Harold Rosenberg served in WWII, U.S. Army 99th Infantry, June 1944 to December 1945. Ray Rosenberg served in the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1986, rose from PFC to Lieutenant Colonel, with two tours of duty in Vietnam, 1968 and 1971.
The son of a toolmaker, Harold was born in Providence, Rhode Island. The family moved to Buffalo, New York when Harold was about eight years old in 1927. Harold’s maternal uncle convinced Mr. Abraham Rosenberg, Harold’s dad, that there were more opportunities in Buffalo, that it was a boomtown. Buffalo, New York, and New Port Richey, Florida, were home for Harold until he moved to Naples in 2014 to be nearer to his son Ray.
After the move to Buffalo, Abraham Rosenberg went into partnership with his brother-in-law and another man, selling the Hudson Essex. The business was barely on its feet before the Crash of 1929 occurred and the three partners suffered a total loss. So like millions of other Americans, Mr. Rosenberg and his family got by with what jobs he could find throughout the Depression era.
Harold went on to high school where his artistic talent was recognized and he was advised to enroll in the design curriculum. At graduation, he had, through the influence of one of his teachers, gotten a scholarship to Cornell University. Although Ithaca is only 150 miles from Buffalo, it might as well have been the edge of the world. With no means of transportation or getting any help or guidance in solving the logistics of getting to and living at the university, Harold was unable to use the scholarship.
The alternative was to go to work. He found a job at a drug store, Harvey and Carey, where he learned how to work a soda fountain. A “soda jerk” was a very popular person back at that time in America. Life was rough for most everyone and going to the drug store for a phosphate (carbonated water mixed with a flavored syrup), fountain cola, ice cream soda, or a milkshake was an enjoyable and affordable outing. The “jerk” referred to the motion that the fountain person made moving the handle back and forth to fill the glass with carbonated water.
A friend of Harold’s had to quit his job at a large drug store on North Main and introduced Harold to his boss. He got the position, in large part due to possessing a driver license. This new drug store was spacious, air conditioned, and had its own lending library. It was a memorable summer for Harold in many ways. He enjoyed his job, admired and respected his employer, and also met Ray’s mother Eleanor. Byfall, their relationship was solid.
Harold started night courses amidst the backdrop of rumblings of the war in Europe. There was a resurgence of manufacturing in the country at that time and he was interested in aircraft design and manufacture. Curtiss-Wright, a large employer in Buffalo at that time, was producing the P-40, a pursuit plane, for China as a defense against Japanese incursion. He left his great boss at the drug store and took a job with Curtiss-Wright. Harold went through a lot of the production, then applied for an A&E (aircraft engine) license.
Eleanor and Harold married, later welcomed Ray in 1942, and Eleanor, known as “Rosie” as a shortening of her last name, was working at Curtiss-Wright as well. Her job was to keep track of the many parts needed for production, to restock and maintain the inventory to avoid production shutdowns. With both of them working and Harold getting a lot of overtime, they were able to save and in 1944, bought a house.
Early June 1944, Harold received his special greetings from Uncle Sam. After receiving four deferments because of his work at the aircraft company, he was summoned and sent to the Army Infantry. Basic training was 17 weeks at Camp Croft, South Carolina. Harold was shocked at his experience with the racial segregation in practice in the South. In town to get a steak dinner with fellow recruits, the black people ahead of them stepped off the sidewalk into the street to let them pass. There were separate facilities in all public places, restrooms, water fountains, etc. Not something a boy from up North had ever experienced.
After a short trip home for Thanksgiving, he then reported to Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts, where he was put on a converted passenger ship for a six-day trip across the Atlantic. To avoid the wolf packs of German U-boats, the ship zigzagged across the ocean, and for a day or two they were in the warmer southern waters. Harold remembers everyone outside on the decks, soaking up the warmth. Once they landed at Liverpool, they were packed onto a train to Dover, then ferried across the English Channel where they joined a temporary force composed of many different units.
A few days later, December 16, 1944, the Germans hit the U.S. forces and the Battle of the Bulge had commenced. Harold’s unit was sent to Namur, Belgium, about 60 miles from the front. They were given Springfield 03 rifles, full of grease, left over from World War I, to clean and use as their weapons. (They were eventually given M1 carbines down the line.) Next they were trucked to within three miles of thefront line, “Nowhere near ready to do any fighting.” They were unloaded from the trucks, and sent marching through the snow to the front line. It was now about December 19, 1944, and the Bulge was in a stalemate, though the Germans had not run out of fuel quite yet.
Just before the front lines, Harold was instructed to go to a hole in the ground and “stay there.” There was a GI sitting in the hole with a blanket, so Harold got in and stayed there overnight. When he awoke in the morning, he got up to brush the snow off of his blanket and heard “zoomp” go by his ear. A sniper about 400 yards away was trying to pick off the new guy who did not know better than to stand up in a foxhole. The other GI yelled, “Get down, you’re gonna get shot.” Harold responded instantaneously and hugged the bottom of the foxhole.
An hour or so later, someone was calling his name. No, he didn’t hit his head hard enough to cause hallucinations. Someone was walking around looking for him. Harold was told to follow him, that Harold was now part of the 99th Infantry Division’s Heavy Weapons unit. The first thing Harold learned in his new assignment was how to strip the container off an 81 mm. shell. He worked his way into the squad and things went well. Towards the end of January 1945, the Germans had run out of fuel, the Battle of the Bulge was over and things started to turn around. The Americans advanced into Belgium, the Germans were backing up, running out of almost everything and the end was in sight. Onto the Cologne plain, the Germans were surrendering.
Victory in Europe arrived May 8, 1945. Then Occupation duty began. Germany’s infrastructure was devastated. There were no police forces, no order of any kind. General Eisenhower was determined to get food and medical supplies to the civilians while flushing out the remaining Nazis. Re-establishing the German police units was a top priority. Because he spoke some German, Harold was given a variety of jobs during his Occupation duty. One of the first was to help a German brewer get the coal he needed to start up his boilers and get production going. This spread much happiness in many sectors of the population.
During his Occupation duty, Harold was billeted with the Franz Hammel family. Mr. Hammel was a woodworker and had a very nice workshop in the rear of the home. After returning stateside, Harold and Eleanor remained in touch with the family and sent them packages to help through the post-war reconstruction.
After a fewweeks of Occupation duty, Harold was called back to regimental headquarters. A colonel wanted to speak to him. A jeep was there to drive him back to HQ. The colonel explained that General Eisenhower was implementing a new eight-week retraining program for young soldiers. All those trainloads of 18-year-olds who had joined the military directly after high school graduation had no skills for re-entry into civilian life and the General wanted to correct that. Also, since they were no longer fighting and no longer doing daily training, they needed to be kept occupied.
The Army had taken possession of the 8th Air Corps base in Wharton, England. The program was to be stationed there. So, to entice Harold to become an instructor in this program, the colonel told him that several civilian teachers from stateside would be coming over and would advise and guide Harold and the other instructors. When he discovered that Harold was Private First Class, the colonel offered him temporary rank as Warrant Officer, which came with not only prestige, but a hefty pay raise.
In addition to this instant promotion, Harold was given a three-day leave in Paris, where he enjoyed a luxurious bath, the first in many months; vastly more refreshing than a battlefield shower. There was also a wardrobe of new uniforms, time to enjoy some sights in Paris, delicious meals, and simple relaxation.
Time to go back to work. From Paris he went to Dieppe, ferried across the channel to Britain, then a train to London. There he was given two days’ orientation about his new job, put on a train to the Midlands. A bus picked them up and took them to the air base at Wharton. Harold was given officers’ quarters.
About three weeks later, the civilian teachers from the U.S. arrived. Harold was there to greet them and during the chat-up, discovered that one of them was a teacher at Seneca High School in Buffalo, New York. They bonded immediately and this teacher “took care of me like a father,” according to Harold. Blackpool, the Atlantic City of the Midlands, was a short distance from the base, and there was plenty of time and opportunity for everyone to enjoy themselves.
Harold had accumulated enough points to be discharged in December 1945. He was shipped home on the Queen Mary. Because he had Warrant Officer Rank, he was bunked in with a First Lieutenant and Captain on one of the upper decks. He was given an arm band, made an MP and sent out to break up the impromptu gambling games on the ship. It was a much smoother, faster trip (five days) than he had experienced the previousyear on his trip to Liverpool.
He mustered out at Fort Dix, New Jersey, with 300 dollars, back to Buffalo. As Curtiss-Wright had closed its doors, he went to work at Bell Aircraft in the engineering department. Two weeks later they shut the engineering unit down after the prototype of the helicopter they had been developing crashed in Fort Worth, Texas. His next engineering job also ended when that company shut down.
By this time, Harold was enrolled in engineering at Millard Fillmore School, the evening division of the University of Buffalo. Finally he found a job at Burk Machine Tool Company, as a machinist. Burk Tool was right across the street from the Greater Buffalo Press Company and performed steady work for the color printer. Greater Buffalo Press is the company that prints the Sunday comics for the nation’s newspapers. Harold drew sketches and engineer drawings of replacement parts for their machines, which allowed the owner to shop around among manufacturers and was able to cut parts replacement expenses by over half. The president of Greater Buffalo Press took a liking to Harold and brought him across the street and made him part of the printing company’s team. Harold spent more than 30 years there, eventually becoming vice-president.
At age 65, Harold was ready to retire but was persuaded to stay on for a while longer, to train a replacement. The company offered him the very sweet deal of working in Buffalo for eight months and living in Florida at their expense January through April. During the four months away, he would make a short trip back to Buffalo each month to check in. So he and Eleanor became snowbirds. Unfortunately, at the end of two years, the replacement trainee passed away.
Harold and Eleanor enjoyed snow birding so much that they purchased their own condo in New Port Richey and continued the two-residency lifestyle until Eleanor passed away in 1991. The next year, Harold remarried to Katherine Karn, a school girl friend of Eleanor’s. Katherine passed away in 2002. Harold and Eleanor had had a second son, Harold Jr., who was born with spina bifida and who passed away at age 45. In addition to his son Ray, Harold’s family includes three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. All of them live in the Washington, D.C., area but stay in touch with frequent phone calls and visits.
In contrast to his father, and actually at his father’s insistence, Ray enlisted before he could be drafted in 1960. Ray had worked for the Bell System’s Western Electric and the Army recognized these skills, again in contrast to his father’s experience, and assigned him to the Signal Corps. After basicat Fort Dix, New Jersey, Ray was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia, for advanced training for the Signal Corps. There, in the civilian sector, he experienced the overt racism of the era, including separate “White” and “Colored” drinking fountains. Again, like his father’s experience 20 years prior.
Ray rose from PFC to rank of sergeant and, encouraged by his platoon sergeant, applied to officer candidate school and was accepted. Graduating with a commission as second lieutenant, he selected assignment as an armor officer to be trained in the use of tanks and infantry in warfare. Like his father, Ray valued education and enrolled in night school and earned his bachelor’s degree then a master’s degree in business administration. His first Army assignment, after attending the Armored Officers Basic Course, was in Europe as a platoon leader and later troop executive officer with 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment patrolling the then Iron Curtain of Czechoslovakia. After two years Ray was reassigned to the U.S. Army Training Center, Ft. Lewis, Washington, where he and other seasoned soldiers put together beds, lockers, mess halls, firing ranges and all the other items required to operate a basic training facility to support the Vietnam conflict. After a year and a half in that assignment, Ray was sent, along with his drill sergeants, to Vietnam for their first tour of duty. Ray recalled a very sad moment for him when he learned that all four of his drill sergeants that had served with him at Ft. Lewis were killed in Vietnam.
His two tours in Vietnam included 1968 at the Tet offensive, in the 1st of the 4th Armored Cavalry Squadron with the 1st Infantry Division as a captain. One of his un-favorite responsibilities was writing condolence letters to family members, which tragically he had to do very often. Many of the young men were simply not prepared for the battle conditions. Ray also lost many friends in that first tour. In his second tour he worked as a G-4 logistics advisor to the Vietnamese 4th Corps, south of Saigon, in 1971.
The years that followed found Ray in various command and staff positions and also attending the Armored Officers Advance Course and the Command and General Staff College. During this same time frame the Army added an additional specialty of comptroller to his military skill list. He also served an additional four-year tour in Europe, two years with the 68th Armor Battalion in Baumholder Germany and then the general staff at HQS USAREUR in Heidelberg. After that tour he again came stateside to serve in various command and staff positions, notably with the U.S. Army Reserve Command in Virginia, the U.S. ArmyLogistics Command Ft. Lee, Virginia and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Ft. Monroe, Virginia.
After 26 years of military service, Ray retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1986, at Fort Monroe, Virginia, serving on the general staff of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
After retirement Ray began a second career in real estate as an association executive with the Richmond Association of Realtors and later, after a move to California, as the CEO of the Los Angeles Association of Realtors. In 2002 Ray and his wife Linda Spell sold their home and apartment building in Glendale, California, packed up all their belongings for storage and set sail, with their parrot Merlynn Bird, on a three-year adventure in the Pacific on their 60-foot IRWIN Sloop.
Now fully retired, Ray and Linda enjoy volunteer duties with the Conservancy of SWF, the American Legion Post 404, the Calusa Garden Club, the Civil Air Patrol, where Ray is the commander of Group-5 Florida Wing and other various Marco Island community groups.
Harold Rosenberg describes himself as a “reluctant soldier.” He was called away from his wife, child, home and job engineering military aircraft to become a foot soldier. Nevertheless, he served with honor and followed every order given to him during his 19 months in the service. His son was a voluntary soldier who made a career in military service. Father and son each were very self-directed and determined to excel in their chosen professions. Each worked full time while pursuing college degrees in night school. Each managed to raise a family as well. Both Harold and Ray continue their membership in the American Legion Post 404, Marco Island. Harold has been a member of the Legion for over 60 years and Ray just a mere 28.
Last October 2014, Ray was Harold’s guardian on the Collier County Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., which included several other Marco veterans and fellow American Legionnaires – Gordon Timmerman, Charles Purple, Don Mills and Phil Ballou. Having friends along made the trip even more special and when he was joined by all of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the WWII Memorial on that beautiful October day, that just put the icing on the cake.
We thank Harold Rosenberg and Ray Rosenberg, father and son military veterans, for their service to our country.
Regrettably, Harold B. Rosenberg passed away on November 12, 2015, before he was able to see this article published. He described himself as a “reluctant soldier,” but he was incredibly generous in sharing his remarkable story and his many photographs from his service in Europe with this writer. I am mindful of the privilege. From the Coastal Breeze News staff to Mr. Harold B. Rosenberg, we offer a final salute!