20 Jan 1927 1
06 Mar 1997 1

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Full Name:
Frank P Cortez 1
20 Jan 1927 1
06 Mar 1997 1
Last Residence: Lowell, MA 1
Social Security:
Card Issued: Unknown Code (PE) 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-2265 1

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Never be sorry for being short

Somewhere in England

My dad often told us this story are we were kids. He was all of 5ft 4in tall (my mom, Rita, was barely 5ft 3in herself) and the family called him "Uncle Pee-Wee". Growing up, he was always sensitive about his height, and often fought with those that commented or made jokes regarding that fact. He got this nickname while in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The story goes that as he was stationed in England during the war, the time was just prior to the invasion of Europe at Normandy (Operation Overlord). His fellow sailors were assembled in a barracks, lined up, as an Army Air Corp Colonel looked them over. They were instructed to take 3 steps forward if chosen. Being in the U.S. Navy, he thought this odd to begin with to say the least. As the unknown Colonel walked up and down the line, he would point at a man, have him take 3 steps forward, and continue down the line.

As he got to my father, he pointed to him, at which point he stepped forward as ordered. On the last and final walk through, the Colonel looked at my father (all 5ft 4inches of him), then looked at the man that was to his left in the line (a friend of my fathers, a big Italian man, 6ft 4in, broad shouldered, and very muscular, and the person that nicknamed him "Pee-Wee"). The Colonel pointed at my father, and said, "Shorty! Get back in ranks and have that big Italian guy to your left step forward!" Doing as he was told, my falther obeyed the command to the letter. His friend stepped forward as well.

At this point those left in the ranks were dismissed, and left the barracks. He never saw his friend again. However, a month or so following the Normandy invasion, he was on a detail to unload trucks of soldiers killed in action during the invasion. As he unloaded the body bags, there was one that was larger than the others, and heavy. As he strained to lift the bag along with fellow servicemen, he noticed the tag with his Italian friends name!

After some secret inquiries, he was told those men selected in the barracks that day were transferred to the Army Air Corp, trained as paratroopers, and dropped behind the lines in France, immediately prior to the invasion force. The purpose of the mission was to link up with the French Resistance, and disrupt the Nazi communication channels. He also discovered that the fatality rate of those on the mission was nearly 100%.

So, from that day onward, he NEVER complained when someone commented on his height, for it was his lack of height that kept him alive through the war, and made possible the birth of our family.

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