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Holocaust Survivor Clara Rudnick in her home, Photo Erica Miller 8/31/10

Holocaust Survivor Clara Rudnick in her home, Photo Erica Miller 8/31/10

I have a friend who lost her entire family and just barely survived the Holocaust in her homeland of Lithuania, and elsewhere.

I gave a talk a while back and Clara was there. Here is what I wrote then:

I gave my first talk last night after returning  from an intensive 3 week European study tour. Arriving early to prepare and set up, I looked up and in walked Siobhan, a former student, and her mom, followed a little while by an older woman I was surprised and delighted to see- Mrs. Rudnick, or Clara. She gave me a hug and took off her coat and told me that she had taken a cab to the site of the lecture, and, oh, could I please give her a ride home? I was delighted.

During the lecture I recognized her before the audience, and thanked her for coming out. She told the audience how proud she was to live in the “North Country” of upstate New York. Heck, she’s lived here since 1949, a dozen years before I was born! She was moved to tears, as was Siobhan, who gave her a hug.

During the talk, she nodded her head in agreement to many of my points. Afterwards, she pulled out a piece of paper, a short statement that she had written, explaining that she had been meaning to call me.  You see, she was not the only traveler to Europe this summer. While I was in Poland touring Holocaust related sites, Mrs. Rudnick had returned to Lithuania of her youth.

Not an easy thing, given that

a. Clara is 89 years old;

b. Clara is a Holocaust survivor;

c. Clara lost most of her family to the SS Einsatzgruppen and their Lithuanian collaborators.

She and her late husband Abe were two of only 7000 survivors of the 70,000 Jews of Vilna. I was familiar with a lot of the history, but to understand more of what she had gone through, I looked up the following at the USHMM website:

The Lithuanians carried out violent riots against the Jews both shortly before and immediately after the arrival of German forces. In June and July 1941, detachments of German Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units), together with Lithuanian auxiliaries, began murdering the Jews of Lithuania. By the end of August 1941, most Jews in rural Lithuania had been shot. By November 1941, the Germans also massacred most of the Jews who had been concentrated in ghettos in the larger cities. The surviving 40,000 Jews were concentrated in the Vilna, Kovno, Siauliai, and Svencionys ghettos, and in various labor camps in Lithuania. Living conditions were miserable, with severe food shortages, outbreaks of disease, and overcrowding.

In 1943, the Germans destroyed the Vilna and Svencionys ghettos, and converted the Kovno and Siauliai ghettos into concentration camps. Some 15,000 Lithuanian Jews were deported to labor camps in Latvia and Estonia. About 5,000 Jews were deported to extermination camps in Poland, where they were murdered. Shortly before withdrawing from Lithuania in the fall of 1944, the Germans deported about 10,000 Jews from Kovno and Siauliai to concentration camps in Germany.

Soviet troops reoccupied Lithuania in the summer of 1944. In the previous three years, the Germans had murdered about 90 percent of Lithuanian Jews, one of the highest victim rates in Europe.

Clara was anxious to speak to me. She told me of her trip with her son. Together they returned to Svinsyan, where her parents, two sisters and two brothers lived. To one of my students, a few years back, she told the following story:

On June 21st, 1941, the Nazis came into my town, I lived with my mother and father, two brother and two sisters. In July 4th, they took my oldest brother and burned him alive, with 90 other Jewish teenagers in my town. In the early part of August they came in and took my twin brother, along with another 100 teenagers and dug a big hole and buried them alive. In September they took the whole town about 8,000 people and brought then to where we held our flea markets- this was both of my sisters and my mother- out into the woods where they lined them up and shot them and left them there. This is where my father and I escaped- he knew a lot of men- and we went to farm to farm and hid out until the Nazis would come, and we would leave because if they caught us they would kill us and the people we were staying with, because they were harboring  fugitives.

At the town’s museum, she stopped to ask where the memorial of the murder site, Poligon, could be found. Clara said that they  told her that they did not know where it was, though half the town’s population, many of the families having lived their since the 1300s, had been murdered there.

At the hotel in Vilna she inquired how she could get to Ponary, and was simply told “there is nothing there”. Google Ponary. 110000 relevant results. 70,000 Jews were shot to death there by the Germans and Lithuanians.

Taking the English-speaking bus tour of the Old City of Vilna, the guide described the Philharmonic Hall but did not tell the tourists that this was the entrance to the Vilna Ghetto, where she had been imprisoned until being deported to a slave labor camp and later to a concentration camp. When Clara asked why the guide did not mention this, the guide said that she “did not know.”

Maybe the guide was young and was not taught this history in school. Or maybe it was not important enough to be part of the official program. 90 to 95% of Lithuania’s Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. To one lady on the bus, and her son, it was important. In Clara’s words, “In just three days, I learned that Lithuania has not faced it history of the destruction of its 250,000 Jews”.

Clara is happy that I am keeping the memory alive. She put on her coat and climbed up into my pickup truck without assistance. She chatted all the way home as I tried to navigate to her house in the dark. She thanked me over and over. Not at all. Thank you for coming into my life and making me, and my students, a part of yours.

***

Here then, is some welcome news from Europe. But you have to wonder how far it will really go.

“Lithuania pledges to publish names of 1,000 suspected Holocaust perpetrators”

 

Following the publication in Lithuania of a groundbreaking book on local complicity during the Holocaust, a state museum on genocide said it would publish a list of 1,000 suspected perpetrators.

Terese Birute Burauskaite, who heads the Vilnius-based Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, said her institution would “this year try to publish a book” containing “over 1,000 Lithuanian residents who are connected to the Holocaust,” the news website Delfi.lt reported Tuesday.

Burauskaite made her remarks in an interview on the findings of a book titled “Musiskiai” (“Our Own”) that was released last week. Co-authored by the Israeli Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff and Ruta Vanagaite, a local author who began studying the Holocaust after discovering that members of her own family played a role in the murder of Jews during the genocide, the book focused media attention on the controversial issue of local complicity.

In 2012, the museum gave the government a list containing 2,055 names of supposed perpetrators, Vanagaite said in the Delfi interview last week about her book, but Vilnius neither published it nor made any attempt to investigate the people concerned.

Rimantas Vaitkus, a deputy minister for education, told Delfi: “We do not have such a list,” explaining that compiling one was up to the genocide center. But Burauskaite, the center’s director, said her organization had discussed the list with the government. After studying the list for three years, she said her organization eliminated approximately 1,000 suspects.

According to Zuroff, the list was published in 2012 briefly on the website of the museum but taken offline after 24 hours.

The book by Zuroff, who is the Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Vanagaite chronicles their journeys last summer across Lithuania, where they spoke with people who witnessed locals killing Jews. Its 2,500 copies were sold out within two days of its Jan. 26 publication release.

More than 95 percent of the 220,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania during the Holocaust were murdered, many of them by local Nazis and Nazi collaborators. Some of the perpetrators are celebrated as heroes in Lithuania, where many perceive them as national heroes for their opposition to Russian domination of the country.

“There has been a stubborn reluctance in Lithuania to start the retrospection that went on elsewhere in Europe,” Zuroff said. “There are signs this book is changing that.”

http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Lithuania-pledges-to-publish-names-of-1000-suspected-Holocaust-perpetrators-443624

I hope you had a great weekend. I decided to spend my weekend with a fellow who has been gone for a while. And I had a blast.

tom collins jan 04

This weekend I edited an interview we did six or seven years before the our veteran, sitting comfortably in his favorite chair in his button-down sweater in front of the Christmas tree, passed. He was suddenly alive, animated, an old man telegraphing the emotions and feelings long buried about some of the most formative years of his life-conveying them to a young person who was genuinely interested; who CARED.

When you edit a raw interview, you have to absorb it all first. The surroundings, the line of questioning, the emotions and the back and forth of the memory machine. You pray that the transcriber, if it was not you originally, was relatively engaged and committed to a literal interpretation. And thank goodness for the advent of the digital access to the tapes we made, when we donated a copy to the New York State Military Museum.

We’d move on a minute’s notice and find a place to put our guns into position. [When we were in combat] there was fear, lots of it. But I was in charge of the howitzer and the gun crew. We might be getting shelled ourselves and our infantry getting pounded. We sometimes found ourselves in fluid situations. The Germans might be attacking or we might be attacking and it was very fluid—we might be moving forward or backing up. You never knew—[behind the lines], you never knew what was happening, whether we had them on the run or whether they were counterattacking—so we had to think in terms of getting things ready to move, because we might have to get the hell out of here. We had the fear but we were so busy and had so much to do and make sure it got done that it sort of beat the fear. In other words, you were scared to death, but you did the best you possibly could.

Armed with all this, without putting words in the subject’s mouth, I have to arrange his recollections in line with the actual events of the day. Thus it was with Mr. Tom Collins, an artillery sergeant responsible for a 105 mm gun crew in Italy.  As it turned out, he was interviewed by his own granddaughter, one of my students a long time before he passed. And he told her things that he had never told anyone else in his life–but only because she cared, and asked the right follow-up questions. That is clear in the transcript she produced for her project afterwards.

When we got home, the sudden change [to civilian life] seemed difficult for me. I felt more and more that I had changed, so I would stay home. I didn’t go anywhere. It took me a couple of weeks before I would go out, you know, go downtown. I remember the first few times I went uptown from there—I wouldn’t go unless my sister was with me, I wouldn’t go alone. I can’t really put words on it but I really felt strange. I felt unusual. I thought, ‘Will I talk right, will I act right?’ because when we were in the army, foul language was common place and using crazy phrases like the southerners used, things like that, it became the way I was speaking and living. But [after a while] I warmed up and I was fine.

Tom Collins passed in 2011. Yet because of the prescient efforts  we made, years and years ago, he will live on in the minds of more than just his family. You can see more about him below, and you can read about him in the upcoming book I am working on. You did good, young Catie.

Thank you, sweetheart. It was a pleasure.

Rest on, Tom Collins.

 

 

Why should I think about yesterday
and lose this beautiful today?
Why should I worry about a tomorrow
that may never be?
So live for today
Because yesterday will never return,
And who knows what tomorrow will be.
–Holocaust survivor Frank Burstin

affectionately known as “Pop”

 

Student civil rights activists join hands and sing as they prepare to leave Ohio to register black voters in Mississippi. The 1964 voter registration campaign was known as Freedom Summer. {Ted Polumbaum/Newseum} link

Sometimes you wonder, after a class, if anyone really gets it, or really thinks about the points you are trying to make. I’ve been teaching the civil rights movement in the United States as of late. What strikes me is how this movement was led by young people who were passionate. Young people who were willing to shed their own blood, even to the point of taking the risk of laying down their lives for an idea, a principle that MATTERED to them. And so this is my thesis, and this is my point, to my young charges, not much younger than the college kids that sparked a revolution because they cared enough to do the RIGHT.

It all starts with the young. 

Of course, they got their ideas from somewhere. So when I think about the Freedom Riders, who crossed state lines to force the federal government to do something about segregated busing, and got their heads split open because of it, or the young people who went to Mississippi to register black voters in the summer of 1964, where some of them were murdered, I think about the passionate teachers and parents who instilled such values in the young. And I whisper a prayer of gratitude for all of them.

This past Sunday I attended the interfaith celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr right here in our own community. And what struck me again, was the passion of the young. Students from three local districts, including Hudson Falls, lit the fire and led the way.

What brings this post on now, after the fact, is a nice email letter today from a former student. Here are young people who fight for the folks who can’t fight for themselves, who rose above their own trying circumstances to engage the system to make the world a better place.

Sometimes you wonder.

But maybe those teachers get across after all.

****

How are you?   I hope your books are coming well.  
On MLK day, I, like many others, take time to appreciate seminal movements for social justice in American history.  However, I make the effort to recall not just the parts that collectively most Americans seem aware of, but instead, the rest of it. The parts that are poignant, harrowing and, deeply disturbing and that seem all but forgotten from our collective memory, even though, they create, define or inform the events that dominate the national news cycles of late.  
Reflecting on this yesterday made me think of you, not because of what you taught me about social justice movements in high school (though you certainly did peek my interest), but for two other reasons.
*
First, because of your premise that teaching history matters and the of importance you put on drawing connections to the past. 
Second, because you inspired me to love history to the point that I got a degree in it.  In college I concentrated on studying the history of women and people of color in the United States, and liberation movements in the third world, and I absolutely loved it and on MLK Day, I am particularly thankful for this education.
*
These two points are of course related.  Studying history (for me) was the type of learning that feeds one’s soul.  However, it also shapes the lens through which I see the world.
For example, women’s suffrage; Alice Paul. I think about these things a lot in the course my daily life.  100 years ago, if I were alive, I would not legally have the right to vote.  Women died for me to have this right.  Women who fought for it were put in jail and were forced fed while on hunger strike.  So I exercise it.  For every election I am eligible to do so. I also deeply appreciate the individuals that came before me whose struggles would allow me to become an attorney.  I understand and work through the vehicles that I choose to deconstruct the deep seeded patriarchy, sexism and classism that would have previously shut these doors for me and other forms of oppression that would have shut this and different doors for others.  
I also use my lessons on history to think about intersectionalities of different forms of injustice on a regular basis.  I’m still struck by the fact that movements for social change repeatedly have worked in silos, failing to make connections between how different forms of oppression co-exist and are related.  On MLK Day I think about how MLK made some (but not all) of these connections in his public advocacy and fought for more than just racial justice but is rarely remembered for that.  And that the racial justice that he fought for is for a “color blind” society but not the kind where being “color blind” means being blind to the disadvantages people of color face in the United States today as a result of our collective past. 
*
My husband and I both are passionate about social justice and feel rooted in the history of these movements.  When I am frustrated with why we are so busy, I try to stop and remember that it is because we are both fighting in our own ways (while trying to be the best parents that we can be) for that bigger purpose and that our efforts are a very small part of a much bigger picture.  
I share this with you now to support your thesis on the value of history education (not to argue any of my opinions listed above).  As on MLK Day I acknowledge how thankful I am for having my history education, how the connections I list above shape my life and how excited I am to teach my daughter these lessons as she grows.
Lastly, I’m surprised by how much I wrote in this email.  I had more to say on this than expected.  
As always, be well, best wishes and many thanks,
C.

 

edwin israel by matt rozell

edwin israel by matt rozell

I’m working on my second and third books simultaneously, the trilogy of World War II and Holocaust stories that have shaped my life though the narratives of those who lived through it. One of the most gratifying things is recalling the conversations I recorded over the course of nearly two decades. Most of the subjects are now deceased.

Edwin Israel participated in the invasion of Normandy, Sicily and North Africa. He received 2 Bronze Stars. One time he captured three soldiers who were trying to kill him, marching them back to his lines at gunpoint, with an empty rifle pointed at them. Another time he evaded capture by pretending he was dead and lying down on top of a German soldier he had just mortally wounded. When the enemy patrol passed, the dying German, in perfect English, told him to take his stuff.

I got up and [this German I shot] starts talking to me in English, he says he’s from Coney Island, in Brooklyn, he went to visit his mother in Germany and they put him in the army. And he was dying, and he says to me, ‘you can take my cigarettes; you can take my schnapps’. Then he died right underneath me. And I imagine he knew I had shot him…

He was a first scout who navigated his way back to his lines at night by following the stars. One time he crossed through a minefield and back without knowing it.

Before the invasion of Normandy, he rolled craps all night before going in on Omaha Beach. He had all the money at the end, and loaned out money to the guys who wanted to keep playing. Not one of them survived.

His beloved captain, who had been his CO all through the war, warned him about the mines on the beach before disembarking. The first thing that he did after that was step on a mine and get killed.

 

Everything was very lucky for me.  I just happened to do this, or happened to do that.  When they counterattacked that time on the hill, I just figured I’ll lay down on top of that soldier and make believe I’m dead. I used to go scouting at night by the stars—I used to look up and see where certain stars were, so that I could find my way back. That was how I found my way back when the fellas and I went to the mountain—by stars—through the minefield. We were so lucky. But you know, I never worried about getting wounded; it never bothered me.  I was only worried about getting captured, never worried about getting shot.  I said, ‘They’re not going to shoot me.’  That was my attitude. I volunteered for everything. I only worried that I was going to get captured.  With my name, I figured, oh, they’re going to kill me. That’s the only thing I worried about.

 

I interviewed him four months before he died, twelve years ago. The tape was then buried but has since been rediscovered. Lately I have been working on and editing his transcript for days. There is a noble feeling akin to resurrecting these men that makes the time so worthwhile.

Look for the next book this summer. We’re bringing Ed back.

TOFS Book Presentation

 

Be the Light.

A Christmas Story, by Me

~The Dark Santa~

(in the spirit of “Chucky the Doll meets Scrooge McDuck”)

The holiday festivities once again roll back around and the Dark Santa is trolling in the background to keep order and decorum. In our house, he is never relegated back into the box; he is always on guard and looking out over the children, good and bad, tinkering his bells to announce his arrival and ready with his switch to be used on misbehaving bums. But this year he has a special message to deliver, and this evening before Christmas, he comes gently in the night to remind me of a few things.

1206151173b

I created this particular Dark Santa and a batch like him back in 1992. I don’t think we made more than a couple dozen, me and the good wife, back in the days BC (before children). I would watch the local PBS station on Saturday morning as my hero Rick Bütz, the Adirondack woodcarver, would turn a hunk of wood into something real and alive. My teaching career was just underway, and Laura and I had just moved from my parents’ house, where we had shacked up in desperation as poor newlyweds, to a beautiful new home that my good friend had built. We were young and independent, free with time and money. The road was wide open. Then one Saturday Rick created a belsnickel, and as he brought the block to life, he told the story of Santa’s cranky cousin. From the history pages:

“He is typically very ragged and disheveled. He wears torn, tattered, and dirty clothes, and he carries a switch in his hand. A few nights before Christmas, a rap would come at the door. A cross-looking man wearing furs would step through the door. He held a hickory switch in one hand and a sack laden with candy and nuts in the other. One by one, he called the children in the house forward and asked them to recite a poem, a Bible verse or math equations. He’d warn them to behave. Then he’d toss the goodies on the floor — but woe to children who forgot their manners and greedily dove for the candy and nuts. They might feel the sting of the switch on their backs. But there was still time to mend their ways before Santa visited on Christmas Eve.”

For some reason, the little guy just spoke to me. I went on a tear, laying out the template and carving away, shaping the body, incising the eyes, and curving the lines down in his beard with the compact woodcarving kit my youthful wife bought me. She would paint his robe and the mittens, I would drill and nail his free-swinging arms in place, complete with broomstalk switches, and we would move on to the next one. So off the toy assembly line they marched, the first one finding his way to my parents’ mantelpiece over the fireplace—Mom and Dad just loved him. The rest were dispatched to many of my closest friends and relatives, and maybe to some of their friends; I don’t think I sold any.

Two decades plus later, my late parents are a warm memory. My not-so-young bride and I wake up nights and worry for our own children, our students, and other loved ones in this fouled-up world, as my folks surely did for us. And coming down the stairs one morning recently, Dark Santa jumps out at me from his perpetual place on the window ledge, as if to say, “Okay, bud. Now it’s your turn.”

I decide to fetch the camera, take his photo, and not exactly in the true spirit of Christmastime, I post Dark Santa up on my Facebook page, shouting but not writing the words I am feeling:

Happy Holidays, World. You have been a bad world, full of ignorance and intolerance and demagoguery and divisiveness. Maybe it’s time you felt the switch.

But maybe that’s not what the little guy had in mind. In response to my post, one by one, our friends and relations post pictures of him and stories of how this gift they received from us years ago still takes an honored place at Christmastime. And I notice that most of the soldiers in the dark army of Santas we sent marching out into the world two decades ago have returned without the switches of days gone by.

*

Today the little guy spoke to me again. On this day before Christmas break, I head into school, still not entirely with the mood—today is the darkest day of the year, after all. But first thing, one of my young charges bounds into the room before her scheduled class time. “Good morning, Mr. Rozell. Would you like a candy cane?” She is shiny-eyed, smiling, radiating goodness and purity and love and everything that is right with the world. Though I harbor a distaste for candy canes, I am powerless to refuse and take one from the box with a simple ‘thank you, sweetness’. She smiles again and nods and turns and bounds off again. I’m comforted, somehow. But as soon as she leaves, I set it down and go back to pick at my mindless mountain of paperwork.

An hour later and she is back in the room and settling in to be lashed with a day-before-vacation exam. But before the test can begin, she is up out of her seat and excitedly rushing my desk like a linebacker barreling in to drop the quarterback, with phone in hand. And that is exactly what she is going to do. A hundred-something pound girl is about to drop me. Alyssa has to show me a photograph that she just received from her teacher-mother in a neighboring school district.

She turns the phone towards me, and standing on a school desk miles away is the DARK SANTA who has been lately making a good show of interrupting my life. Her mom had found him in her elementary school classroom and just now turned him over, and there was MY NAME burned into his underside, a generation ago—and it looks like this guy’s switch is also missing in action.

Like the proverbial bottle cast out to the sea in my youth—full of hope and promise—this Dark Santa returns to me again, specially hand-delivered by Goodness, Purity, and Love, on the darkest day of the year. I can only figure that my mother, who had once nurtured children in that very school, is responsible for this somehow:

Be still.
Feel the warmth.

See the good.

Be the light.

Seventy one years ago, it began. Hitler’s last gamble would claim more American lives than any battle in U.S. History. Frank Curry was there, and on a cold winter day in December, saved five men and kille scores of Germans singlehandedly. Frank was in the 30th Infantry Division, which liberated the Train Near Magdeburg; he came to our school.

The morning of December 16, 1944. A lonely outpost on the Belgian frontier.

“Both the enemy and the weather could kill you, and the two of them together was a pretty deadly combination.” Bulge veteran Bart Hagerman. Photo: George Silk/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images Dec 20, 1944

In subzero temperatures, the last German counteroffensive of World War II had begun. Nineteen thousand American lives would be lost in the Battle of the Bulge. “Hell came in like a freight train. I heard an explosion and went back to where my friend was. His legs were blown off-he bled to death in my arms.” The average age of the American “replacement” soldier? 19.

Of the sixteen million American men and women who served in WWII, four and a quarter hundred thousand died on the field of conflict. In 2015, on the downward bell curve slope, nearly 500 veterans of World War II quietly slip away every day. The national memory of the war that did more than any other event in the last century to shape the history of the American nation is dying with them. The Germans threw 250,000 well trained troops and tanks against a lightly defended line on the Ardennes frontier in Belgium and Luxembourg, which created a pocket or “bulge” in the Allied offensive line, the objective being to drive to the port of Antwerp to split the American and British advance and force a separate peace with the Western Allies. What ensued was the bloodiest battle in American history. It saddens me that it comes as a shock to many Americans today that the “Battle of the Bulge” didn’t originate as a weight-loss term.

On a personal note, I have had the privilege of interviewing many of the veterans of this battle. In the high school where I teach, I have been inviting veterans to my classroom to share their experiences with our students. As their numbers dwindled, I smartened up, bought a camera, and began to record their stories. And for the past decade, I have been sending kids out into the field to record the stories of World War II before this generation fades altogether. These men and women have helped to spark students’ interest in finding out more about our nation’s past and the role of the individual in shaping it. In our books we have worked to weave the stories of our community’s sacrifices into the fabric of our national history. And that, to me, is what teaching history should be all about. After all, if we allow ourselves to forget about the teenager who bled to death in his buddy’s arms, if we overlook the sacrifices it took to make this nation strong and proud, we may as well forget everything else. I shudder for this country when I see what we have all forgotten, so soon. But if you are taking the time to read this post I suppose I am preaching to the saved.

I will close with the account of a nineteen year old infantryman who in fact survived the battle and the war, and who I was able to introduce to many Hudson Falls students on more than one occasion. Sixty-nine years ago this December, a day began that would forever change his life.  Frank is now the only living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II left in New York State and New England.

In the winter of 1944, nineteen year old Private First Class Currey’s infantry squad was fighting the Germans in the Belgian town of Malmédy to help contain the German counteroffensive in the Battle of the Bulge. Before dawn on December 21, Currey’s unit was defending a strong point when a sudden German armored advance overran American antitank guns and caused a general withdrawal. Currey and five other soldiers—the oldest was twenty-one—were cut off and surrounded by several German tanks and a large number of infantrymen. They began a daylong effort to survive.

Francis Currey MOH and Ned Rozell March 2010-Ned is friends with the last WWII Medal of Honor recipient in NY and NE, Frances Currey. Yes, the special edition GI Joe he signed for Ned is 19 yr. old Frank!

Francis Currey MOH and Ned Rozell March 2010-Ned is friends with the last WWII Medal of Honor recipient in NY and NE, Frances Currey. Yes, the special edition GI Joe he signed for Ned is 19 yr. old Frank!

The six GIs withdrew into an abandoned factory, where they found a bazooka left behind by American troops. Currey knew how to operate one, thanks to his time in Officer Candidate School, but this one had no ammunition. From the window of the factory, he saw that an abandoned half-track across the street contained rockets. Under intense enemy fire, he ran to the half-track, loaded the bazooka, and fired at the nearest tank. By what he would later call a miracle, the rocket hit the exact spot where the turret joined the chassis and disabled the vehicle.

Moving to another position, Currey saw three Germans in the doorway of an enemy-held house and shot all of them with his Browning Automatic Rifle. He then picked up the bazooka again and advanced, alone, to within fifty yards of the house. He fired a shot that collapsed one of its walls, scattering the remaining German soldiers inside. From this forward position, he saw five more GIs who had been cut off during the American withdrawal and were now under fire from three nearby German tanks. With antitank grenades he’d collected from the half-track, he forced the crews to abandon the tanks. Next, finding a machine gun whose crew had been killed, he opened fire on the retreating Germans, allowing the five trapped Americans to escape.

Deprived of tanks and with heavy infantry casualties, the enemy was forced to withdraw. Through his extensive knowledge of weapons and by his heroic and repeated braving of murderous enemy fire, Currey was greatly responsible for inflicting heavy losses in men and material on the enemy, for rescuing 5 comrades, 2 of whom were wounded, and for stemming an attack which threatened to flank his battalion’s position.

At nightfall, as Currey and his squad, including the two seriously wounded men, tried to find their way back to the American lines, they came across an abandoned Army jeep fitted out with stretcher mounts. They loaded the wounded onto it, and Currey, perched on the jeep’s spare wheel with a Browning automatic rifle in his hand, rode shotgun back to the American lines.

After the war in Europe had officially ended, Major General Leland Hobbs made the presentation on July 27, 1945, at a division parade in France.

source material Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier.

 

Frank signs autographs at our school.
Frank signs autographs at our school.
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