A collection of artifacts and documents related to Sgt. Valentine “Val” Grodis and his service in the US Army 9th Infantry Division through World War II.
Valentine “Val” John Grodis was born on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1919 and served 5 years with the U.S. Army. He entered the service on October 16, 1940 and completed his basic training at Fort Bragg, N.C. On October 21, 1941. Val was deployed to Bermuda as a member of the newly activated 9th Infantry Division, and after a short stay, and the unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the 9th Infantry was then deployed to the European Theatre of Operations for training.
On November 8, 1942 (17 months before D-Day) Sgt. Grodis received a Bronze Star Medal for his actions during the opening day of “Operation Torch”, the allied invasion of French North Africa, which was one of the first major combat operations of World War 2 against Nazi Germany and the Axis powers. The invasion was successful and the 9th Infantry Division, and with the collapse of French resistance on November 11, 1942, the division patrolled the Spanish Moroccan border.
However, on February 19, 1943, Sgt. Grodis was present with the 9th Infantry, when the famous Nazi Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, along with his Afrika Korps, 10th and 21st Panzer Divsions launched an attack on the Allies through the Kasserine Pass, inflicting heavy damage and losses to the Americans. Over 3,300 Americans were killed and over 3,000 Americans taken prisoner. It was the greatest defeat of the war so far for the Allies and showed the Americans they were both unorganized and inexperienced against a more seasoned German army. After this defeat, General Dwight D. Eisenhower took control of the command structure. He created the 18th Army Group under General Harold Alexander (UK) as the new Allied headquarters in North Africa, and placed an invigorating leader, Major General George S. Patton, in charge of the US II Corps. The American reaction to Kasserine Pass showed the American Army’s determination that next time the Germans would experience very different results.
Sgt. Grodis came through unscathed during the Battle of Kasserine Pass and helped continue to lead his 9th Army platoon (nick-named The “Ole’ Reliables”) eastward. On March 28, 1943 the 9th launched an attack in southern Tunisia and fought its way north into Bizerte on May 7, 1943, eventually helping the British finally liberate the city of Tunis on May 7, 1943.
On the evening of July 9, 1943, Sgt Grodis, along with the 9th Infantry, participated in “Operation Husky” which would eventually result in the Allies defeating the Axis Forces in Italy. The 9th participated in the capture of Mount Eta, Randazzo and Messina and the liberation of Palermo, Sicily on August 17,1943. A major turning point in the war, as now the Allies could focus their attention to what would be the largest amphibious assault in the history of warfare; D-Day.
Sgt. Grodis and the 9th Infantry Division would now be transferred to England to begin their training for “Operation Overlord”, the secret allied amphibious invasion of Normandy. However, just 3 months before the invasion, Sgt Grodis fell ill with rheumatic fever. He was sent back to the States on March 10,1944 to recover and was not present on D-Day with his 9th Army for “Operation Overlord” which occured on June 6,1944. With over 226,000 allied casualties during this assault, falling ill with rheumatic fever may actually have saved his life.
After recovery, Sgt. Grodis was kept Stateside and attached to the 1318th Military Police Division that was tasked with guarding and interrogating captured german soldiers and Nazi Officers that were brought to the United States as Prisoners of War. These prisoner camps, located throughout the middle eastern coast of the U.S., were unknown during the war to American citizens and considered extremely Top Secret, so discovering more information about his exact location and his duties has been difficult. Many requests for more information are still out. I’m always on the search for more information and documentation to complete the story. Sgt Grodis was Honorably Discharged on August 22, 1945 ….To Be Continued…
As a kid, I only knew “Uncle Val” as a fun, story telling jokester, that loved playing his harmonica and drinking a beer from his basement fridge keg while sitting on his Pennsylvania mountain swing. Like most kids my age, I had no idea what he had been through to give me the carefree life I grew up in. Another member of “The Greatest Generation”.
Thanks to Val’s son Frank “Shooty” Grodis for allowing me the opportunity to dive into his dad’s personal records and ask dozens of questions. And Thank you to Sgt.Val Grodis for your service!