Historically speaking

9th Infantry Division fought in World War II

1st Lt. Joseph L. Rappazini stands at the position of attention in this World War II-era photo. (Photo courtesy of the Negaunee Historical Society)

NEGAUNEE — Joseph L. Rappazini,of Negaunee, was a first lieutenant in an anti-tank company. He served in the 9th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army during World War ll. This story provides the actions of the 60th Infantry Regiment during the month of June 1944.

Southampton, England, June 6-9 1944. The 9th Infantry Division did not participate in the D-Day, the Allied invasion at Normandy.

On the D-Day date, June 6, 1944, the division units still found themselves in England. The 60th Infantry Regiment was confined in Camp C-20 near Southampton.

During the stay in this camp all officers and NCO’s were briefed about their first mission in Normandy, which was to be in the north vicinity of the towns of Gourbesville and Picqauville. However, these plans were soon changed as the assembly area was still in the hands of the enemy.

At the same time of the briefing, all assault companies and platoons were also informed about the tactics to be employed. Their olive drab clothing changed to gas impregnated clothing and after ammunition, rations and various other items were issued, the men were ready to go.

All the men knew too well what the task laying before them would entail. A letter written by Major Gen. Manton S. Eddy, the 9th Infantry Division commanding general, was handed out to the men of the 9th Infantry Division before embarking their next journey. One of the men who made a big impact was 1st Lt. Joseph L. Rappazini of Negaunee, Michigan.

Joseph found himself in the Renouf area as part of K.Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. He was shy and reserved, but that did not stop him from doing what he had to do on that day. While in a forward position with his anti-tank platoon in the vicinity of Renouf, 1st Lt. Rappazini observed a company of the enemy, armed with mortars, machine guns and machine pistols, approaching his unit’s positions.

Realizing the seriousness of the situation, he placed his noncommissioned officers in charge of the platoon with instructions to warn the command post while he moved forward in an attempt to persuade the enemy to surrender.

Reaching the enemy forces, he was disarmed and questioned. In the meantime, the forward command post had been notified of the situation and heavy weapons fire was ordered to be brought up to take on enemy forces.

The men in Rappazini’s platoon watched carefully what was going on with the first lieutenant.

Then they watched in amazement as it looked as if the German soldiers were putting their weapons down and preparing to surrender! 1st Lt. Rappazini managed to do just that!

Thoroughly convincing the enemy officers they were outnumbered and surrounded, 1st Lt. Rappazini took three officers and eighty-one enlisted men as prisoners! For this persuasive action of words, Rappazini was awarded the Silver Star medal.

Joseph Rappazini survived the war and lived a beautiful life until 2010, when at the great age of 92 years, he passed away after a long fight with Alzheimer’s disease.


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