Frank Niklas reluctantly joined the Army in 1942 and became a member of the 2nd Infantry “Indianhead” Division. He landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944, D+1. In September, while his division was in a defensive position at St. Vith, Frank was thrown into air and knocked unconscious during an artillery barrage. Despite being in a hospital for a week, he never received a Purple Heart. “It didn’t draw blood,” he explains. On December 20, during the massive German offensive in the Ardennes, Frank and his squad were caught behind enemy lines near Elsenborn, Belgium. They survived fourteen days on meager rations, huddling in the forest and listening to German voices and engine rumblings all around. “We ate snow. That’s all we had.”
Frank returned home in 1945 and, as he prepared for his discharge, received word that the Army couldn’t let him go because Frank wasn’t a U.S. citizen. He’d been born in Hungary and was considered an enemy alien. “The Army didn’t seem to have a problem with my citizenship when I went in, but they sure didn’t like it when I tried to get out!” He was ordered to travel to Fort Sam Houston, get sworn in as a citizen, and then return to a separation center for discharge.
Frank Niklas, age 91 of Clairton, died on Thursday, January 24, 2013. Beloved husband of the late Goldie Niklas; loving father of Cynthia (Mark) Cohn, Lynn (Glenn) Thiel, Lou (Barbara) Niklas and Frank D. (Cindy) Niklas; proud grandfather of Debby (Matt) Rightmyer, Emily Cohn, Matt (Jennifer) Cohn, Julie Niklas, Andrew Niklas and Gregory Niklas; great-grandfather of Tony Laing; brother of Mary (the late Mark) Millas.
Frank was a proud WWII veteran, enjoyed shooting pool and playing poker.
Friends will be received at the John F. Slater Funeral Home, 412-881 -4100, 4201 Brownsville Rd., Brentwood 15227, on Friday from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m., where funeral services will be held on Saturday morning at 10:00. If desired, family suggests contributions to Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Rd., Suite 300, Attn: Donor Services, Jacksonville, FL 32256.
Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on January 25, 2013