Alumnus shares veteran’s story of hope in new book

A man sits inside while holding open a book to the camera
Photo credit: Mark Hager

U.S. Army Veteran and 1999 Lenoir-Rhyne alumnus Mark Hager has always been fascinated by history. Having grown up in Goldsboro, North Carolina, near a military base, he was captivated by the stories of men who served in the armed forces. A chance meeting with one veteran inspired him to write his book: “The Last of the 357th Infantry: Harold Frank’s WWII Story of Faith and Courage.”

Hager attended a farmer’s luncheon and struck up a conversation with Frank, whom he noticed was wearing a prisoner of war (POW) hat.

“He mentioned he was a member of the 357th Infantry Regiment of the 90th infantry division,” Hager said. “My military knowledge told me that was World War II, and that unit was wiped out two or three times during the Normandy campaign. How is he still here?”

Hager was struck by the man’s story of survival and hastily scribbled notes on napkins and scraps of paper.

“I talked to him, veteran to a veteran, and got a little emotional,” he said. “We lost a lot of good men (in the war).”

Knowing he needed to learn more, Hager continued to interview the veteran over time. Frank shared his remarkable experiences as a Browning Automatic Rifleman. He entered WWII at Utah Beach and subsequent battles in the Cotentin Peninsula, Merderet River, Gourbesville, Hill 122 and ultimately Beau Coudray, where he was shot in the shoulder. Although wounded, Private First Class (PFC) Frank led a patrol to locate two lost U.S. Infantry Companies behind German lines. He fought for nine hours before running out of ammunition and was captured by elements of the German 16th Parachute Regiment (July 1944).

A story of faithful service and POW experience

PFC Frank was among an estimated 200 other captured men of the 90th Division and sent to Stalag IV B POW Camp in Dresden. He was assigned to a work camp at Klotzsche Airfield, a German Fighter Base roughly 10 miles away, where he remained imprisoned for 10 months.

Hager’s book shares Frank’s remarkable experiences as a POW, attempted escape and survival of the 1000 plane bombing of Dresden (Feb. 12, 1945) and two attacks on the German Airfield (April 17, 1945).

Through their extensive conversations, Hager discovered that Frank’s experiences had one common element: a deep, faith-driven desire to stay alive instilled from a Lutheran farming family living in North Carolina during the Great Depression.

Frank’s story is both heart-wrenching and inspirational, serving as a lesson for future generations and inspiring deep respect for soldiers who continually display valor and devotion against all odds to secure our freedom and liberty.

Three men sit on an indoor stage
Hager and two veterans are pictured during an on campus screening of "The Last Gathering - The 75th Anniversary of D Day" in 2020. 

“One of the things I hope to come out of this book is to give the reader hope, no matter their circumstances,” said Hager.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in history and social studies, Hager completed his graduate studies in American history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Hager is the co-producer of award-winning “The Border States of America,” a documentary of the U.S.-Mexico border through the eyes of locals. He is also producer and director of “The Last Gathering - The 75th Anniversary of D Day.” Additionally, Hager serves as board president of the Forks of the Yadkin and Davie County History Museum.

“The Last of the 357th Infantry: Harold Frank’s WWII Story of Faith and Courage” is available for purchase May 31, 2022.

With support from alumni, parents and friends, Lenoir-Rhyne University raised a record amount of funds and commitments in the past fiscal year in support of students, academic programs and athletics.

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