He is a member of the Greatest Generation — times four.
Army Lt. Col. Frank Klein came to know the heat and chill of war in three decades.
Klein has no special plans today for Veterans Day, but on Monday, the federally designated holiday, he will spend the afternoon as he has done for the past 42 years: at work at his family’s bookstore, the Bookseller Inc., which specializes in rare, used and out-of-print books. He runs the business with his daughters at 39 Westgate Circle in West Akron.
“A book is a wonderful thing,” Klein, 86, said as he walked down an aisle filled with military books.
A month after graduating from Cuyahoga Falls High School in June 1944, Klein and several classmates had been drafted and were in the Army. By the following February, he was in Europe with the 103rd Infantry Division.
He and his comrades fought for the next two months, until the end of the war, when he was in Innsbruck, Austria. Klein then served another year in Germany with an occupation army.
After he got out of the Army, he went to Kent State University and joined the newly established ROTC program. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1950 after graduating and went on active duty.
Soon, he found himself in Korea.
Klein served as a platoon leader with the 2nd Infantry Division, 23rd Regiment, for a year, seeing what he described as “a good bit” of action, fighting in the Battle of Old Baldy.
“We had a pretty good fight there,” he said, recalling the death of a sergeant in his platoon. “It was a really sad thing.”
After the Korean War, Klein became a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft pilot and spent a year in the late 1950s, during the height of the Cold War, on the border between East Germany and West Germany.
His Army career next took him to Fort Belvoir, Va., where he flew helicopters in the Washington, D.C., area.
Then he served in Vietnam from the fall of 1964 to the fall of 1965 as executive officer of the 145th Helicopter Battalion with UH-1 helicopters as the choppers were being armed with machine guns.
Mostly he and his unit flew South Vietnamese Army soldiers to combat locations. After his tour in Vietnam ended, he held various assignments, including a three year stint at the Pentagon, before retiring in 1970.
Klein said he enjoyed his time in the Army because he was “always oriented toward action.”
When he returned to Ohio, he worked at the bookstore whose roots went back to 1936, when his father, Clarence Klein, started selling books in their home in Stow.
His father died in 1970, and Klein continued operating the store, then located in the Five Points area on West Exchange Street in Akron.
After fire destroyed the shop in 1994, it moved on Exchange Street closer to downtown Akron, then to its current location in 2001.
At the bookstore, there is a large collection of used military and aviation books.
But Klein’s favorite book about war is the one he was reading when he first arrived in Vietnam.
“Certainly Catch-22 has to be there,” he said with a laugh, thinking about the satirical novel Joseph Heller wrote about World War II.
He mentioned other books on war that have been important to him: the multivolume memoirs of President Ulysses S. Grant; and his current interest, Arundel, by Kenneth Roberts, a novel about Benedict Arnold during the Revolutionary War.
As a young man, he said, he enjoyed reading the book about the Civil War, Corporal Si Klegg and his “Pard” by Wilbur Hinman.
“One of the troubles is we concentrate too much on new war books,” he said.
Klein said he probably would have taken part in the invasion of Japan if the atomic bomb had not ended the war. Then he mentions another book, Thank God for the Atom Bomb, by Paul Fussell, that he enjoyed.
Looking back on his time in uniform, in three wars, over three decades, Klein said it was an important time in his life.
“Oh, sure,” he said. “I was very lucky. I never got scratched.”
For more on Klein’s store, go to www.thebooksellerinc.com.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at email@example.com.