TORRANCE, Calif. – When he was a young boy delivering newspapers for The Inter-Mountain, Norton native Frank Scarfo could never have guessed the twists and turns his life would take.
Details of the 94-year-old US Army veteran’s incredible journey came to light when it was included in the Congressional Records by US Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-California, in a private ceremony late last week. Scarfo was then honored during a city council meeting in Torrance, California on Tuesday.
Scarfo was shocked and surprised when he was honored during Tuesday’s ceremony. He was told he had to go to the council chambers to sign a final approval document and was instead presented with a framed copy of the congressional tribute.
Though Scarfo was away from West Virginia for many years, he still calls the Mountain State home.
Scarfo grew up in Norton and spoke only Italian until he was 8 years old. After learning English, Scarfo graduated from Elkins High School and then earned a degree from Davis & Elkins College. That’s when things started to get interesting.
Scarfo signed up for the design in 1950, and his fluency in Italian came to the attention of officials during his service in the Army. He was sent to the Counter Intelligence Corps School in Fort Holabird, Maryland, where he trained as a counterintelligence officer – or in other words, a spy.
After training, Scarfo was sent to Livorno, Italy, where he was asked to help root out the Italian Communist Party during the Korean War. Scarfo infiltrated those hostile groups and arrested those involved, officials said this week.
He and other US agents received weekly top-secret filings containing a list of targets to be pursued. The group of armed secret agents uncovered many potentially dangerous enemy agents working for the US Army in Livorno, Pizza and Florence.
The alias for the operation was the “work control command”, Details about it remain secret to this day. Scarfo served his country for two years in Italy supporting the 4th Logistics Command and then served four years in the Army Reserve where he became a sergeant.
Scarfo left the military to return home and care for his ailing parents in West Virginia. He later moved to California where his sister Rose opened an Italian restaurant in Lomita. Ironically, the restaurant was located next to Chuck Norris’ karate studio. Norris, an actor and martial arts expert, often played roles that resembled Scarfo’s actual life in the army.
Because of his skills and education, Scarfo landed a job with the Aerospace Corporation shortly after arriving in California. While at Aerospace, he worked with space pioneer Dr. Wernher von Braun, a German defector who was one of the most important rocket designers and advocates of space exploration in the 20th century. Scarfo was part of the hardware development for the successful moon landings in the late 1960s and early 1970s.