Frank Armiger Sr.

[ Age 90 ] Instrument installer served in World War II with the Army in North Africa and Sicily, and as a medic.

Aboard a Liberty Ship damaged when it struck a mine, Mr. Armiger tended to a wounded officer.

September 11, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Frank A. "Ace" Armiger Sr., a retired instrument installer and World War II veteran, died of complications from Parkinson's disease Saturday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 90.

Mr. Armiger, who was born in Baltimore and raised in Brooklyn Park, attended Southern High School.

"He had to drop out of high school because of the Great Depression and took a job as a factory worker at the Carr-Lowery Glass Co. He worked there until World War II," said his son, Frank A. Armiger Jr. of Timonium.

In 1942, Mr. Armiger enlisted in the Army and later fought in the North African campaign. During the Sicilian campaign, he served with the 9th Infantry Division of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.'s 3rd Army.

After completing training as a medic, Mr. Armiger departed from North Africa for Marseille, France, with other Army troops aboard the SS Johns Hopkins, a Liberty ship that had been built and launched at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Fairfield yard in Baltimore in 1943.

According to an account in The Liberty Ships by Capt. W. Jaffee, the Johns Hopkins had just completed a voyage Oct. 2, 1944, from Oran, Algeria, to Marseille, and while moving to an anchorage in the harbor during a violent gale with high seas struck a German mine.

"He was below decks, and when it hit and it blew him out of his bunk. He said he remained very calm," his son said.

"However, the crew of merchant mariners abandoned ship, leaving the soldiers aboard the vessel. The Hopkins did not seriously list or keel over and pretty much remained upright," Mr. Armiger's son said.

"The only person wounded in the attack was an officer who broke a leg. My father and another man tended to him on the fantail of the ship," he said.

Finally, a powerful Navy seagoing tug arrived and towed the stricken ship to Marseille.

Mr. Armiger and the troops who remained onboard the Hopkins were awarded a commendation from Col. Charles I. Faddis, who was troop commander.

"I wish to express to all, both commissioned and enlisted, my most sincere appreciation for your superb conduct and splendid support during the time the safety of the ship and the lives of all on board were in jeopardy," wrote Colonel Faddis.

"Nevertheless, not one man flinched, not one sign of panic appeared, in spite of the poor example set by the merchant seamen of the ship's crew. You faced the situation with a fortitude in every manner worthy of the highest tradition of the Armed Services of the U.S.," he wrote.

Colonel Faddis concluded: "By your calmness, cooperation and ready obedience to orders, you conquered circumstances which might otherwise have resulted in serious loss of life."

"He never sailed on a ship again," Mr. Armiger's son said.

After being repaired, the Hopkins returned to sea duty and continued sailing until 1966, when it broke up during heavy weather and foundered off Goat Island, Australia.

Discharged with the rank of staff sergeant in 1945, Mr. Armiger went to work the next year for Food, Machinery Chemical Corp. in Fairfield.

"He installed and repaired high-pressure gauges on chemical tanks," his son said.

Mr. Armiger retired in 1982.

The former longtime Brooklyn Park resident, who moved to Timonium a decade ago, was an avid tenpin bowler, and for years enjoyed the sport at the Glen Burnie Fairlanes. He was also an avid Ravens, Orioles and Maryland Terrapins fan.

Mr. Armiger had been a member of Brooklyn United Methodist Church for 80 years, and since 1997 was a member of Timonium United Methodist Church.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road.

Also surviving are his wife of 61 years, the former Lois I. Douglass; a brother, Joseph F. Armiger of Brooklyn Park; and two grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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