Local authors Lois Lembo and Leon Reed will discuss their book, A Combat Engineer With Patton’s Army: The Fight Across Europe With the 80th “Blue Ridge” Division in World War II at 1 pm Saturday, July 30. The talk will take place at the new museum, World War II American Experience, located along Mummasburg Rd., just west of town.
The book tells the story of the 80th Division’s advance across France, the division’s mid-December gallop north to Luxembourg to close off the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge, the relief of Bastogne, the Spring 1945 offensive and discovery of the first concentration camps, and occupation duty in Bavaria.
The book is heavily based on a trove of letters written by Sgt. (later Lt.) Frank Lembo, a squad leader in the 305th Engineer Combat Battalion, to his fiancé, Betty Craig. In his letters, Frank commented on the war, the engineering work, as well as the commonplace events of GI life. The authors also made use of the original typescript copy of the B Company diary as well as other reports by the engineers, unit reports, and combat memoirs of other soldiers to create a narrative that combines the personal experience of a single soldier, the work the engineers performed, and the story of the advance of Patton’s Third Army across Europe.
“I loved working on this project,” said Lembo, who is the daughter of Frank and Betty Lembo.”Dad would never talk much about his experiences, but the letters made his life in the army so vivid. And through the letters, it’s almost like I’m able to get more time with my parents.”
“It’s a fantastic story,” said Reed, who is Lois Lembo’s husband. “Frank Lembo wrote beautifully and was an incredibly astute observer of the events going on around him. And he had a heck of a war: a behind enemy lines mission gone bad that earned him a Silver Star and the relief of Bastogne, for example.”
We’re thrilled to have Lois and Leon as some of our first speakers,” said Jody Wilson, the new museum’s director of outreach. “We have a tremendous collection of hardware, but we also want to tell the stories of the everyday soldier. Combining the work of the engineers with the drama of Patton’s advance makes Frank Lembo’s story is a great one for us to tell.”