This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on June 21, 2000 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at the home of Emil Rosen at 419 S. Harding Road in Columbus, Ohio. My name is Dave Graham and I am interviewing Mr. Emil Rosen. And now we will begin.
Interviewer: Okay, we’ll start then with your family status . . . . the war started.
Rosen: I was, the war started I was 21 years old, was living at home with Mother and Dad. I had a younger brother who was still living at home. He was 10 years younger so he would have been 11 at the time. My older brother was married and had a wife and a child and he was at Curtiss-Wright and I was at Curtiss-Wright. I was at Curtiss-Wright only for a few months, then I was drafted right out of the Army into, and was sent to Aberdeen, Maryland.
Interviewer: Just interrupt once. I’ll try to keep interruptions to a minimum.
Interviewer: What were you doing at Curtiss-Wright?
Rosen: I was a milling machine operator. I was a machinist and I can give you a brief history how I happened to wind up with that. In junior high and then high school, as an elective I took Metal. I loved machinery and metal. And when I graduated from high school it was in 1938 and you couldn’t get a job anywhere.
Interviewer: Was that here in Columbus?
Rosen: Here in Columbus. Born and raised here.
Interviewer: What high school?
Rosen: South High. I attended the reunion there, our 60th, two years ago. I graduated in ’38. And they had NYA courses at one of the high school, junior highs, and I took metal course there so I had some pretty good background for, couldn’t get a job anywhere as a machinist or machine shop. They wouldn’t hire me.
Interviewer: Did your family have any involvement in the company?
Rosen: No, no, my family was in the poultry business.
Interviewer: Poultry business?
Rosen: My mother and dad still on market and . . . .
Rosen: One on East Market and one on North Market. We had stands on East Market, my mother was on East Market, my father was on North Market.
Interviewer: What was the name of the business?
Rosen: Oh there wasn’t any name. It was just, my father’s name was Ben Rosen and they had, rented a stand from the city and they sold chickens and eggs, both of them at East Market and at North Market.
Interviewer: Oh, the market?
Rosen: Right, they were the city markets.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Did you help out in that any?
Rosen: Oh sure. I worked from the time I was a kid. When I was six years old, I was standing on a box and putting 12 eggs in a paper bag. There weren’t any cartons then. And we worked all of us. We worked very, very hard. And what else? My older brother was working, had a little business at the time. He had a news stand at the time. And then later during the war years he got involved in, he used phono- graph records in conjunction with the news stand. And then his father-in-law and he got into the juke box business. They had music boxes in the Stones Grills, had 35 or 40 Stones Grills in Central Ohio and surrounding territory. And by that, he got involved in the record business. He had new phonograph records for the juke boxes and during the war years apparently they were in very short supply and he had a friend who had a drug store at 17th and Mt. Vernon, Eitel’s Pharmacy. It was owned by, I think, Leo Polster and my brother was buying phonograph records from him. To make a long story short, after the war when I came out of the Army, this fellow was going through a marital problem. He got divorced and he sold his business and we bought his business. I was in the drug store for nine years, 17th and Mt. Vernon. In the meantime, my brother and I got involved in the auto parts business and when it got to the point where it would support us, we sold the drug store and I was in the auto parts business for 30 years.
Interviewer: This was after the war?
Rosen: After the war. Now my parents, I was a bachelor. I lived with my parents until I was 43 years and I married a widow with two small children.
Interviewer: So you went into the war as a bachelor?
Rosen: A bachelor and came out as a bachelor. I was 21 years old when I came in; I was 25 when I came out.
Interviewer: Any other family members in the war at the time?
Rosen: No, my younger brother was only 11 years old and my older brother was five years older. He was 26 years old and he was married with a child and he was exempted. He was working at Curtiss-Wright.
Interviewer: Uh huh. How did you enter the service? Were you drafted?
Rosen: I was drafted right out of the machine shop at Curtiss-Wright.
Interviewer: As you started off . . . .
Rosen: Curtiss-Wright was interesting. Couldn’t buy a job anywhere in those days and they came to Columbus when they opened up and they had a school on North Fourth Street, South Fourth Street, the old Goodyear Tire building. And if you were chosen for the school, you went there for three months, no pay, and they trained you on different machinery or different aspects or different jobs and then they took you into the plant. Well that’s how I happened to get into the plant. You stood in line at the Fairgrounds 5:00 in the morning until they opened up and they interviewed you and then I was given the opportunity to go to school there and I did.
Interviewer: This was Depression era?
Rosen: It was right after, the end of the Depression.
Interviewer: At the end, yeah.
Rosen: And I went to school for three months and then I went into the Machine Shop. I was there four months and I was drafted right out of there into the Army and the Army sent me to Aberdeen Proving . . . . Maryland for basic and then to Fort Benning, Georgia where they put me in a mobile machine shop unit and that’s where I was during all the war. I was in a machine shop unit for all but one year. The last year, too many of us in the machine shop unit. Nobody got killed so they had more than they needed and I went into artillery repair. I was with the artillery repair unit.
Interviewer: So your career . . . . then. Let’s just back up and touch on one or two more things.
Interviewer: At the time you entered the service, what was your family’s participation in religious services and . . . .
Rosen: Oh my father was a charter member of the old Ahavas Sholom which was a break-away from the Agudas Achim. He had been, he was a lifetime trustee, he was Treasurer there for over 20 years and we were members of Ahavas Sholom. When the neighborhoods changed, the family moved and we wound up at Beth Jacob. Then when I married, I married a girl from Agudas Achim and I wound up at Agudas Achim and I’ve been a member there for 37 years.
Interviewer: So did you regularly attend synagogue?
Rosen: Did I then?
Rosen: Well High Holidays only. Now I go every Saturday. I also go Tuesday mornings to help make a quorum and all the High Holidays of course.
Interviewer: ‘Cause your family was . . . .
Rosen: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: members of a Temple . . . .
Rosen: Always, always.
Interviewer: at the time . . . . Okay. Any other comments at that time? You didn’t have any girlfriends going in so you didn’t have that. You got drafted. You touched on your training a little bit. Do you think that was selected, was that, I don’t know, how did you get into tank?
Rosen: I was assigned the Second Armored Division.
Interviewer: Was this . . . .
Rosen: The Army sent me from Fort Benning, Georgia. They needed, from Aberdeen, Maryland they sent me to Fort Benning, Georgia. The Second Armored was just being, I won’t say they were being formed, the Second. Do you know the history of the Second Armored? There were, some of the regiments were World War I units and it was all regular Army for many, many years. When we came in, we were the draftees, we were the Yankees, we were the so-called “nothings”. The old ones were, most of them were, when I came in, were regular Army. And if you’ll pardon the expression, they weren’t the highest-type individuals. They were people who didn’t want to work and they wanted a roof over their head and three squares and enough to drink on paydays and that was the extent of it. And they were the non-coms so the officers came in. But it all changed.
Interviewer: All right. When did you actually get an assignment to a particular unit within the Second Armored?
Rosen: When I arrived from Aberdeen, Maryland. It was in, basic was, let’s see, February-March-April and I’d say the first part of May of ’42.
Interviewer: And what was the unit that you were assigned to?
Rosen: A Company Maintenance Battalion, Second Armored.
Interviewer: And maintenance battalion does what?
Rosen: Well we had mobile machine-shop units. We had welding unit. We had electrical unit. We had small arms. We had artillery and we had parts, had parts trucks.
Interviewer: Maintenance of those items?
Rosen: Maintenance and also supply of the items.
Interviewer: Which ones did you maintain?
Rosen: I maintained everything that needed it. We did, in the machine-shop unit, we worked for everybody. If a mechanic broke something or they needed a part, we made it, whatever we could. And the same way with the tanks. When I got into the artillery or into the artillery part of it, we maintained the equipment. We did all of the repairs on the equipment.
Interviewer: Of weapons themselves?
Rosen: Of the tanks and the guns, the artillery pieces. We fired the guns, we test fired the guns. A piece of equipment would come in and, especially in the wintertime, it was full of Cosmaline. We had to take all the Cosmaline off, get it ready. We’d take it out and test fire it, make sure that the gun was working, that the turret was working, that it was operational.
Interviewer: Wow. How about during combat? Was the maintenance activity the same or . . . .
Rosen: You know, people, absolutely. People have the impression that a maintenance outfit was sitting in the background. We were bombed. We were strafed. We lost, one day we lost 10% of our personnel in our battalion. We lost over 20 people one night. I was on guard duty the night. They came over, they dropped flares, they light up like, all they did was drop anti-personnel and we lost these people. I was yelling, “Raid, raid, raid”. Everybody was awake. You couldn’t help it. It was light out.
Interviewer: What was dropping the bombs?
Rosen: German planes. Was in France.
Interviewer: Did you recall the time frame? Was it September, August-September?
Rosen: It had to be . . . .
Interviewer: Or location, a village, town, that you recall?
Rosen: I can’t remember that. But I know it had to be after the breakout from St. Lo so that was in July, August? I’d say it had to be August-September area, somewhere in there.
Interviewer: And you were there when the bombing . . . .
Rosen: Absolutely. I was standing on guard, I was on guard duty while, no we, you had to have somebody up all the time. I was one of those on guard that night. We usually had six or eight people on guard in every company.
Interviewer: What did the bombs hit that caused the casualties? Weren’t you dug into the ground in foxholes or something?
Rosen: We were but a lot of them, the way they spread, went into the foxhole. They were in slit trenches more than foxholes. We didn’t dig foxholes. We’d dig the trench and we got down in the trench. Foxholes are rough things to get in. So we were sleeping on the ground.
Interviewer: Did you know the men that were killed or injured?
Rosen: I knew a couple of them and they were all in our company. I knew all those who were injured.
Interviewer: All in your group?
Rosen: All part of, we had 220 people I think in our company. Of those, we had 20 casualties that one day, that one night.
Interviewer: You say some were killed?
Rosen: We had I think three killed and we had the rest of them injured. None of the injured ever came back to the company.
Interviewer: Did they have medical help there at the time to help them?
Rosen: We had, yeah we did have, we had medics, we had, the battalion had one doctor and we had medics in each company or the battalion had medics. So I don’t remember how or what but that was it.
Interviewer: Were you injured in any way?
Rosen: Never got a scratch.
Interviewer: Not a scratch?
Interviewer: How did your officers behave during that kind of thing, I mean in terms of the quality of their leadership or what they did?
Rosen: I think they did what they were capable of doing. Most of them were as new to the Army as I was. I think by and large they did the best they could. I think some of them were, shouldn’t have even been in the Army but we won’t go into that.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Rosen: But for the most part, they were decent people. I mean, they did the very best they could.
Interviewer: Okay. Well we’ve gone right into a specific event there which I think is interesting. Let’s do a chronological step-by-step touching on things like well, you arrived in England, did you, after training, went over with the unit?
Rosen: Oh no, we went to North Africa first. I’ll give you chronological . . . .
Interviewer: Okay let’s do that.
Rosen: I’ve got it here. To start with, I was drafted on February 5, 1942 at Fort Hayes here in Columbus. We were only here a few days and we were sent to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and I was there for three months, February, March, April. From there I was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia and became part of the Second Armored Division. I was assigned to the Maintenance Battalion, Second Armored. I was in Fort Benning for six to eight weeks, I can’t remember exactly, and they needed people to go to, they had technical, in Springfield, Massachusetts the Army had three technical schools. They had a Machinist’s School, they had a Sperry Gyro- scope School. You know they used the gyroscopes to level the guns on the tanks. We had to send people there so they would learn how to maintain the gyroscopes. The third school was Indian Motorcycle School. Indian motorcycle was manu- factured in Springfield, Mass. So they would send people there to learn the maintenance on Indian Motorcycles.
Interviewer: Did you go there?
Rosen: No. I was only in the machinist’s school.
Rosen: And we were housed at the YMCA in a basement dorm and I was there for three months. The greatest three months I spent in the Army. We had Polish women cook for us. That was lunch and we were given a per diem. We could go out and eat and it was fun, it was great. Great town to be in. Weekends we were able to go to New York a couple of times.
Interviewer: Any other Jewish boys or men that were . . . .
Interviewer: Is that right?
Rosen: Not a one. I was the, there were only one or two Jewish boys, I was, me and I think one other fellow from Cincinnati, were the only two Jews in the maintenance battalion. It wasn’t a Jewish thing, maintenance (laughter) . . . .
Interviewer: How were you accepted as Jews?
Rosen: I had no problems.
Interviewer: No . . . .
Rosen: No problems. I had one incident with one guy. It was nothing, you know, I told him I was going to make hamburger out of him and that ended it. We were fine. But had no problems with anybody. I had very good relationships. Good fellows, I mean, most, everybody was in the same boat or practically in the same boat. When we came down I’d say that from the time I came in until it was over, we were probably 75 or 80% of it was, they only had a core unit when we came down. Maybe had, trying to think, if they had 40 or 50 in the maintenance battalion it was a lot. And when we came in, we completed the complement. We filled the whole thing up. Anyway, from Springfield when I was through with the three months there, I was sent back to Fort Benning, Georgia. The Fort Benning, Georgia outfit had moved out. They were now sent to Fort Bragg. I was at Fort Benning for only a couple of weeks. They had me doing guard duty for prisoners, of all things, and then I was sent back to rejoin our, the unit in Fort Bragg.
Interviewer: You were guarding . . . .
Rosen: Our own POWs.
Interviewer: German prisoners?
Rosen: No, no, no, American prisoners, guys who were in the guardhouse . . . .
Rosen: guys who were in the stockade.
Rosen: Fort Benning, Georgia had three units at the time. Fort Benning, Georgia had 101st Airborne, paratroopers. Fort Benning, Georgia had Second Armored Division. Fort Benning, Georgia also had the Infantry Officer’s Candidate School. When I was at Fort Benning, there were 100,000 troops at Fort Benning. It was one of the largest posts in the country.
Interviewer: Speaking of such a size there, did they have a synagogue or temple, anything for the Jewish training soldiers?
Rosen: They had, I’m sure they did have. I don’t remember attending there. They had 50,000 people in Columbus, Georgia and 100,000 troops. Now you can imagine what happened to Columbus, Georgia when they let these guys out on Saturday night. I mean it was a mess. They were drunk, they were carrying on and the people hated us down there. And I can understand why. The guys were obnoxious and they were doing everything under the sun. And the M.P.s were all over the place . . . . I think I rejoined them at Fort Bragg and we were there just a short time, a couple of months and we were sent to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey and right onto the ship at New York and we went to Casablanca. And I left, according to my records here, we left New York at November 2, 1942 and arrived at Casablanca, I think it was on the, we were on the ocean, the 18th, November 18th. We were on the ocean 16 days going around in circles waiting for the assault and we came in after it was all over. It was interesting when you talk about what you see for the first time in Casablanca. The French had two new pocket battleships. They had one called “The Admiral Richelieu” and what was the name of the second one?
Interviewer: Did you see it?
Rosen: . . . . Let me tell you about that. One was in Casablanca and one was in Iran, the deep seaport. They caught the one at the dock in Iran. And the Battleship Missouri put a 12 inch shell in it that you could drive it, like you could drive that car into it. It was about the size of that garage door. And it was listing of course at the dock there. “Le John Bart”, name of it was Le John Bart and the other was the Admiral Richelieu. The Admiral Richelieu they surrendered in Iran. They didn’t destroy it. But they were . . . . missile at Casablanca. They were afraid they might turn a missile on them and the Battleship New Jersey was, put a shell in this one.
Interviewer: What did you see about that?
Rosen: I saw the ship when we landed there. It was all over when we got there. We got there the 18th. The . . . . French had surrendered and they did the same thing in Iran. And we were there at Casablanca just a matter of a few days. We were sent to Rabat. Rabat is the capital of French Morocco and there’s a forest, the Crook Forest right outside of it called the Forest Immora. So we were there from there until, for six months all through the winter. And we slept on the ground in pup tents and bathed in a helmet and the reason we were there, they had brought the Germans who might come through Spain. They were already occupying all of France, come through Spain and through Spanish Morocco into French Morocco. So we were there to prevent that supposedly. They never made the attempt. It never worked. We were there, there was a port, a Port Laudi which is right on the border between French and Spanish Morocco. We were just a few miles from that. So that was our experience there. Then we were there for six months and from there, we went in convoy to Iran. This was from Morocco to Algeria and I was assigned to be a skate gunner. You know what a skate gun is?
Rosen: Okay. On a two-and-a-half ton truck they had a round mount and on that they had mounted a 50-caliber machine gun. And they were afraid of being attacked in convoy. So we had a driver. One fellow drove and one fellow sat on the skate mount or stood in the skate mount. It was skate. We called it a skate, we called it. It was a circular band about, oh I’d say four or five foot in diameter and they . . . . call it a ring mount, a ring mount. But we called it a skate mount . . . . And anyway the 50-caliber was mounted where you could go all the way around it.
Interviewer: What was your job?
Rosen: I was a gunner. I was mounting the thing. We never fired the gun.
Interviewer: Never ever?
Rosen: We never had to fire the gun. We made it, the convoy went from Rabat to all through Morocco up into Algeria, to Iran. We were in the Iran area for, can’t remember the time, several weeks. And then we went on to the south of Algiers to Constantine and to Bizerte. So from Bizerte is where they launched the invasion of Sicily. I remember the complete division did not go to Sicily. We did send a con- tingent to Sicily. You probably have it in your record there. I wasn’t any part of that. And we were there and the Sicily campaign was only 30 days. It was over in 30 days. Incidentally the one who planned the Sicily campaign was a general by the name of Maurice Rose.
Interviewer: Oh yeah.
Rosen: He was one of the greatest tacticians in the war. He designed the whole thing and it was over in 30 days.
Interviewer: And he was Jewish.
Rosen: He was Jewish.
Interviewer: He was Jewish.
Rosen: And he was killed in France. And the way he was killed in France was he was with a driver and they got off on the wrong road. The Germans machine-gunned him. I don’t know if you know the history of that.
Rosen: Sitting around was that . . . .
Interviewer: He was an excellent officer and . . . .
Rosen: And a great, great tactician.
Interviewer: Great career ahead of him.
Rosen: Yeah, and as opposed to . . . .
Interviewer: By the way had you ever seen him?
Rosen: As opposed to Mark Clark, who was a disaster.
Interviewer: Did you ever see Mark Clark?
Rosen: No. I’ll tell you who I did see. When we get to England, I’ll tell you who I saw and what a farce it was. Anyway, from there we went to Tunis, Bezerte I think if I remember right, was west of Tunis. So I was in Tunis for High Holydays. I did go to a synagogue in Tunis and . . . .
Interviewer: Oh you did? How were you able to find it?
Rosen: A funny thing. I was there during Yom Kippur and I didn’t eat during Yom Kippur and a rabbi . . . .
Interviewer: You didn’t eat you say?
Rosen: No I fasted during Yom Kippur and I was looking for a place to eat.
Interviewer: Was that your tradition?
Rosen: And you don’t, if you’re in the service you don’t have to but I did. Anyway I was invited to this rabbi’s home and I spent the, after the Atonement on Yom Kippur, I had dinner with them.
Interviewer: Where was this?
Rosen: This was in Tunis?
Interviewer: In Tunis?
Rosen: In Tunis.
Interviewer: Any idea of the rabbi’s name or . . . .
Rosen: Oh I couldn’t begin to remember. And from there we went back to Iran and then in November of, this was 1942, we went to England. We thought we were going home, the war was over. So a part of the Second Armored and part of the First Armored was at Kaserine. Incidentally, I’m backtracking. You were asking about the German army and the German soldiers, one thing and another. We were so badly outgunned there, it was unreal. The Germans had the 88 and the 88 was a fantastic weapon. They used it as an artillery piece. They used it as a tank gun. They used it as an anti-aircraft gun.
Interviewer: Let me ask you did you ever come under the fire of an 88?
Rosen: No. Not as far as I know. I was severe fire or something at one time in France. We had some incoming artillery shells. Who was firing them or what they were firing I can’t say. I don’t know.
Interviewer: Did you see any of the aftermath of the battle of Kaserine Pass?
Rosen: In Kaserine we went by the area. We saw the American tanks that were shot up.
Interviewer: You did see those?
Rosen: Yeah. Absolutely.
Interviewer: What did you think of that at the time?
Rosen: Our tanks were so inferior. We had the old 76. The French, no the 76 was, not the 7–, 75 was the old what was left over from World War I.
Interviewer: Is that what was at Kaserine, Kaserine, huh?
Rosen: That’s what the Americans had at Kaserine.
Interviewer: And did you . . . .
Rosen: We saw the American tanks that had been shot up at Kaserine.
Interviewer: Were there many or . . . .
Rosen: Quite a few. Americans took a beating at Kaserine. Finally they came out with the 76 mm gun which was a rifle rather than the old French 75 and it would penetrate. The 76s, the 75s were bouncing off the German armor. You’d hit a German tank and the shells were bouncing off. They were nothing. Then later they went to the 105 mm which when they hit, they would knock the turret off of the German tank. And that was . . . .
Interviewer: Let me ask a few detail questions here. You passed through Kaserine?
Rosen: I beg your pardon.
Interviewer: You passed through the Pass?
Rosen: Yeah we went through that area. Kaserine was in Morocco. No, Kaserine was in Algeria if I remember right in the area West of Iran if I remember right. Anyway, getting back to, we’re on our way to England now. So we were put on the Austral- ian ship in Iran. It took us two weeks to go from Iran to England. We thought we were going back to the States. We were out in the Atlantic, so far west in the Atlantic we thought we were going home. What they did, they were trying to avoid the submarines. We went way out on the other side. When we came up on the St. George Channel which is the channel between Ireland and England, we came down that channel into Liverpool. From Liverpool we went to Tidworth Barracks. Tid- worth Barracks is near Salisbury, near Stonehenge. And we were, for the first time we were in a building rather than on the ground or in pup tents, for over a year. And the food was better and they had fireplaces with charcoal or coal that they were burning and it was warm, it was dry, it was great. This is the thing you asked me about seeing, did I see General Rose or did I see . . . .
Rosen: Mark Clark, any of those, I hadn’t seen any of them. But while we were at Tid- worth Barracks we had to have an inspection by General Montgomery, right. And Montgomery came to inspect us. Now let me tell you about Montgomery. You talk about a “showboat”. We were out and it was wintertime. It was in, had to be January-February. It was cold and it was raining and we were in wool overcoats and uniforms. We were standing there waiting for him to come to inspect us. And it started to rain and we were drenched in this rain. After about an hour’s waiting out in the rain, General Montgomery pulls up in his Rolls Royce, or his driver did. He gets out of the Rolls Royce. He’s wearing an overcoat and his uniform with his beret, you know, and his swagger stick. He takes off the rain–, his overcoat and he comes around to inspect all of us in the rain. Why did he take off his overcoat? Because it was hiding all of his buttons and his medals and everything. He inspects us. He goes up one aisle and down the other and doesn’t say anything. He nods and he looks, you know, it was nothing but show. Gets back to his Rolls Royce, his driver comes out and hands him his overcoat. He puts on his overcoat and he gets back in the car. Now this is the mentality of Montgomery.
Interviewer: Taking your coat off when you get out into the rain.
Rosen: Right. And then putting it back on after he’s drenched to get back in the car. He covered up his ribbons or his medals, see. You had to see that. . . . Anyway that was my experience with the generals. From what was it, the last week of May we were sent to Southampton. We got all the landing crafts with the barrage balloons and we went to Normandie.
Interviewer: In 1944?
Rosen: 1944. This was, well it wasn’t ’44. It was ’43. No.
Interviewer: You’re talking about the invasion of Normandie?
Interviewer: Yeah, ’44.
Rosen: ’44. Well except the whole lot . . . .
Interviewer: You say at the end of May?
Rosen: Right, right, right. While I was in England I had a five-day pass. Went to London for three days and I had a cousin in Chelton. Went up to Chelton and spent a couple days with him and that was it. In London I had a very close friend, local boy, Lou Levy and I visited with him and also a fellow by the name of Laddie Fink, Sanford Fink, Lieutenant. He was stationed there too.
Interviewer: Who was that again?
Rosen: His name was Sanford Fink.
Interviewer: And he was a relative?
Rosen: No. My cousin was Jack Marks. He was a dentist and he was with a dental unit in Chelton. Then I met him again in Paris. He was with a dental unit in Paris when we got to Paris. Anyway, I’m skipping ahead a little. Anyway we went into Omaha Red Beach. I’m losing a year. I’m in ’43. I got this as ’43 but it’s ’44. The invasion was ’44.
Interviewer: Yeah, June 6th, ’44.
Rosen: Right, okay. We got there . . . .
Interviewer: Now what beach was it?
Rosen: Omaha Red Beach, Red Beach.
Interviewer: On what day, do you know?
Rosen: Got there the 8th, two days after and . . . .
Interviewer: What did you see?
Rosen: We came off the landing craft, didn’t get a wheel wet. Came right up on the beach with the vehicles and we were dispersed from the beach area. We were sent to Carentan and Cain. And when I got there and then I saw what was happening. There were dead bodies around. You could smell it for, they’d been out there for two or three days in June. And, you talk about vivid memories of something, we were at this, in Carentan German soldiers were lying there who’d been, they’d been shelled and bombed before the invasion. They’d probably been out there for I don’t know how long. There was a hog rooting around and the hog was eating on this German’s land and one of the guys wanted to chase him away and the other guy said, one of those Southern hillbillies said, “Why you bothering that hog? That hog’s hungry.” I’ll never forget that. That was the mentality.
Interviewer: Welcome to the war.
Rosen: That’s it. Anyway we were there for four or five weeks and then the breakout in St. Lo. They sent this tremendous aerial barrage over. It came over for days.
Interviewer: Now I got to ask you. Did you see that barrage?
Rosen: We saw it. It was right over us. You couldn’t help but see it. The only thing that was in our favor of course was the fact that we controlled the air there. The Americans controlled the air space. The Germans were pretty well beat as far as their air force, the Luftwaffe, was concerned.
Interviewer: How close did the bombing get to you? I mean were you, did you feel you were in danger of our own bombing?
Rosen: Yes. No, we were behind that, we were behind that. They bombed the area that we came in right through St. Lo. I was, I don’t know how many miles. I would say we were ahead of the, four or five miles away I would imagine.
Interviewer: That was just a specific question.
Rosen: Okay and from there we went across northern France. We were on the 9th Army Sector. We were the ones next to the British. The British were the only ones north of us. And it’s a terrible thing to say but at the time when all this breakout and we were running, we had to look two directions. We had to look at the Germans in front of us and we had to look to our left to make sure that the British were moving and they weren’t moving too fast. Montgomery didn’t want them to move. That was his idea. I know there was a lot of controversy there during the war at that time. He felt that they did their job in North Africa and that he wanted to keep his losses down and I can’t blame him. But we had an exposed left flank that we had to be very cognizant of.
Interviewer: How did this affect you personally, the fact . . . .
Rosen: Well we, the British soldiers were great. There was nothing wrong with the British soldiers. But I think that their strategy wasn’t tied in with the American strategy at that point. Anyway we went from there to Liege, Belgium. I remember going into Liege. And we were in Liege, Belgium in, it had to be when? It had to be . . . .
Interviewer: By September . . . .
Rosen: And we asked at the time, “Where’s the synagogue? Where are the Jews?” And they shook their head and said, “There are no Jews here”. And we couldn’t believe that, a city the size of Liege. They were gone. They’d been already sent to the camps.
Interviewer: You asked?
Rosen: We asked. We were weren’t even aware of the camps. The American government never said one word to us all the time during the war.
Interviewer: And you asked where was the synagogue?
Rosen: “Where was the synagogue? Where were the Jews?” They said, “The Jews are gone. There are no Jews here.”
Interviewer: In Liege?
Rosen: In Liege. So Liege we went into Holland. We went across, what was it? Was it the . . . . The first city, I remember, we came into Holland and in Holland we were in Heerlen which was a coal-mining town, big coal mines. And we were taken there and we were allowed to shower there. They had great big showers and they gave us totally clean uniforms . . . .
Interviewer: In Heerlen, Holland?
Rosen: In Heerlen, Holland.
Rosen: And from Heerlen we went to where, we went to Mostrick.
Interviewer: Uh huh. You did take a shower in Holland?
Rosen: In Holland.
Interviewer: How many showers had you had by that time?
Rosen: That was the first one if I remember right. Not too many. We took a shower out of a, your helmet. You know, warm water. You heated some water, cold water, and that was it. Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. In the first city we crossed the Ruhr when we went into Germany, we were in, the first city was a city called Merkstein and we commandeered homes and we moved in off the tents into these homes for a matter of a few days. We were there for about a week, couple of weeks. Now this had to be in, no, yeah. And then we started to move. We went on from there and we went to Mostrick, Holland and from Mostrick we went to Aachen in Germany. And then the Ardennes thing came up. This was already in November of ’44. Moved a whole division in 24 hours from there to the Ardennes and we were in a town called Huy, H-U-Y, in Belgium. And finally the weather broke and the Americans started, their Air Force could get up and they started bombing and . . . . Bastogne of course was, you know, wasn’t very, we were in Bastogne and they were beaten there. The Germans were beaten in Ardennes. They had, who was it, can’t remember the German general now who was, they were trying to break through to the sea.
Interviewer: Yeah. But you were in Huy?
Rosen: I was in Huy.
Interviewer: For most of the time of the Battle of the Bulge?
Rosen: In that area.
Interviewer: In Huy?
Interviewer: Do you remember any of the battle activity in that area?
Rosen: As far as we were concerned I wasn’t in the forefront of the battle area. The thing that I most remember about that, I got news that a cousin who was killed in France, he was in the 95th Division, name was Herbert Marks. He was from Columbus. He was 21 years old and I learned there that he was killed a month or two before that in France. And from there we went to where? We went back to Germany. I got ahead of myself. We went to Huy and then there was another town in Belgium called Hasselt and we were sent there later as a rest camp. We’d get a two-day pass, go to Hasselt. Then we went to Mostrick. Then we went to Aachen. And by that time I was with the Artillery Repair Unit. I was a part of Combat Command A, 67th Armored Regiment. I was attached to them.
Interviewer: What was that again one more time?
Rosen: It was what they called Combat Command A. It was the 67th Armored Regiment. Was one of them in Combat Command. He was in the 66th Armored Regiment. We were attached to the 67th.
Interviewer: And your unit was what then?
Rosen: I was with the Artillery Repair Unit. I was a contingent that went with the 67th. We crossed the Rhine at night on pontoon bridges and after the crossing of the Rhine, we crossed at Dunesburg which is just north of Dusseldorf.
Interviewer: Any sights or sounds of that crossing that are memorable? The cities, were they bombed? Did you see that?
Rosen: Couldn’t even see the cities when we crossed. After we crossed the Rhine, Combat Command A, we went back to our original unit which they’d combined again. After they’d crossed the Rhine then I guess they sat and they waited a little bit and then we started out. We were on the northern sector all the way. We went through Hamlin I remember. You know the . . . .
Interviewer: Pied piper of Hamlin?
Rosen: pied piper of Hamlin. And we went through one other city in that area.
Interviewer: . . . . other big cities?
Rosen: Yeah we, I remember . . . .
Rosen: Anyway we wound up at the Elbe at the big city where the, Magdeburg, Magdeburg was the big city on the Elbe. Had the . . . . plant, the ball-bearing plant. When we got there we had to stop. The reason we had to stop there, we went into, there was a factory called Hermann Goering Works which was a huge armament plant. The reason was that the Russians, they made the deal at Yalta, the Americans could only go to the Elbe and the Russians had to come all the way to the Elbe from the east. So we had to wait for them to come in. We met the Russians at the Elbe. And we were there a short time. We stayed in the, at the, at the Displaces Person’s Barracks, all Polish people who were at forced labor camps. They took them out. We occupied those barracks for a matter of a few weeks. Then we were given the honor, we drove, rode on the Autobahn to Berlin. We were the first American unit to occupy Berlin. And I was in Berlin for a matter of six weeks. The war ended.
Interviewer: You went to Berlin?
Rosen: Oh yeah. We were the first Americans into Berlin.
Interviewer: What do you recall seeing in Berlin, anything?
Rosen: Well the damage and destruction. And I remember seeing, they brought the entertainment for us. Had Jack Benny and Ingrid Bergman. We saw them in Berlin. There was a show for the troops.
Interviewer: Did you see any Germans or I mean Russian soldiers there?
Rosen: Oh we saw Russian soldiers before then. And this was something to see the Russians when we saw them. They were so bedraggled, so raggedy. Horse-drawn artillery. You said to yourself, “How did these people ever do what they did to the Germans? How did they fight this war?” And they did. Had tremendous losses, you know.
Interviewer: Did you ever meet any personally, any . . . .
Rosen: Yeah, for a matter of a week or two. ‘Cause right away they were taken away. You couldn’t have contact. The Russians wouldn’t allow their men to have contact with us, we looked like kings with uniforms and equipment and they had, they’re bedrag- gled and dirty-looking and torn up with horse-drawn artillery. I mean it was like something from World War I or something.
Interviewer: Do you remember anything personal of any . . . .
Rosen: Yeah. I’ll tell you what was personal with them. This watch my father bought me when I came back from the Army. This one here. I had a watch that I was given for my Bar Mitzvah that I carried with me during the war. The Russians were buying watches. They hadn’t been paid in five years. They knew if they took this script that they were given back to Russia after the war, it was going to be worth- less. It was going to be paper. So they were buying watches. You’d see a Russian, he had watches up his arm here. They were paying $300 for anything, for a Mickey Mouse watch. So I sold my watch for $300.
Interviewer: Three hundred dollars?
Rosen: Three hundred dollars.
Interviewer: They had dollars?
Rosen: The script was in . . . .
Rosen: occupation script or occupation . . . .
Interviewer: So you were actually getting $300?
Rosen: Right, for it.
Interviewer: For your Bar Mitzvah watch?
Rosen: My Bar Mitzvah watch. Honest-to-God’s truth. ‘Cause the Russians knew that if they took those watches or they took their money back to Russia, it would be worth- less. The reason they said they did it was because they could take a watch and get a cow for it in Russia.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Rosen: And that’s what they did. They were buying these watches, buying everything they could get their hands on.
Interviewer: Did they have anything that you would want?
Rosen: Poor guys didn’t have any clothes to wear even let alone anything we would want.
Interviewer: How about souvenirs? Did they offer you anything or . . . .
Rosen: I never, didn’t have any contact with them. They took them away, I mean, you couldn’t have anything to do with them. Anyway we were in Berlin for what, I think six weeks, eight weeks maybe. I’m not sure exactly. And from there we were sent back. It was time to go home. And in October we went back from Berlin to where, through . . . .
Interviewer: Frankfurt? We’re coming to the end of this first side of this tape.
Rosen: Well I’m just about through with this. In fact . . . .
Interviewer: I’ll sign off this side . . . .
Interviewer: and stop the tape and we’ll begin on the other side of this tape so we’ll pick up on the post-war activity.
Interviewer: We’ll sign on out here.
Interviewer: Okay we’re on the second side of this first tape so we can get started on this.
Rosen: Okay. All right. We went back through Frankfurt and we went to Le Havre and they put a thousand or 1500 of us on the LST, landing ship tank and we went from Le Havre to Boston. From Boston to Miles Standish. We had a few days Miles Standish to Atterbury, Indiana and I was discharged at Camp Atterbury, Indiana on October the, let me get the date here, 13th of ’45. So I was in the Army 45 months. I was overseas 35 months. I wound up with ETO Ribbon with 5 bronze starts, one for Normandie, one for Northern France, one for the Ardennes, one for Rhineland and one for Central Europe. Nothing for Africa for a year and I was in England six months and that was it.
Interviewer: How many stars is that again?
Rosen: Five bronze stars on the ribbon. And I had, they gave you a hash mark every six months, was it, for every six months you were overseas?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Rosen: So I think I had five of those, not quite six.
Interviewer: Do you still have your ribbons or?
Rosen: Nothing, nothing. Didn’t keep a thing. That was my experience. Didn’t get a scratch.
Interviewer: So we don’t forget. You had your uniform?
Interviewer: What happened to your uniform?
Rosen: I took it off the day I came home, hung it in the closet and never put it on again, never walked in a parade, never marched in a parade. Three years later the war in Israel, they needed uniforms for their army and I donated my uniform. There was someone here. They picked them up in Columbus. They were sent to Israel. Had an Eisenhower jacket, wool shirt and wool trousers, the whole bit. Had combat boots. I think I kept the combat boots. I don’t think I sent them. I’d worn them for winter, one thing another, afterwards. And that was it.
Interviewer: So your uniform saw duty again?
Rosen: That’s right, as far as I know. It was sent there anyway. That was my experience. I was eligible for college which I didn’t take advantage of. I went into business. Didn’t collect anything from the Army, no disability, no, thank goodness didn’t need anything. And that’s been it.
Interviewer: What kind of transition did you make in terms of lingering problems from the war?
Rosen: None of those.
Rosen: If I did I didn’t show it. I didn’t go for any psychiatric help and I didn’t have any physical disabilities. All I wanted was out.
Interviewer: Do you think you’d experienced anything that might have traumatic linger? You had mentioned certain things already that could. Now you may have seen other things.
Rosen: I’ll tell you. Was young, I was 21 years old and I knew that this was something I had to do. I mean there was no choice in it. And I was glad I was able to partici- pate. I saw things I never would have seen if I hadn’t been in the Army. I did whatever I could. I worked very hard for a long time. I didn’t have any great aspira- tions. I wound up as a T-5 which was nothing. You know, I was, that was just the way things were then.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Rosen: And if I was in a newly-formed outfit it would have been different. I had friends who went into the Air Force before they were drafted. They knew they were going to be drafted. They went over to Dayton and joined up. And they had a much easier time than I did. But I didn’t do it and I don’t regret it.
Interviewer: But you did join the veterans . . . .
Rosen: Oh I joined the Jewish War Veterans in ’45. You see I bowled in the War Vet’s league for several years. I attended maybe a half a dozen meetings the first year. It wasn’t for me. I’m not an organization person.
Interviewer: This reminds me of a comment you made before we started was you had a copy of the Jewish Chronicle from Columbus. Could you tell us that story?
Rosen: I was at Tidworth Barracks and there was a fellow there by the name of, I can’t remember, Steve somebody-or-other. And this Robert fellow had been in basic training with Steve and he hadn’t seen him for a while and he knew which company he was in. So he came to visit him. I walked in and I had the lower bunk and I had my mail and I threw the Chronicle on the bunk and Steve was on the bunk above me. And he looked down and this Robert fellow said, “Who’s from Columbus?” I said, “I am”. And so that’s the way I saw him. He saw the Jewish Chronicle there and that was, I didn’t know him from Columbus. I had . . . .
Interviewer: The Jewish Chronicle makes it into World War II in Europe?
Rosen: Oh yeah. Oh it does. They were published here before the war.
Interviewer: And you got them during your . . . .
Rosen: Oh my folks would send me a copy.
Interviewer: Your folks would send you a copy?
Rosen: Yeah, yeah, occasionally.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Rosen: There was very little contact. I would send D-mails from, you know, the Army, home and they would send letters whenever they could. Mail was very infrequent.
Interviewer: Okay, well I want to touch on certain things during your chronological history we just reviewed. Now what I’d like to do is touch on certain items of, topics, we have another 30 minutes, right?
Voice: About 30.
Interviewer: Okay. Let’s see. Getting into some of the details of your unit as it was in combat in Europe and France and you were, you know, near the Battle of the Bulge, what would you say was your most risky, let’s say, life-threatening experience?
Rosen: We were in Normandie, we were in hedgerow country. We heard, from one hedgerow to the other we heard machine gun firing in the next hedgerow. The Germans weren’t completely out of there. They were defending it to the best of their ability and so it was as close as that. I was in areas where, like I told you, they had the night bombing. We were in areas where we were strafed. German planes would come flying over and American fighter pilots were behind them chasing them and they were strafing.
Interviewer: Oh yeah?
Rosen: Oh absolutely. I was in the ditch. What else? I was in this one area where we had incoming artillery fire. Didn’t last very long but we were there. Yeah I had one more incident. When we were in Germany, we were looking for billeting, homes. We were in this Merkstein area and I was assigned to drive a jeep for an officer. We were going to go look at homes that we could occupy to get the troops out of the weather. And we were in this one area. We went down the road looking for something and we started hearing the artillery was coming in and he said, “Get the hell out of here”. I remember throwing it into four-wheel-drive and flying out of that area to get away from it. We weren’t touched. We were . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Rosen: They were shooting around me. Yeah I had one more incident. I had one incident where we were in France and was working on a tank gun and they came and said that there was a patch of woods, that they had shot, the Germans were in there and they had shot some FF5s, three French, they were resistance fighters. And we got in this tank, the driver and myself, and we pulled into the area and he threw a couple shells into it from the tank and he said, “Now you spray it”. And we had a little 30 butt caliber machine gun on the tank, it was a light tank, and I, I don’t know if I saw anything. I never saw anything, never hit anything. We heard later that they chased them through and the French caught up with them on the other side of the forest . I never saw one of them. I don’t know if I hit anybody or if I even hit close to them. That was my experiences.
Interviewer: What got you into combat? You’re usually repairing things. Were you fixing that tank at the . . . .
Rosen: Probably working on the tank at the time.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Did you ever see any German tanks moving around there?
Rosen: No, no. The only time I saw a German tank it was out of action.
Interviewer: Now in your repair-work assignment I know that you had repaired battle-damaged tanks and guns. Did you have that?
Rosen: We, at one time we had an American tank that was, the turret assembly had been damaged. It wasn’t operable. And I remember we had these large Rockway wreckers and we took this tank and we took it down into a gulley and got the wrecker on each side and we lifted the turret and the gun off of this tank and had another American tank that had been hit that didn’t damage the turret, and we replaced that whole turret and gun on this other tank. We made one of them operable out of two of them that were damaged. We did that. That I remember.
Interviewer: Pretty amazing to do that and . . . .
Rosen: You know, you know what a tank turret weighed . . . .
Interviewer: No I didn’t . . . .
Rosen: Over ten tons.
Interviewer: Ten tons?
Rosen: And these two wreckers were capable of lifting the thing off and setting the other one on. This was all the field work. This wasn’t in the factory or anything.
Interviewer: Now we also know that when these tanks and weapons are damaged that there are casualties. Now did you have to work around the aftermath of casualties?
Rosen: Kind of. When we got into a tank where there were bodies, or there was stuff splattered on the . . . .
Interviewer: . . . .
Rosen: That I didn’t get into.
Interviewer: Okay. Well it’s interesting to know the details of the work that you’re doing. Any particular towns or villages that you remember.
Rosen: Where, in North Africa?
Interviewer: France or Germany or . . . .
Rosen: North Africa.
Interviewer: North Africa?
Rosen: Well North Africa was very interesting. Casablanca was very brief. It was very surprising. We had no idea what, didn’t even know what Casablanca or Morocco was like. When we pulled in, they had an architect in France who, good experience, was very broad . . . . teaching the very modern things. He wanted to do things in France and they wouldn’t allow it. They said, “Here, we’ll let you go to North Africa. We have cities there and we’ll see what you can do there.” When you came into the ocean at Casablanca, it looked like Miami Beach.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Rosen: It was white and it was chrome and it was modern. And then you had the contrast of the, all the Arabic architecture. And very, very interesting. Rabat was very interesting. The king’s palace was in Rabat and they had these colorful characters with the pantaloons and the great big sabers guarding the entrance when we walked by it. They also had these pair of horsemen who were fantastic. And these guys would do things on a horse like you can’t imagine. They’d put a rifle on their head and they’d go speeding down, just balancing the rifle on their heads. And they were doing . . . .
Interviewer: Saw this?
Rosen: Saw this. And they would do things. These guys could ride in and reach down like a cowboy movie, grab stuff off of the ground. They were really, it was quite memorable.
Interviewer: It was. . . . and that culture.
Rosen: And where else? What else did we see that was memorable?
Interviewer: Well something might be memorable that you might have seen. You mentioned that you were staying at a slave labor camp. How about the typical Holocaust camps? Did you see any of those?
Rosen: Did not see one. We weren’t even aware. The first that we were aware of that there was the Jews in the camps was in Berlin. We saw people there who had come out of the camps. And I remember I had a sweater my folks had sent me and I gave it to this man. I had nothing to give him. He was the first Jew that I saw after the war and they had been released from the camps and he was a gaunt little guy, had been through hell probably. So I spoke to him in Yiddish.
Interviewer: I was going to ask did you speak . . . .
Rosen: Yeah I spoke Yiddish.
Interviewer: or any other foreign language?
Rosen: I spoke Spanish and I spoke a little bit of French.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Rosen: I learned French from the little army handbooks, the little . . . .
Interviewer: Oh yeah, the guides.
Rosen: Guidebooks. And Spanish I learned through high school.
Interviewer: Now you say back in Berlin you met a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust?
Rosen: Right, right, the first one and the only one.
Interviewer: The only contact you . . . .
Rosen: The only contact I had. We weren’t even aware. I’ve had people who said, “You mean you didn’t even know what was going on during the war? Didn’t you see anything during the war?” We didn’t know it. They can’t imagine that we weren’t informed, that we weren’t told. The American government, the State Department in this respect was very, very, what I’m trying to say, they didn’t want it around. They didn’t want the word out. Just like these people were complaining, “Why in the hell didn’t they bomb the trains, the rails going into Auschwitz? They could have saved thousands of lives.” But they didn’t do it. They did not do it. There’s some questions to be asked.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Yeah. Okay. Let’s see my notes here. Have you written any stories for your children, grandchildren, anything that expands on what we’ve discussed today? Did you have any contact with German soldiers or civilians?
Rosen: There was some with the civilians. Their attitude was for the most part that they weren’t aware or there wasn’t anything they could do, which is only partially true. I think there were Germans who were very sympathetic and others who weren’t. The only contact I saw with German soldiers, when we were in North Africa there were German POWs and they were arrogant. They were sullen, they were, when we guarded Italian prisoners of war it was just the opposite. They were tickled to death they were out of the war, the war was over. These guys were happy and singing. This one little incident I thought was funny. We had to go out with, they’d give 20 of us on a two-and-a-half-ton truck. They had to have one guy guarding them. So I was assigned to guard duty on this one truck.
Interviewer: Italian prisoners?
Rosen: Italian prisoners of war and what was their duty. They took them out on the road but the roads were pockmarked and they’d have them shovel some dirt back in the pockmarks so that, you know, the convoys could travel. These guys are singing and happy. They had beards and they were, had their shirts off. This was summertime. They were happy. Get up to the truck and there would be 20 of them on the truck and then they’d send you up there to guard them. So you had to crawl up on the truck with your rifle. You know how you did it? You handed them the rifle and they helped you up into the truck. It was ludicrous. It was the funniest thing in the world. It was funny. They were fine. The Germans were just the opposite. They wouldn’t let them out in any work detail. They had them in barbed wire and they were sullen and they were, they were Nazis, that’s all there was to it. They were young, they were Nazis. Now the only other Germans we saw was at this Hermann Goering works. We had prisoners of war there. And they were the old men, the beaten. They weren’t the prime. The prime was gone. The prime was on the Russian front and these guys were in the service, they were forced into service. Some of them were kids and just altogether different. Different element entirely.
Interviewer: Uh huh. That’s interesting the way that changed. I had another question that slipped my mind right now. That was interesting with the Italians. Have you ever gone back to Europe?
Rosen: Only to London. We, my wife and I went. Our son was in Israel. Our son went to Miami University of Oxford. He took his freshman year and then he went to Israel for a year and he studied at Jerusalem University for his sophomore year. Then he went back to Miami and finished up his junior and senior year at Miami.
Interviewer: What was his name?
Rosen: Jonathan, Jonathan. His name was Weisberg. He was from my wife’s first husband. And he wound up graduating from Miami with a B.A. in Business Administration, Marketing, and then he went on to Boston and he went to Babson which is a business college in, what town is it? It’s where the girls’ college is. Anyway Babson is a business school, very fine business school and he got a Master’s, M.B.A. at Babson.
Interviewer: So your wife had children when you married her?
Rosen: When I married her.
Interviewer: But you were a bachelor till you were 42?
Interviewer: Do you have any children together?
Rosen: No. Our son, his daddy died, she had been widowed three years. Our son Jon was only two years old, never knew his dad. I’m the only dad he ever knew.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Rosen: Her daughter Martha is three years older. She remembers her dad. She was five at the time when I married Isabelle. Isabelle was, the children were, Jonny was five and Martha was eight.
Interviewer: Was her husband a war veteran?
Rosen: No. Yes he was, yes he was. He was Herman Weisberg. I don’t know what service he was in. He died very young. He was an attorney. She had to put up with two veterans. We’ve been married 37 years.
Interviewer: Thirty-seven years?
Rosen: Yeah. And . . . .
Interviewer: Always here in Columbus?
Rosen: Always here in Columbus. My father came to Columbus in 1905.
Interviewer: Do you know where he came from?
Rosen: Came from Russia, came from the Ukraine.
Interviewer: The Ukraine?
Rosen: He came, he was a typical fiddler on the roof too.
Interviewer: Your father?
Rosen: My father.
Interviewer: From the Ukraine in Russia?
Rosen: Came with his sister and brother-in-law.
Interviewer: Now their name was, was the old family original name?
Rosen: No this was interesting. My aunt, my father’s sister, was married to a man by the name of . . . . Rosen. Our family name was Svick with would have been in English Zwick or Swick. My father came when he was 21 years old. Why did they get him out of there? In those days it was the time of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904. And up until that time, if you were an only son, they wouldn’t take you in the Russian army. They wouldn’t draft you. In the Russo-Japanese was, they took everybody. When a Jew or anyone was drafted into the Russian army, he went for 20 to 30 years. Twenty to 30 years and were proselytized and they were beaten and they were, they came out cripples and my grandparents didn’t want that for my father and my aunt and her husband were coming so they got my father out of the country and he came to America with them. He was 21 years old. He didn’t speak any English. He had no money. Came to Columbus. The first job he got was with the Pennsylvania Railroad. His job was unloading cars with sand with a shovel. He worked 12 hours a day. He worked six days a week for a dollar a day, for 8 1/2 cents an hour in 1905 and he did that for a while until they promoted him to an oiler for hot boxes and he made a few more dollars. He worked that way for two or three years till he saved enough to guy a horse and wagon and he was in business and became a peddler.
Interviewer: Did he have any relatives back in the Ukraine that he corresponded with?
Rosen: He had a sister and brother-in-law who came here four or five years later and his parents. Both my grandparents came here also.
Interviewer: Came from the Ukraine? Do you know the village location?
Rosen: The village location, the town was Lutsk and it’s near . . . .
Rosen: L-U-T-S-K, Lutsk. And it’s near Kovel, K-O-V-E-L, was the principal city, the closest one to where my father lived. My mother came from Russia too. She came from Vetucks which was in White Russia and she came like, interesting her back-ground the way they came here. They came in two ways. My mother had one sister and four brothers so my grandfather, my mother’s father, came to America with his oldest daughter and three, two sons. The reason they brought her along, the daughter along, they had to have somebody to cook for them. So they came first and the reason they came here is he had a brother here, the brother was a blacksmith here. And he came because his brother was in Columbus. Four or five years later the rest of them came, my mother and then her, my grandmother. She had a younger brother and an oldest brother. The oldest brother was Samuel Marks. He had three children. All three of them are doctors here. One of them just died, the youngest one, Jack Marks. He lived down the street.
Interviewer: . . . . back up here. Why was the family name changed?
Rosen: When my father came to America with his sister and brother-in-law, he was afraid that maybe they would try to send him back to Russia, maybe. So when they asked him how do you spell the name, his name was Schnick. He said, “Make it Rosen”. That’s how his name was changed.
Interviewer: Is this like at Ellis Island?
Rosen: That’s right, at Ellis Island, exactly. But you know that was a common thing in those days. People changed their names. They were afraid that for some reason or other they may be sent back or something can happen and they didn’t want a history of it there. They were like refugees, they were running. They were getting on with their lives.
Interviewer: The Czar’s army?
Rosen: That’s exactly right and the pogroms.
Interviewer: Now were they alive when you entered the U. S. Army?
Rosen: My grandparents?
Interviewer: Well your father . . . .
Rosen: Oh my father and mother were, sure.
Interviewer: Your father and mother came from Russia?
Rosen: Both of them.
Interviewer: Okay. And they were alive. What did they think about your entering the Army? Did they have any opinion?
Rosen: No, listen, my mother was scared to death. My mother was worried that what was going to be and all those at war and was, and they were very much concerned. But what she could do about it?
Interviewer: And they wrote you? Did they write you?
Rosen: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
Interviewer: Well you said they sent the Chronicle.
Rosen: Well they sent the Chronicle and I sent them V-mails and they sent mail. They would write and very, very infrequently that we would get any mail. But they would write.
Interviewer: Did they write in English or Yiddish or what? Hebrew?
Rosen: English, English.
Interviewer: . . . .
Rosen: But we spoke, my grandmother, my father’s mother came to America and she lived with us. And you know, in those days there was no such thing as, oh Heritage House or anything. What the old people did, they had to live with their children. They couldn’t afford to live alone. They had no money, had nothing.
Interviewer: Where did you live here in Columbus?
Rosen: We lived on Ann Street. We lived in the south end in a place known as 773 Ann. We lived in a half a double. We owned half and my uncle and his wife, my cousins, lived next door in the other half of the double. And we lived there for, they bought that double in 1918 I think, before I was born. We lived in one half, they lived in the other half. And we had a barn behind it where we kept the chickens, the poultry and one thing and another. And there was a vacant lot on both sides of the houses. The things were pretty good in those days. My father was, had, he was bidding at Fort Hayes. He was supplying Fort Hayes with poultry and eggs. And they bought the lot on each side of us and we built a new home. My uncle built a home on his side, two identical doubles, and we moved into the new double in 1927 and we lived there from ’27 and we moved out in ’48. And my uncle and his family lived in the other double.
Interviewer: That’s interesting family background. I’ve read the book about the Schottensteins and the area there, my mother went to South High School. I think she graduated in ’37.
Rosen: I graduated in ’38.
Interviewer: In ’38?
Rosen: What was your mother’s maiden name?
Interviewer: Violet Watts. She lived on . . . .
Interviewer: Watts, W-A-T-T-S. She lived on, I want to say Grubb. Is that one of the streets?
Rosen: Yeah, yeah. Grubb Street, sure. Down in the south end, it runs off, close to High Street, it runs off of, it’s near this big funeral home. Cook and Sons?
Interviewer: Yeah. I’m getting confused with something else. Anyway, what I learned by reading the Schottenstein book was this was Steeltown or Steelton.
Rosen: That’s right.
Interviewer: A tremendous, vibrant community.
Rosen: Buckeye Steel Castings Company.
Rosen: They called it Steelton. And then you had Brown Steel was there and you had all kind of factories on, I was in the south end all my life. I was in the auto parts business. We started at Parsons and Donaldson. We were taken out in urban renewal and we went out on Groveport Road right off of Parsons and bought five acres and put up a brand new building in what year? About ’60, ’61. We were there eight or nine years and they run one of those . . . . Took our new building out and three and a half acres of land and we bought land behind us facing Buckeye Steel on Parsons Avenue. And we had it graded and we put up another building on Parsons Avenue and we moved there.
Interviewer: What was the name of your business?
Rosen: Parsons Auto Parts.
Interviewer: Parsons Auto Parts?
Rosen: Still in business there. I sold it 20 years ago. The man’s still operating it. We were wreckers. We were late-model wreckers.
Interviewer: Did any of your military experience help you in that business?
Rosen: I did as far as mechanical ability. I had a drum lathe, I had machinery that I used for reconditioning parts. I operated, there was welding equipment that I could use. I had forklift trucks. I had cranes.
Interviewer: Things that you had done in the military then? You just didn’t work on tanks any more?
Rosen: That’s right. Worked on cars, trucks, whatever. Well I had a drum lathe, I trimmed rotors, I trimmed drums. I rebuilt springs, anything to make an honest buck.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. Well we’re sort of nearing wrap-up here on a wide variety of interesting topics. Now men who were more upon the front line sometimes would have a personal experience or they would maybe have to come to grips with their beliefs about life or religion or whatever. Did you ever have any situation where you were alone out on the battlefield or were in the towns or forests in Europe where you had a life-changing experience?
Rosen: My whole experience was survival and that’s what most of us had. We were interested in one thing: getting this thing over with and getting back home. The dream of everybody was on coming back home and going back home. I want to make a life for myself. I’m going back to my family, to my wife, to sweethearts or whatever. And that was it.
Interviewer: Any close friends who didn’t make it back in your unit?
Rosen: In my unit, any close friends in my unit who didn’t make it back? I had two or three people who I knew who were killed who didn’t make it back.
Interviewer: But being in your work, you didn’t have a foxhole buddy that, you know, you depended on for your life and that responsibility? That wasn’t the situation?
Rosen: No I didn’t.
Interviewer: Well any other things that might have come to mind during our talk here that came up. I think . . . .
Rosen: I don’t know. I think we’ve pretty well covered everything.
Interviewer: It was interesting what you did with your Army uniform or little tidbits like that or what was some of the spice of the story here that comes out . . . .
Rosen: I’m trying to think.
Interviewer: that one would think of?
Rosen: It’s 55 years ago or more and you know it’s, I think, I can’t remember things that happened last week. But I’m doing better for what happened many years ago. I think the fact that I wrote this down, that I took, I got my little Army discharge. That’s where I got this information off of.
Interviewer: Did they still have your discharge papers?
Rosen: I have them in a box somewhere. But I have, they made a little like a microfilm, mini of the thing and I have that, the miniature, a reduced thing.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Rosen: And one of the jewelry stores here in town, I think Kahn’s Jewelers, did it for us. They took your discharge there and they reduced it and I have that and that’s what I took all this off of.
Interviewer: Well that’s good.
Rosen: That’s the only memento I have.
Interviewer: This scan in here? You’ve commented that the American weapons were not very good at the beginning. Did that change during the war?
Rosen: Absolutely. They were much improved during the war. They went to heavier caliber, they went to more maneuverable, they, big improvements. The Americans didn’t win the war because we had the best weapons. The Americans won the war because we had more weapons. And more troops and better equipped in many ways. The Germans had far superior weapons at the beginning of the war. You got to remember that they had a head start for many, many years.
Rosen: their aircraft was good, their tanks were excellent. Their artillery was far superior to what we had . . . .
Interviewer: About their artillery, did you ever have a chance to inspect their weapons such as their artillery?
Rosen: Not really, not really.
Interviewer: Now in . . . . you say one time you were assigned to repairing artillery?
Interviewer: What was a typical repair job that you had to do on artillery piece? Do you recall? I don’t know if there’s anything that . . . .
Rosen: Well as I remember maybe something was malfunctioning, some of the . . . .
Interviewer: We had something called the M-73. It was a 105 mm . . . .
Rosen: No that was, now you’re talking a piece, that was a self-propelled gun?
Interviewer: Yes, not did . . . .
Rosen: ‘Cause that was a hell of a piece of equipment. That . . . .
Interviewer: You remember that?
Rosen: I remember that. I remember a 105, I remember a 155. Hundred and fifty-five, there’s a . .. . a kind of little story. We were sent, it had to be in the winter, had to be very cold winter and I think it was after the Ardennes. And we had to get some replacement tanks. And there was a depot. So they sent I think six or eight of us in a truck and we in the back of a two-and-a-half-ton truck and we were with the canvas down to keep the weather off of us. And we were being driven to this depot to get these tanks. And these tanks had to be de-cosmalined. Had to take the cosmaline off the tanks in order to prepare for combat. The roads were icy as the devil. I remember we had two of us in each tank. We’d have one fellow drove and one fellow would sit in the tank out of the turret to direct, make sure everything was all right. We were on the roads were icy and I remember going down the road in one of these tanks and it was so icy we were sliding off the roads with the tanks. ‘Course you could get back on but while we were in this truck going to there, I’ll never forget this. We went by and we thought we were hit. We heard the damndest explosion that rocked the truck. We were sure that we were, the bombers or a shell or something had hit us. Looked out. It was a 155 mm gun. They had artillery pieces and they were bombarding the Germans with these. And this thing went off just as we passed this truck the first time. It rocked the truck. We were sure we were hit. The damndest, loudest explosion and I’ll tell you, you know a two-and-a-half-ton truck is a pretty good-sized truck. We were in this thing and this thing was shaking. We were sure that we were hit. It scared the living hell out of us.
Rosen: Until we opened that tarp to see what had happened. We couldn’t get over it. But they had got, I think they sent six or eight of us to pick up three or four tanks.
Interviewer: Now you were driving tanks back or put them on trailers?
Rosen: No, drove them back.
Interviewer: You could drive a tank?
Rosen: They were . . . .
Interviewer: Must have been fun?
Rosen: Didn’t drive too fast.
Interviewer: Wow, that’s interesting. Made me think while you were talking there, I’m sorry . . . .
Rosen: I’ll tell you, one more . . . . You talk about driving something. You know we had alternate-graded jobs. We were in North Africa and they had all these, the M.P.s had motorcycles. If you were in convoy, you had to have a motorcycle escort. They would go ahead and they would wave you on or whatever. It’s like the deputy sheriffs at a funeral or whatever here. So we had to install sirens on these motor- cycles. And they had a kit that you would mount onto the motorcycle and then you would attach the siren to it and then the guy could actuate it when he wanted to, the guy who was driving it. So when we did it we were in this forest right outside of Rabat, this . . . . forest. This fellow said, “Take this out and try it. See how the thing works.” Well there weren’t any roads. There were pastures in this forest. So I said, “What the hell? I might as well.” I thought, I remembered a friend who had a motorcycle and the motorcycle was more like a motorbike. The clutch on it was just like an automobile clutch. You pushed the clutch in, put it in gear, gassed up the thing, you let the clutch out and you took off. I didn’t know that Army motor- cycle was just the opposite. When you take and push that clutch in, that thing took off and if you give it the gas, I got on this bike, on this motorcycle, and I started out through these trees, gassed it up, put that clutch in and took out like a bat out of hell. I’m flying there, holding on with both legs out in the air, dodging the trees. Finally I got the damn thing stopped. I didn’t get back on it. I picked it up and wheeled it back to where I came from. Scared the living daylights out of me. That was the last time I drove a motorcycle.
Interviewer: Did you ever remember to check the siren?
Rosen: Never did.
Interviewer: It was quite a surprise, huh? That’s interesting. One thought did occur as you were talking about the . . . . army. Were you ever shot at by German snipers? Did you ever come on a . . .
Interviewer: Nothing like that? They didn’t . . . .
Rosen: We, when we were in hedgerow country in Normandie we heard machine gun fire in the hills . . . . across the field. And in the next field they were, we heard the German machine gun fire. We were up on a bank and we were looking. We thought maybe they were going to come in and they never did.
Interviewer: That close?
Interviewer: Think that was the closest the Germans got to you during the war?
Rosen: Probably. I’d say that after that they were, for the most part, on the run. They were, the only advances they made was in the Ardennes. That was by Ronstead. See Ron Ronstead was the general for the German campaign into the Ardennes.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well you think you had one experience with a anti-Semite and that was, you settled that personally?
Rosen: Yeah. That was in school at Springfield.
Interviewer: What, I don’t know, is there anything you think you could comment about that experience? What was his problem?
Rosen: He was just an anti-Semite.
Interviewer: He, he made comments?
Rosen: He made a comment against someone else.
Interviewer: Oh against someone else?
Rosen: And I said, “Hey,” . . . .
Interviewer: To you?
Rosen: Yeah, at the school in Springfield. And I grabbed the guy and that was it.
Interviewer: You let him know?
Rosen: Yes I did. I had a temper when I was a kid.
Interviewer: Uh huh. You didn’t tolerate that sort of thing?
Rosen: Yeah. It was going to be me and him.
Interviewer: Did you wear your dog tags with the Hebrew . . . . on it?
Rosen: Absolutely, all the time, all the time.
Interviewer: ‘Cause that was an option and . . . .
Rosen: I always wore them.
Interviewer: You had your religion and you had it on there?
Rosen: I still have my dog tags.
Interviewer: You still have your dog tags?
Rosen: Yeah I have them. I have both of them.
Interviewer: You think you could find it for a picture here on the . . . .
Rosen: My brother took one and he had it, yeah, I’ll bring both of them. He had it put in a plastic thing. Can I take this off? I’ll go get them for you.
Rosen: I’m sure I have them somewhere.
Interviewer: I would love to get a picture of them.
Interviewer: You gained weight you think?
Rosen: Oh yeah. I went in the Army I think I must have weighed 145. I don’t know if I, my trousers I remember were 32 waist and I think 30 or 32 length. My trousers now are 40 by 30. They’re shorter but bigger around the middle. And I weigh 185 also. When I came out of the Army, I think I weighed 160 pounds. I went from maybe 135 to 160 in those three years. One time I was heavier in the Army and then I lost it again.
Interviewer: This is the end of the interview. We now have completed our interview with Emil Rosen and this consists of one tape. This is Side 2, the second side and this is the conclusion of the interview on a single cassette tape. The end.
* * *
Transcribed by Honey Abramson
(The following appears later on the tape.)
Rosen: . . . . junior year in Israel. He met us in London and he spent a week with us in London. It was during his Spring Break there. And it was very, very interesting. And we, you know, the things, it was so funny we were, we just weren’t knowl- edgeable. We didn’t think about it. When I went in the Army I was 21 years old and I was in England. We were in Salisbury, right near Salisbury. Tidworth Barracks is 50 miles from Salisbury and Tidworth Barracks was summer home or country home of the, the Duke of Wellington.
Interviewer: Oh yeah.
Rosen: And his estate was there and they had a USO thing there. And we would go there. We could get coffee and donuts or whatever and it was interesting. Let me see that book incidentally.
Interviewer: . . . .
(Tape ends)* * *