When enemy fire hit a bomber aircraft midair over Germany during WWII, the two occupants ejected immediately. They were brothers. Thomas died instantly. Anthony survived. When Anthony’s parachute landed, he was captured and became a prisoner of war.
SSgt Anthony Fravega spent an unspecified number of years at Stalag-17, one of Europe's most infamous prisoner camps, but he eventually made it home. So did the war journal he kept.
The Heirloomist had the opportunity to humbly document the pages of SSgt Fravega’s journal for his daughter before it is donated it to a WWII museum. The pages aren’t filled with horror and fear. They illustrate a man keeping his mind occupied by documenting every meticulous detail of his experience—sketches of the prison yard and chapel, daily meal charts, lists of books read and so on. But he did not escape without permanent trauma.
Upon returning home to Memphis, TN, Ssgt Fravega built a family and life alongside the deep and lingering trauma he suffered as a POW. He bowled and attended church. He became a highly regarded electrical engineer for Memphis Light, Gas, and water.
“He taught me to polka dance in the living room,” his daughter, Toni, fondly remembers. “But he never ever explained his war experience to us or talked about it,” she said.
“I remember the thunder. It did something to him.”
Understanding her father’s POW experiences and the connection to his lifelong struggles is the reason for sharing this story and documenting the journal. Toni, in search of facts and truth, recently discovered an incredible twist to her dad’s story: Thomas and Anthony had a third brother who also flew missions during WWII. He was stationed in the Pacific.
Toni is not done searching for the full understanding of this one life that gave so much for us collectively as a country. Toni, we adore you for making your truth happen. Thank you for involving us in finally opening the journal and bringing the spirit of your father off the pages and into the world.
With Father’s Day upon us, this story gives us a special pause. We’re reminded that so many dads out there are doing the best they can. We salute you.