Ranger Paul T. Semo

Paul T Semo
Born: 4 Jan 1923 Houtzdale, Pennsylvania
Died: 29 July 1986 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Army Serial Number: 33569263
Ranger Battalion/Company: 1/F
Rank: T/4
Enlisted: 7 January 1943 in Altoona, PA
Battles/Campaigns/Significants: Gela, Butera, Sicily / Salerno, Venafro, Anzio, Cisterna Italy
Medals/Awards: CIB, BSM, Purple Heart, POW medal, EAME Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, American Defense Medal, 3 Battle Stars, Presidental Unit Citation-Salerno (WD GO 41, 1947)


Paul Thomas Semo was born in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania on 4 January 1923. He was the son of Stephen Semo and Anna Grobaski. Stephen was from Slovakia and Anna was born in New York, a daughter of Polish Immigrants. Stephen supported his large family working the coal mines of Pennsylvania. The family grew up in Barnesboro. By 1940 Paul had finished 2 years of high school. In June of 1942 he was working for Barnes and Tucker Coal Company according to his draft card. He was 19 and he was described as 5’9”tall weighed 148 lbs, dark complexion with blue eyes and brown hair.

Paul’s military career began when he was inducted into the army 7 January 1943 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. After any basic and specialty MOS training he boarded a ship probably out of the New York Harbor headed for Casablanca, Morocco, North Africa. He traveled to Oban, Algeria where the 1st Replacement Depot was located. He started receiving foreign service pay 6 June 1943 so he had not been overseas very long before he volunteered and joined 1st Ranger Battalion F Company on 20 June 1943. He would go thru the rigorous Ranger Training in Zeralda, Algeria. The Rangers were adding the 3rd and 4th Battalions at that time.

PVT Semo would see his first combat in the Invasion of Gela, Sicily. On 3 July 1943 1st Rangers boarded the USS Joseph T Dickman they sailed to Bizerte for two days of maneuvers getting ready for the Gela Landing. 10 July 1943 the operation began. There were rough seas and deep waters. F Co was picking up Rangers in the sea from capsized transports. There were casulties on the beach because the enemy had mined the area. After getting thru the mines and up off the beach Steve Yambor if 1F took out a pillbox. This helped Rangers to get further into the city.

Ranger Semo was involved in the capture of the high ground on the Gela-Butera road. Patton ordered Darby and the Rangers to take the objective. 1Fox was commanded by Capt Alex Worth. It was discovered the Germans were hiding in the haystacks. As they approached the area erupted into machine gun fire. Worth ordered the 60 mm mortars to take out the machine gun nest. This was on 12 July 1943. Paul was promoted to PFC on 27 July 1943.

PVT Semo went out on a Line of Duty(LD) injury and malaria on the 26th of August. He returned back on duty a month later on 25 Sept 1943. While Ranger Semo recuperated, the Rangers carried on landing at the beach of Maiori and headed to the Chuinzi Pass. Ranger Semo came in and participated in fighting on some of the most brutal, cold, wet mountain terrain at Venafro holding the Winterline against the Germans.

Rangers were involved in the Landings at Anzio during the month of January 1944. On 30 January the 1st and 3rd Rangers were assigned to go into the Village of Cisterna to take the area. Unknown to the Allies the Germans had fortified their positions and lay in wait for the unsuspecting Rangers. The Rangers went in by cover of night but had not reached cover before daybreak hit. They were caught in the open with very little cover. Rangers gallantly fought until the ammo ran out. They destroyed their radios and the Germans moved in. The Rangers had no choice but surrender or risk the Germans shooting more of their buddies. Ranger Paul Semo was also captured. The 1st and 3rd Rangers lost over Fifty men that day. Only 36 made it back to the Allies and over 700 became Prisoners of the Germans. The Germans marched the POWs thru the streets of Rome before loading them into rail cars headed to Stalag 2B. Ranger Semo spent about 15 months as a POW. He tried to escape several times. They lived in chicken coops and got potato peels from the Germans.

Paul suffered from PTSD and various health problems. A team of German doctors saved his life when they operated on his lungs after he was freed from the POW camp. He was in and out of VA hospitals his entire life and never married. He rarely talked about his service. Ranger Paul Semo died at age 63 in the Aspinwall Veterans Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania July 29th 1986.