On Sunday 27, 2012



By Bill Gaddes

The 702nd Tank Battalion had a special tank company that was the favorite of General George Patton. The First Sergeant or “Top Kick” of this company was M/SGT John King of Coaldale, Pennsylvania. At the Coaldale Veterans Memorial there is a bench with the names of those from the immediate area who were members of this company. They were: John King, Andrew Meck, Mike Firman, Larry Nicolodi, Andy Hosak, Albert Ossana, Uriel Jones, Armond Schoenberger, and Frank Van Buren. PFC’s Uriel Jones and Albert Ossana of Coaldale were killed in action; and their names are inscribed on the Veterans Memorial “Walk of Honor” and WW II Memorial granite wall. Their mother’s names are inscribed on the “Gold Star Mother Memorial Walk” in the Women’s Memorial Garden. Most of these heroes were awarded Purple Hearts and Silver/Bronze Stars; including French decorations for their combat experiences.

General Patton used this Sherman tank company as a special ‘spearhead’ unit. Their tanks were devoid of unit and division markings; in fact of any markings whatsoever. John king had bi-weekly contact with General Patton. Perhaps it was the ‘Johnny Walker’ or the American cigars that John’s sister concealed in large loaves of home made bread that attracted Patton.

M/SGT John King loved to recount his war experiences, which were indelibly burned into his memory in the greatest detail. One of the most moving stories involved the death of Uriel Jones and the serious wounding of Frank Camerini in a fierce tank engagement in Germany proper. Three of John king’s tanks were destroyed in an ambush. The conditions necessitated a rapid retreat and a flanking movement by John’s remaining

tanks. As John ordered his tank to retreat up the road as fast as possible, he saw Uriel Jones and Frank Camerini lying motionless in a ditch along the road. Apparently they had managed to escape their burning M-4 Sherman Tank. Fueled with gasoline, the Sherman was a virtual death trap if hit with high velocity German tank or anti-tank guns. John’s heart was broken as he saw two of his friends and fellow soldiers apparently dead in the watery ditch. The war at this time was moving extremely rapidly, and John’s company

had no opportunity to recover personnel or tanks. They proceeded to be involved in a rather famous rapid advance to liberate Allied POW’s from a German camp. When they arrived, the prisoners had been ‘forced marched’ away. A big disappointment. This incident is portrayed in the “Band of Brothers” documentary.

John was sure that both of his hometown friends and fellow soldiers for which he was responsible as their First Sergeant; were surely killed in action. The company continued their rapid advance and was successful in liberating a Jewish Concentration Camp. These images were seared into John’s memory. Upon the rapid closure of the European war in

May of 1945, John’s unit prepared to embark for the Pacific Theater of Operations, in

spite of their long combat record. The dropping of the Atomic bombs on Japan saw John’s rapid return home. John was home only a few days when a marvelous event occurred. One morning while shaving in the bathroom, John’s mother called up and said, “John, there is someone at the door to see you.” When john went down, there stood Frank Camorini. Seriously burned, but very much alive, Frank had survived the destruction of his tank. The two heroes embraced and wept. However, Uriel Jones, as well as Albert Ossana, gave their lives and their tomorrows for our freedom.

It was a distinct honor to have considered John king as a good friend and to have met Frank Camerini. Uriel Jones was a relative of my wife Mildred. The small hard coal mining towns of Eastern Pennsylvania produced an inordinate number of WW II heroes. We owe an everlasting debt of gratitude for their sacrifices, which ensured the very freedoms which we enjoy and take for granted today.


John King was upset that he forgot to include Frank Camerini’s name on the plaque; even though all the other names are from Coaldale, Pennsylvania. He decided to purchase a brick in Frank’s honor, which is in the memorial sidewalk. All the heroes listed in this story are deceased.

S/Sgt William Gaddes

Combat Decorated Veteran of the Korean War


John King served during WW II under General George Patton in the Third US Army during the European Campaign. He was the First Sergeant or "Top Kick" of a special mission Sherman tank unit of the 702nd Tank Battalion. John commanded this unit during the entire European Campaign through France, Belgium and Germany. The unit was the favorite of General Patton; therefore John had near weekly interaction with the General. Assigned special and dangerous missions, without distinguishing markings on their tanks, the company spearheaded Patton's Third Army.

John was involved in the rescue of the 81st Airborne Division in Belgium; the initial crossing of the Rhine River into Germany ; and the liberation of two concentration camps. John was awarded many combat decorations, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Two soldiers from Coaldale were killed in action under John's command. At least five others from the immediate area served in combat with John.

John married the former Suzanne Yurick of Lansford. He was an executive manager in the printing industry. John was the father of a son whose death preceded John’s. He is survived by a daughter Ms. Pamela King of Wilmington, NC. After John's wife passed away, he returned to his native Coaldale; where he was very active in the Saint Mary's Orthodox Church and in the design of and construction of a WW II Veterans Memorial for Coaldale.

In his later years, John loved to reminisce about his encounters with General Patton during Third Army's sweep across Europe... John used to share cigars and Johnnie Walker Black with the General, who was amazed at John's ability to obtain these treasures. John passed away in January of 2012; and is interred in Sky View Memorial Cemetery among nearly 3,000 other veterans. John was a classical example of the best of the "Finest Generation". We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to M/SGT John King, PFC Uriel Jones, PFC Albert Ossana, and to all veterans who have fought, suffered, and died preserving our freedoms.



John King - In Memoriam

John King, 88, of Coaldale, died Saturday in Nesquehoning. He was the husband of the late Suzanne (Yurick) King.

Prior to retiring, he had been employed as a printer, working for Avery Labels in New Brunswick, N.J.

Born in Coaldale, he was a son of the late Anthony and Mary (Millen) King.

A veteran of World War II, he served in the U.S. Army, with Gen. George Patton's 702nd Tank Brigade, in the European Theater of Operations.

He was a member of St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Coaldale, where he served on the church council.

A 1942 graduate of the former Coaldale High School, he also completed classes with the Dale Carnegie Institute.

He was a member of the Coaldale Lions Club and the Russian Club of Coaldale.

Surviving are a daughter, Pamela King of Wilmington, N.C.; a daughter in law, Janice King of West Chester; a nephew, Richard York of Coaldale; two grandchildren, Derek King and Alexandra Bilotta.

He was also preceded in death by a son, John Charles King, who died in 1992.

Services: 11 a.m., Wednesday, St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Coaldale, with the Rev. Daniel Mathewson officiating. Interment, Sky View Memorial Park, Hometown. Call Tuesday, 6-8 p.m.,,Gulla Funeral Home, 130 E. Ridge St., Coaldale, or Wednesday, 10-11 a.m., at te church. Parastas Tuesday at 7 p.m. Contributions in his name may be made to the church. Online guestbook at www.zrgfuneralhomes.com.

Published in Times News on January 30, 2012