Remembering “Band of Brothers” and WWII Hero Frank Perconte (1917-2013)

(Above Left) Frank Perconte in his heydays in WWII; (Above Right) recent photo of WWII vet Frank Perconte; (Below) photo of the whole Easy Company during the Second World War.
(Above Left) Frank Perconte in his heydays in WWII; (Above Right) recent photo of WWII vet Frank Perconte; (Below) photo of the whole Easy Company during the Second World War.

Frank Perconte, who served with the East Company during the Second World War, attained fame late in life when he, along with his comrades in the Easy Company, were depicted in a book and afterwards, a HBO miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, the Band of Brothers.

However, his family remembered him not just a war hero but much about his life after the war in his funeral last Monday, October 28. He passed away at the age of 96 in his home in Joliet.

Frank Perconte and the Easy Company

The Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment which was part of the 101st Airborne Division, also known as the Screaming Eagles, is one of the most popular companies of the United States Army, thanks to the book written by historian Stephen Ambrose entitled Band of Brothers which was adapted into a 10-part miniseries with the same title in HBO through a collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks in 2001.

The book and the series told about Easy Company’s   war exploits during WWII – from parachuting into France on D-Day to capturing Hitler’s Eagle Nest, the dictator’s second government seat.

The Easy Company was also involved in the failed Operation Market Garden campaign in Holland – a drive that was also depicted in another movie, A Bridge Too Far.

Perconte was also able to serve during the Battle of the Bulge were he got wounded. He was the recipient of a Purple Heart and various other military decorations. He even was characterized the Band of Brothers miniseries with actor James Madio playing the role.

Later, in 2009, he was once again among the 20 former Easy Company soldiers, the last of the few remaining survivors of the unit, who shared their war experiences for an oral history book project We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories From the Band of Brothers.

Recounting His War Experiences

The WWII vet had fought in some of the worst WWII battles and yet was able to return home to resume a normal life. In an interview, Perconte recounted his most unforgettable memory of D-Day – walking along a road with both sides lined with hundreds of dead German soldiers’ bodies.

He also said he had wanted to parachute out of the plane on D-Day because of fear, so many aircraft were shot down even before they were given orders to jump.

“I’m glad I went into the paratroopers. But surviving in combat is a lot of luck,” he mused during the talk.

His comment was a reflection of a character he so evidently displayed throughout his life – that of being blunt but still showing a sense of humor.

His Life

Frank Percanto’s grandson, Darren Perconte, shared this joke his grandfather said during his eulogy. He stated how his grandfather said these words when his battle exploits were getting too much attention from the public:

“So many people are calling me a hero I’m starting to believe I am one,” Darren quoted his grandfather and then added, “I believe he was a hero.”

He then went on to tell the story of how his grandfather had been a devoted husband to his grandmother, Evelyn, who suffered Alzheimer’s in the last four years of her life and had to be taken to a nursing home.

“My grandfather was there every day, all day. It went beyond that it was the right thing to do. This is what he wanted to do,” he said.

Reverend Brad Baker, who officiated the mass at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus where Perconte was a regular parishioner, portrayed the WWII vet as someone who did his duty during the Second World War and after it.

“May Frank now know the reward of his labors. We are so grateful that he knew his duty,” the Reverend stated in his homily.

After the war, Perconte lived simply with his wife and one son, Richard, and worked as a mailman. He also was an usher at St. Raymond’s and was a life member of the Cantigny Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 367 in Joliet.

Baker centered on the conversation he had with Frank’s only son, Richard, who told him that although the WWII veteran’s war exploits were  bigger-than-life, Frank had “always kept his feet on the ground. His approach was they were only doing their jobs.”

Darren further cemented this when he said in his eulogy for his uncle:

“He was always Frank Perconte. He was authentic.”

Frank was in his mid-80s when the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers was made. The said TV adaptation shone a light on the extraordinary deeds the Easy Company did during World War II eventually putting into visible view the heroism Perconte and his comrades displayed during that time.

In a 2003 interview with The Herald-News, he said he was called “Mr. Hollywood” in his wife’s nursing home. In 2002, he, along with 40 other Easy Company vets, flew to Los Angeles and climbed the stage for the Emmy Awards. he also joined his former comrades the time HBO flew ex-Easy Company soldiers into Normandy in 2001.

Perconte was able to develop a strong friendship with the actor who portrayed his character in the 2001 series, James Madio. The actor even visited Frank in his Joliet home several times and even after the miniseries ended, the two had stayed in touch.

Commander of the Cantigny VFW Post, Tony Arellano, led other veterans from the post in a short memorial fucntion last Monday at Blackburn-Giegerich-Sonntag Funeral Home for Perconte.

“He was just a common ordinary person. He did some extraordinary things,” Arellano said when asked to describe the veteran.

Indeed, the man who had seen so much gore and death during the Second World War and attributed his survival to a great amount of luck carried out a character which always treasured the simple memories he had created with his family and friends back home.

The Herald-News reports