For every story of heroism and duty that we remember, there is one that we have forgotten. Soldiers and sailors have fought and died for our nation throughout its history. Some of those who fell in foreign lands are there still. One of these is a Clinton County man named Fredrick Samuel Vance, who made the ultimate sacrifice in WW II.
There is very little information about Vance. What is known is that he came from Tylersville and was one of eleven children. He attended school there, but did not graduate. Instead, when he was old enough, he started working as a truck driver in Lancaster.
Vance joined the Army during WW II and was assigned to the 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Though we don't when Vance joined the Regiment, the unit history tells a story of consistent combat operations through North Africa, Sicily and Italy. On Jan. 22, 1944, the Division went ashore at Anzio. Vance was almost certainly with them by this point. The landings were costly and 3rd Division lost 900 men in a single day.
From there, the fighting never let up. The Germans were determined to drive the American soldiers back into the ocean. Throughout Feb. 1944, the Germans launched constant attacks on the beachhead.
On Feb 29th, the Germans again attacked, and Vance was stationed at an outpost ahead of his company. He held his position even in the face of impossible odds. For his courage in action, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award in the U.S. military. Only one other man from Clinton County, Roy Hanna Jr., was given the same award.
"He refused to fall back even when told that his mission had been accomplished and for two hours continued to hold off the enemy and inflict heavy casualties," his medal citations states. "When their ammunition was nearly exhausted, he crawled back under heavy enemy fire to the main line of resistance. Procuring all the ammunition he could carry, he again crawled forward and was fired upon by a German light machine gun. With his rifle, he killed the German gunner and his assistant and regained the outpost."
Shortly after retaking his position, a shell hit and killed Vance. He was 26 years old.
Today, a stone cross at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery near Nattuno, Italy, marks his final resting place. His name also appears on the WW II memorial in Veterans Park. The picture displayed on Vance's Hometown Heroes Banner is one of the only remaining photos of him. He did not graduate high school, and does not appear in his yearbook.
"Credit for finding the information we do have goes to Gurden Dietz," says Harlen Berger, who sponsored Vance's Banner. "He did all the work while researching the Veterans Park memorial."
Berger explains that he was in contact with Vance's nephew, Bill Vance, in Selinsgrove to get some information for a news story in 2004. However, he has lost contact with Bill since. It is Berger's understanding that there are very few of Vance's family members remaining and almost none that would still remember him.
Berger chose to sponsor Vance for a banner after successfully searching for the grave of a great uncle killed during the Civil War. He may have been the first person in his family to visit his uncle's grave. That thought started him working to bring Vance's story to the public.
"I was struck by the story of a man who has disappeared from the county," says Berger. "That he exemplifies so many of our men who rest in foreign cemeteries. Their remains may have never been visited by relatives."
No soldier should ever be forgotten. This is particularly true for men like Fredrick Vance, who was so highly decorated by his nation. He lived in a time when ordinary men were asked to do extraordinary things. Those that served deserve to be remembered, as best as we are able.