Man signs up for Navy but gets shipped out to be Army Infantry

Edward J. Sarcione (Courtesy photos)

While many end up getting more than they bargain for when they enlist, Edward J. Sarcione takes the trophy for not getting what he wanted after signing the papers.

A college sophomore studying chemistry at St. Michael’s College in Vermont during WWII, Edward knew that if he didn’t enlist for a branch he wanted, Uncle Sam would naturally assign him a role he did not want.

Thinking about his love for the sea, Edward decided he wanted to join the US Navy. With his mind made up, he headed to Boston for induction.

“When I arrived at the induction center in Boston with my little blue bag, I had my Navy papers with me and this civilian didn’t even look up,” Edward recalled. “He stamped ‘Army’ over my Navy papers. I said, ‘No, no, no. You’re making a mistake. I’m going in the Navy.”

However, the civilian wasn’t having any of what Edward had to say.

“He never said a word or looked up, but he motioned, and an MP, about 6 foot, 6 inches and 250 pounds, came over and said, ‘What are you, a wise kid?’

I said, ‘I’m not leaving until he changes that to Navy.’ He didn’t say anything. He grabbed me and picked me off my feet and took me in where you take the military oath for the Army.”

According to an interview in the Buffalo News, the Military Policeman stood beside Edward, holding his right arm up as the oath was administered. “I was a cooked goose,” Edward said, now in his 90s. “I was no longer a civilian. I was under military jurisdiction.”

Edward soon realized that he had been Shanghai’d by the US Army due to the massive casualties the branch had suffered during the Invasion of Normandy a few weeks earlier.In short, the “clerical mistake” was very much intentional.

Edward still got to see the ocean- from the deck of a troop ship crossing the Atlantic. Before long, he found himself as a rifleman protecting anti-tank guns in the 69th Infantry Division.

“Since I was a replacement and lacked the experience in training to operate a 57-millimeter anti-tank gun, I was a rifleman who protected the anti-tank gunners from German infantry,” he said. “Our job was to push the Germans out of Belgium. It was during the last part of the Battle of the Bulge.”

Later on, he would painfully endure the assault that broke through the heavily-defended Siegfried Line, in which he lost many comrades to enemy fire.

“It was tough at the Siegfried Line. We had to defuse land mines before we could assault the pillboxes,” Edward said.

Edward’s unit would eventually break through and go on to defend the bridge at Remagen, which spanned over the Rhine and was crucial for troops getting further to Berlin.

“Our job was to prevent the Germans from blowing up the bridge,” Edward said. “They would float packages of explosives down the river with frogmen. We’d shoot at them. The river was the last barrier they had that prevented us from entering deeper into Germany.” The bridge would eventually collapse, though the US Army would send out floating bridges to fill the gap. They rode forward in a variety of vehicles, including civilian trucks and cars.

“We set out in all kinds of transportation,” he said. “We had our own trucks, and we had German police cars and fire trucks. We were like gypsies going down the road. “

Eventually, the 69th would advance forward, through Kassel, where they engaged Tiger tanks rolling right off the factory assembly line. After Kassel, they linked up with the Russians in Leipzig, where they shook hands and drank vodka together.

When the War in Europe ended in May of 1945, he served his remaining term with the occupation force. Two days after his discharge, he returned to college, eventually getting a doctorate in biochemistry.

Edward would eventually go into cancer research, get married and father three children, all while serving in the Army Reserves until his 27-year retirement as a Colonel. His son would later join the Army and retire at the same rank, while his other two children would have successful scientific and logistical careers.

Having long ago forgiven the Army for stealing him from the Navy, Edward became president of the 69th Infantry Division Association.

When asked why he did so, he simply responded “I survived.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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