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From making beer kegs to facing enemy fire, Army veteran from Angola recalls climax of war in Europe

Dominic ‘Mickey’ Sack, 90

Hometown and residence: Angola

Branch: Army

Rank: Staff sergeant

War zones: Europe, Pacific

Years of service: 1944-46

Most prominent honors: European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two battle stars; World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge

Specialty: Infantry

By Lou Michel

News Staff Reporter

After finishing classes at Angola High School back in the early 1940s, Dominic “Mickey” Sack walked over to the local factory that manufactured wooden beer kegs.

“I operated a hydraulic press that shaped the wooden staves. Then the ends were trimmed off, and the coopers would assemble the kegs with the metal rings,” Sack says. “It was interesting work. The factory is gone, but wooden kegs are still used for whiskey.”

Several months after graduation, he received a draft notice, and his career as a keg-maker ended. “I took basic training down in Florida, and they assigned me to the 97th Infantry Division. We went to Camp Cooke, near San Luis Obispo, in California,” the 90-year-old lifelong resident of Angola recalls. “We were supposed to go to the Pacific Theater for amphibious landings. Then they changed all the orders, and we were on our way back to New York in a troop train.”

Not long after that, he and his fellow soldiers boarded a troop ship and crossed the Atlantic Ocean on high alert for enemy submarines.

“We had to keep dodging the German submarines on our way over,” Sack says.

With the Allies’ June 1944 invasion at Normandy completed, his outfit landed on the French shores of Le Havre. “We went to Camp Lucky Strike, and that’s where we separated,” he says. “We were put in rail boxcars and shipped to the southern end of Germany, where we fought two battles.”

Heavy enemy fire sent them into foxholes for protection.

“Eighty-eight-millimeter shells and machine gun fire were coming at us,” he says. “I remember in one of the battles, we got orders to cross the river at night, and that’s when we knocked out the machine guns. Their artillery just moved back.”

At age 19, fear did not enter the picture, Sack says. “You don’t think of all the dangers,” he says. “You’re not as afraid as when you get older.”

With the battles won, the 97th moved deeper into Germany and then to Prague. “The 97th fired the last shot” of the war in Europe, Sack recalls. “It wasn’t my company, but it was the 97th, and it happened in Czechoslovakia. I believe there is a monument where the last shot was fired.”

After the war in Europe ended in May 1945, he and other members of his company were sent home for a 30-day leave, then it was on to the Pacific. “We were on a ship to Japan for the invasion, but they dropped the atom bombs, and the war ended,” he remembers. “We thought we would be coming back to the States, but we kept going and were part of the occupation army in Japan.”

In May 1946, Sack returned home for good and married Rose Galfo, who grew up on School Street in Angola, about a block away from his family’s home on Woodward Avenue. They raised three children, and Rose Sack, a homemaker for many years, later worked as a school monitor. Working at Bethlehem Steel, Sack advanced to a supervisory position and retired before the plant closed in the 1980s.

Over the years, he has attended about 25 reunions for the 97th’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 303rd Infantry Regiment.

“It was great seeing all the old guys, but I stopped going about nine years ago when my wife passed away,” Sack says, adding that the reunions ended about three years ago “because we all got too old.”

For a while, Sack says, he stayed in touch by phone with his Army friends, but now that, too, seems to be at an end. “First, it was two or three guys I’d speak with,” he says, “then, it was one, and now, I haven’t heard from him in a year.”

Yet he remains optimistic and chuckles as he again recalls his first job – making beer kegs.

And was there any beer at the plant to check for leaks?

Again a chuckle as he answers no.