Monday, November 11, 2013

T Sgt. Anthony F. Crane

Tech. Sgt. Anthony F. Crane - Brussels, Belgium

On this particular Veterans Day, I wanted to take the time to remember some of my ancestors who made great sacrifices in service with the United States Armed Forces. Since I was a young child, spending time with my Bushia meant hearing stories of her brother, Anthony "Tony" Crane, who was a veteran of World War Two. Although I don't recall those stories specifically, given the frequency of his name within the stories of my Bushia and great aunts, I knew that he was of significant importance to them. The appearance of this war-time photograph in her wedding album signifies the love and admiration she had for him (he died nine months before she married my Grandfather). Ever since the passing of my Bushia, I've taken on the task of trying to find out more about "Uncle Tony" and his service in the U.S. Army, and for the longest time, the extent of his service to my knowledge was just that; the U.S. Army.
 
 
Anthony F(rancis) Crane was born June 11, 1916 in Albion, New York as Antoni Edward Kaniecki. The son of two German-Polish immigrants, Franciszek Kaniecki and Weronika Sterczynska, Tony grew up as the only son in a house with three sisters. At the age of two, his mother passed away on November 9, 1918 from pneumonia and lingering complications from the birth of Tony's youngest sister, Franciszka. The following March, Franciszka would die from an unknown childhood disease at the age of 14 months.
 
On the 12th of May, 1919, Tony's father remarried to Rozalia Romanski, a widow whose husband had met his fate at the hands of tuberculosis, likely contracted from toiling in the stone quaries of Albion. The marriage of Frank and Rose represented a Progressive-era "Brady Bunch" scenario, Rose having four children of her own to bring into the newly molded family. The new household, consisting of 4 boys and 4 girls remained that way for two years until the birth of Irene in 1921 and later the birth of my Bushia in 1926. Family stories suggested a great deal of conflict between the children and suggests that Frank and Rose married out of the need for mutual support in raising their children.
 
 
Tech. Sgt. Anthony Crane - Shooting Horseshoes
According to what available information I do have on Uncle Tony's service, he entlisted with the U.S. Armed Forces on July 19, 1938 at Ft. Niagara in Youngstown, New York at the age of 22. At the time, he was living in Cattaraugus County and was working as a Bartender. A single man with no dependents and one year of a high school education, it's uncertain as to why he enlisted in the service, however his headstone indicates the exact branch and unit of service during the war.

Tony Crane - "Break in the Action"
 
This photograph tagged as "Tony - A Break in the Action," probably by my Bushia, reveals the black MP armband. Further research shows that Uncle Tony was a member of the 14th Armored Division's Military Police Platoon. During the war, MP Platoons were used to keep the peace in newly liberated areas, patrol streets, administer over prisoners of war, and police the soldiers while on duty and on leave.

One of the more interesting bits about Uncle Tony comes from a newspaper article, likely from 1943, shows that he was one of eight men from the 14th Armored to be involved with early testing of GM's newly created M-3 submachine gun. Of the men testing the gun, Tony was one of eight to return a perfect score of 100/100 for accuracy during Tennessee Maneuvers in January of 1943. The M-3 SMG is more commonly known as the "Grease Gun."

Tony would have left with the 14th Armored Division on October 13, 1944 for deployment in France, having boarded four transport ships for the trip across the Atlantic. Although he would not have been actively engaging enemy forces on the front line, the 14th Armored was engaging the enemy within two weeks of having landed in Southern France.

The 14th Armored liberated Oflag 13-B and Stalag 13-C POW camps in April of 1945, but their crowing glory came in late April of 1945 with the liberation of Stalag 7-A, the largest German POW camp in Europe, consisting of over 130,000 allied prisoners of war from Britain, Australia, the Soviet Union, the United States and numerous other allied countries. Several days later, the division found itself liberating several sub-camps of the Dachau Concentration Camp. It is very probably that Tony was actively involved in the processing of these newly liberated POWs.

Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to know Uncle Tony. He died at the age of 33 from a leukemia-like disease. With no family history of similar disorders, it remains a mystery as to if he was exposed to something while in the service which could have led to such an illness. Today, all that is left are the photographs and stories of him. Those stories which were shared by my Bushia have remained with me, and the memory of Uncle Tony remains strong. Hopefully, some more information will come to light to further explain his service overseas; a man who saw much of the death and destruction suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime in Europe.

Tony Crane (R) and sister, Lorraine Crane Ballard (M)

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