIOGRAPHIES IN BOTH FRENCH AND ENGLISH, PLEASE CONTACT: JBCA@JUNOBEACH.ORG.

CE PORTRAIT CONTIENT DES INFORMATIONS BIOGRAPHIQUES RELATIVES À L’UN DES CANADIENS QUI SONT MORTS SUR LA PLAGE JUNO, LE 6 JUIN 1944. IL PORTE ÉGALEMENT MENTION DE LA PERSONNE OU DE L’ORGANISATION QUI A GÉNÉREUSEMENT PARRAINÉ CE SOLDAT, AINSI QU’UN MESSAGE DE REMERCIEMENT EN SOUVENIR DE SON SACRIFICE. CES INFORMATIONS SONT DISPONIBLES DANS LA LANGUE MATERNELLE DU SOLDAT ET ONT ÉTÉ COMPILÉES PAR LE PROGRAMME LEST WE FORGET ET, DANS CERTAINS CAS, GRÂCE À LA GÉNÉROSITÉ DES PERSONNES LIÉES AUX SOLDATS. EN RAISON DE LA DISPARITÉ DES DOCUMENTS HISTORIQUES ET DES RARES TÉMOINS DE L’ÉPOQUE, NOUS NE DISPOSONS PAS DE LA MÊME QUANTITÉ D’INFORMATION SUR TOUS LES SOLDATS. SI VOUS SOUHAITEZ COMPLÉTER NOTRE DOCUMENTATION OU NOUS AIDER DANS NOS EFFORTS POUR PRÉSENTER LES BIOGRAPHIES EN FRANÇAIS ET EN ANGLAIS, MERCI DE CONTACTER : JBCA@JUNOBEACH.ORG.