George Tita of Koppel, PA was drafted soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor and, along with his childhood friend, Pete, served with the 691st Tank Destroyer outfit. After a stint in Bowie, TX, the outfit moved to Louisiana to finish their training. In March of 1944, the cadre shipped out to England, and though George and the Tank Destroyers were set to follow in April, undisclosed circumstances prevented them from making the trip. Because of this, George was fortunate enough to have still been in the states when D-Day hit.
While waiting for orders to leave for Europe, George was assigned to work in the kitchens, which he thoroughly enjoyed. When the Destroyers did finally ship out, George continued his culinary chores on the voyage to Europe. After arriving in Europe, George was assigned to ride in the Lead Jeep and patrol the Red Ball Express.
George had more than a few brushes with death, but always managed to get out alive. Sixty years later, the terror in his voice is palpable when he recounts his first shelling experience when, dug into a hillside in France with Pete, he missed a German soldier’s bullet by mere inches. Another time, patrolling in the Jeep during a frighteningly cold winter near the Swiss border, George would have died of hypothermia if it weren’t for his fellow soldiers literally pushing him out of the vehicle. Even now, George has a sort of reverence when recalling these events and is still awed by his good fortune. “It just goes to show you, my luck and the way it worked out all the time,” he says.
We first met George Tita at our inaugural Veterans Breakfast Club presentation at Carnegie Free Library in Beaver Falls, PA. During the presentation he shared a few remarkable stories of his time in Europe, but unfortunately we didn’t have a microphone trained on him and we could not capture his tales on our video. Of course, recognizing the need to have George record his stories with us, we asked him if he’d come visit with us whenever we started our future recording project at the library. He agreed.
We eventually got the chance to interview George during the late morning of 26 June 2013, just after we relocated our studio into the recently vacated office space of the Beaver County Genealogy and History Center. It was hot and humid; Andrew Carnegie didn’t design his 111 year old building with air conditioning. However, we made the space bearable by using a small window air conditioner and fan–both of which had to be turned off when the camera started rolling.
As a mobile oral history recording studio, we’re used to a variety of working conditions. But as the lights come up and our recorders go on, we tend to forget about our surroundings as we focus on our subjects’ stories–that’s what matters. So, for the next 90 minutes we gave George Tita our undivided attention. We were not disappointed.
In My Own Words
George Tita fought in WW II with the 691st Tank Destroyers. Listen to George recount his experiences of luck, good timing, and fortunate circumstances. “It’s so hard to bring everything back after all of these years,” he admits. He forgets a lot. Some things shouldn’t be remembered.
This interview was recorded as part of the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative, in partnership with the Veterans Breakfast Club and the Carnegie Fee Library, Beaver Falls, PA, June 26, 2013. Interviewer and audio recording: Kevin Farkas. Audio editing: Anna Samuels.
It’s Not Worth Killing a Guy
In this audio short, George Tita shares a story about almost killing a young German POW over a souvenir. The take away lesson: even in the most barbaric of times, the necessity of compassion is profoundly human.