This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded
on July 17, 2000, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s Oral
History Project. The interview is being recorded at 830 West Broad Street,
location of Grant Auto Parts. The interviewer’s name is Dave Graham and I am
interviewing Isadore Gurvis. Topic is his World War II experiences. And now we
will begin.

Interviewer: Let’s start talking here real quick because I know you have a
busy day. If I might just direct the topics, the way we usually do. We start in
the United States and your family, particularly the Jewish aspects of your life
at that point in time, the religious participation, observances, orientation of
your family, your family back- ground, where they came from, it’s a real quick

Gurvis: Okay.

Interviewer: But just pick what you’d like in that topic area back in 1940,

Gurvis: Well originally, and I still have in me, I came from an Orthodox
family. My father came from Russia and I was born in 1918 and of course in my
young years, working with my father, he had a wrecking yard and he lost it in
’29 and ’30.

Interviewer: What was his first name?

Gurvis: David, Eli David.

Interviewer: Eli David Gurevitz?

Gurvis: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Okay. What was the name of the company?

Gurvis: It was called Gurevitz Brothers. And then my brother and I, we
started business in September of 1931 and I was 13 and he was 16. And I went to
Roosevelt Junior High School in the morning and I had a working permit. I ate my
lunch in the back end of a street car and went down to the place of business in
the afternoon and I run it in the afternoon while he went out and got business
and that’s how we got started. And then back in 1935, and this kind of crossed
over easy . . . .

Interviewer: That’s fine.

Gurvis: My brother and I decided that we were going to open up a place of
business and call it Gary’s Auto Glass in Akron, Ohio. And the only way that
we could do that, if my brother went to Akron, Ohio, and I dropped out of South
High School in my senior year and finished up at night school at the YMCA, going
three nights a week. And I graduated in June of 1936. And in ’37, he came back
to Columbus and I went to Akron and we kept going into different businesses and
today we have this.

Interviewer: The two of you?

Gurvis: The two of us.

Interviewer: What is his first name?

Gurvis: His name is Henry.

Interviewer: Henry Gurevitz?

Gurvis: Right. Back in ’41, well I was registered to the draft and they
didn’t call me and I kept calling them and going. In February of ’42, they
called me up I think on around the 12th of February and called me on
a Friday to come back into the draft. And being on the good side of the Draft
Board, I told them I couldn’t do it. And he said, “Why?” I said,
“Well,” I says, “we have a B’nai B’rith bowling tourna-ment
in Columbus and our team won the championship and we got a dinner coming up on
Sunday night,” and I says, “I really can’t make it and miss it
“. So the guy said to me, “Can you come Monday morning?” And I
got there Monday morning at 6:30 and at 7:00 I was on K.P. at Fort Hayes in

Interviewer: Right here in Columbus?

Gurvis: And I stayed there for about three days, came down to Fort Knox Arm
Enforce- ment Replacement Center and I graduated from Mechanic’s School, which
I did not want and they said, “What do you want to do?” And I said,
“I want to go overseas”. Well not very long I was shipped on
maneuvers, the Second Armored Division, and lo and behold the Battalion of
Reconnaissance. I went in on Company D and I stayed there for a couple of years
and transferred over to Company C and rode in a six-wheel armored car and I was
a gunner. And I did such a good job of sighting the machine gun and the 37mm
cannon that the lieutenant had me doing them all to the armored cars. And we
went all the way through, I didn’t fight in Africa, but I went all the way to
Africa to Arzu and then I think it was July 10th of ’43, we landed
in Jalef, Sicily, and we didn’t have too much of a counterattack down there.
But the first night on the beach, the Americans were supposed to come over at
11:00 and drop paratroopers to help us cut the island. About six minutes to 11,
Jerry came over and bombed the hell out of us. At 11:00 when the paratroopers
came over, the Navy let loose and there were bodies dangling from the trees.

Interviewer: Did you see that personally?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. We saw it. There were bodies hanging from the big, where the
gliders were shot down.

Interviewer: Just for the record, I know that about 20 aircraft carrying
paratroopers were shot down that night.

Gurvis: Well they were shot down by the Navy.

Interviewer: By the U.S. Navy?

Gurvis: Right because Jerry, five minutes before, came and bombed us.

Interviewer: And you were a witness to all that?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. I was right there on D-Day, the night of D-Day. And of
course we, some of, we caught some of the paratroopers later on that didn’t
have any food or anything and we gave them food and they joined up with us for a
while. Then our outfit went into Palermo and whoever got to Palermo first pulled
M.P. duty. So we got there and we pulled M.P. duty and we were situated in a
Sicilian yard with family and we guarded the waterfront. In South High School
and Roosevelt Junior High school I took Latin and I took advanced Latin for four
years so when I got over there, in spite of the fact that I hadn’t been with
it for six years, within a matter of a couple months, I was able to converse
with the Sicilians with my Latin. Then we left Sicily. Oh incidentally, while we’re
on the ship between Arzu and Sicily, we were bombed. But thank God nobody ever
got hit but they dropped the bombs on us. And then we got our ships and we
sailed around and went into Liverpool, England. At that time we had to take our
patches are. We were supposed to be recruits and here’s the Third and Fourth
Armored, never saw any battle, and start to say rookie and, you know, same old
stuff in the Army, what they do. So some of us took our patches out of our
pockets and we’d show it to them and we said, “How would you like to be
with us?” And we went from there to a place called Chittenworth Barracks
with a, oh I remember these here, and we got all new equipment, armored cars,
vehicles, we got the jeeps and everything that went along with it and then they
went on down and we went in and got ready for D-Day. And we’re on an LST and
they put the barrage baloons up in the air to keep Jerry from coming in. But
they bombed us pretty good. A couple of ships got hit. Thank God we didn’t get
hit. But they kept us out there for two or three days and then we went in I
think a D3 or D4 and then we helped along the beach as best as we could.

Interviewer: What did you see when you landed? Do you recall anything?

Gurvis: You what?

Interviewer: What did you see when you landed on the beach? Do you recall
anything in particular?

Gurvis: A lot of wreckage, lot of wounded, some dead ones. The amphibious
boats were rocking in the water. They had been hit. And just, you couldn’t
really explain it really what it was. Even going through it, you really couldn’t
explain. You’re driving by, you see a dead soldier laying right there and you
think nothing of it. You just kept on going. And then finally we were called,
well we went through the Cherbourg Peninsula and we cut that outfit off. In the
meantime, we were setting about 6- or 700 yards behind St. Lo, if you remember

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: Okay.

Interviewer: French town, yeah. Rather hilly there as I recall.

Gurvis: American bombers came over and the lead plane was the only one that
had a bomb site. And the bomb site was off. And they dropped bombs on the
American troops.

Interviewer: How close were the bombs falling to you?

Gurvis: We were about 3-400 yards behind it.

Interviewer: So you were pretty close really?

Gurvis: Yeah. General McNear got killed that day so I . . . .

Interviewer: Here again, another major blunder by the military.

Gurvis: Right, right.

Interviewer: Bombing our own troops.

Gurvis: So we went all through at St. Lo and when we went through St. Lo,
there wasn’t a chimney standing, where the Americans had bombed it completely
down to the ground. And then we went our way. We had a couple of skirmishes and
we used to go out on night patrol and try to stay away from them but see what
was going on.

Interviewer: Now you were recon so you were out in front of your armored

Gurvis: Oh yeah. Yeah. We were ahead of all of it. And then we went through
and we got about 10 miles or 12 miles from Paris and they stopped us and
diverted us from going into Paris. And the reason why that is we were out of gas
at one point and they couldn’t give us gas because they were saving the gas to
give it to General Patton to liberate Paris. And we were sitting, here’s a
battalion and no fuel.

Interviewer: Did your vehicle actually run out of gas or get low?

Gurvis: Huh?

Interviewer: Did your vehicle, your, you had an M8 armored car?

Gurvis: Yeah we were there. We saw we were, we never got, we got 10 miles to
Paris and got stopped.

Interviewer: So you were ordered to stop?

Gurvis: We were ordered to stop.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Gurvis: Then they sent us to the Pas de Coulette area. If you remember, that’s
where the flying bombs were going into England and we captured that outfit. And
we kept on going. We were the first Americans in Belgium. Our division, our
battalion, was the first Americans in Belgium, Holland and Germany. And we had
our little skirmishs and we saw the Jerrys and they saw us. And they were told,
we had a couple of Germans that were captured that they told us the Second Armed
Division was called “Roosevelt’s Butchers”. That’s what they
called us. Don’t be taken alive by the Second Armored Division.

Interviewer: Ummm. Well was there anything behind that? I mean, you’re
moving fast. Could you take . . . .

Gurvis: Well that was to tell them, they’d fight to the death because we
would torture them before we’d kill them.

Interviewer: Oh that’s what the Germans were told?

Gurvis: That’s what the Germans told them. And then got into Germany and we
had been on the front lines for about a couple of weeks there and we got pulled
back on it the day before Thanksgiving of ’44. And it was raining. And we had
our Thanks- giving dinner the day before, whatever they had out there. And our
six-wheel armored car in the morning about 5:00, we were awakened. We had to go
back to the front line because D Company was a light tank company ahead of us,
had went up ahead of us to fortify us while we went back to have dinner. So in
the morning of Thanksgiving they were counterattacked and they couldn’t hold
it. So they called us to go back up. All I had on was my tank helmet, sitting on
the turret of the armored car and we got stuck in the mud and we hooked up to a
halftrack and the halftrack pulled forward. He stopped and we pulled up a little
and hit a dry spot and as he went forward the cable broke at the halftrack and I
got it.

Interviewer: What happened? What hit you?

Gurvis: The crease, you could put that cable in the crease of my helmet.

Interviewer: It hit you in the helmet?

Gurvis: Uh huh. They couldn’t, they took me to a . . . .

Interviewer: Were you knocked unconscious?

Gurvis: I wasn’t knocked out but my whole face went numb and they drove me
back to a Red Cross Center medics. And that son-of-a-bitch looked at me and he
says, “We’re on a rest today”. Raining and I’m sitting in a jeep,
blood running down my face and they drove me . . . . me back to a hospital in
Leige, Belgium. And the girl that nursed me, she said, “How you
doing?” I said, “Well you know, I’m numb all over”. She said,
“You want a cigarette?” and I said, “Yeah”. She gave me a
cigarette and I took one puff and the blood just put it out. Anyhow they put me
under, they brought my nose back to some semblance, packed it up.

Interviewer: So your nose was broken?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. Everything. I had my jaws, four jaws were wired together.

Interviewer: Oh my goodness.

Gurvis: My nose was broken. I had all my upper teeth knocked out. If I take
my plate out, I got a harelip right here. And then anyhow they put me together
the best they could and took me back home to England into a hospital there. I
stayed there for a couple months and then the Colonel or Brigadier General came
in, looked at the patients to see how they were doing, and he said, “ZI”.
That means Zone of Interior. You go back to the States. So we got me back to the
States here I think in February of ’45, February, either January or February,
and I had two choices. I could go to Crile Hospital in Parma or I could go to
the hospital in California. So I took the choice this winter first and
California second because my mother’s sister lived out in California and it
would have been about 40 miles away her . . . . to live. But fortunately I got
into Crile General Hospital and about three or four operations more besides what
I had overseas and they just kept cutting me from the inside and getting the
scars a little closer and closer. I lost all my hearing. I got about 90% loss of
hearing. I got one in my pocket because . . . .

Interviewer: Hearing aid? I see . . . .

Gurvis: But I got the other one in here . . . .

Interviewer: . . . .

Gurvis: So, I can hear some time but if it get bad, I put them both in. So
that’s it. I mean the government has me on, not on disability, but for what
they call “wounds received”. I get a compensation for wounds received.
When I got ready to leave the hospital, Crile General Hospital, they never even
gave me a medical discharge. I was being married on January 20th . . . .

Interviewer: Oh boy.

Gurvis: of ’46. I came home in December and I ended up with diphtheria, 30
days sit there and I get ready to discharge and the guy says to me, “I can’t
let you go”. I said, “Why?” He said, “You got a problem with
your nose”. I said, “I breath good”. Well, okay, long story
short, they operated on my nose. I now have a perforated septum. I have a hole
in my nose. Goes from one side to the other. I can take a pencil and shove the
nose . . . . And then they let me go.

Interviewer: Was that a mistake on their part?

Gurvis: I would say so.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Gurvis: I think it was some, I suppose that would be an experimental. I don’t
know. But I told them, I said, “I breath fine”. “Can’t let you
go.” I said, “I’m getting married in 20 days.” “Can’t
help you.” And go ahead. And never got a medical discharge. I left the
hospital. I had a car. I drove to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and I just got in
line with some guys. I said, “Where you going?” They said, “We’re
going to get discharged”. Fine. Got in line and followed them all the way
through and got my discharge. Now the girl went to get me a ruptured duck.

Interviewer: That’s the little emblem of honorable discharge.

Gurvis: Yeah.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Gurvis: I said, she says, “You have been hit in the Army”. I said,
“Yes”. She says, “You want to file a claim?” I said, “I
just want to get the hell out of here”. She said, “I’m sorry”.
“Now what are you sorry about?” She says, “You can’t get out
until you file a claim”. Ask me a goddam question, I answer you. Filed it
and then on . . . .

Interviewer: Now the claim was for what, medical compensation or something,

Gurvis: They called it “compensation for wounds received”.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Which was a certain percentage of your regular pay or
something like that?

Gurvis: They just figured the percentage of the damage I had done.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: And of course every so often it goes up a little.

Interviewer: You receive that yet today?

Gurvis: Oh yeah.

Interviewer: As a, but they don’t call you a “disabled veteran”?
It’s something else.

Gurvis: No but I go to the V.A. clinic over here which is over there on . . .

Interviewer: There’s one on Cleveland Avenue.

Gurvis: Taylor Avenue at 270.

Interviewer: Oh yes. It’s a beautiful, new building.

Gurvis: At Chalmer Wiley’s.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: And I get my hearing aids and I get my dental and now I found out
after 20 years, they pay my medication.

Interviewer: They do?

Gurvis: So that’s what I get.

Interviewer: So you were about 26 years old when that cable hit you in the
head. That was 1944.

Gurvis: Yeah. And I was 27 when I got married. I was about a little over 2-,
not quite 23 years when I get into . . . .

Interviewer: Well tell us about your bride. How did you meet? How did you
correspond? . . . .

Gurvis: I came home on a weekend, which in a, you know you do things you’re
not supposed to do. They give me a pass to go to Cleveland for the weekend. So I
hopped in a car and I came to Columbus to visit my parents, stuff like that. And
I’m with a friend of mine and he’s, we’re still friendly that I still talk
to him. And he sent me over two girls, one on each side. And I know the one girl
and I said, “Who’s that broad?” He said, “Well,” gave me
her name. I said, “Well I’d like to meet her. I’ll be in next
weekend”. And I met her and I was with her three weekends and got engaged.

Interviewer: Three weekends? Well tell us her name.

Gurvis: Huh?

Interviewer: Tell us her name.

Gurvis: Her name was Shirley. Her name was Shirley Friedman.

Interviewer: Uh huh. From Columbus, was she?

Gurvis: She was Dayton and Columbus. And when we got engaged, she went down
to see her father who was a jewelry salesman and the first thing, he looked at
her finger. I said, “There’s nothing there yet”.

Interviewer: Her finger?

Gurvis: Yeah. “There’s nothing there yet.” And when I first met
my wife, this is really funny. She was staying at an aunt’s house on 18th
Street in Columbus. And my first date, this is the first time I saw her, her
father, her step-mother, her aunt, her father’s sister and her husband. Now
this father’s sister and the husband were from Grand Rapids and I see them
looking me up and down, the side, the back. Anyhow, I passed. (Laughs) And we
saw each other for three weekends and we got engaged.

Interviewer: Was she able to come down? You were at Fort Knox at the time I

Gurvis: No, no. This was long after I got hit.

Interviewer: Oh after you got hit?

Gurvis: Yeah. Oh yeah, I didn’t meet her until ’45. We got hit. I came
back in, fact is, I got engaged . . . .

Interviewer: You were still in treatment in the Army?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. I was still at the hospital.

Interviewer: Okay.

Gurvis: And she came to visit me. I had diphtheria. I was up at the hospital
and she stayed with a relative up in Cleveland, Ohio. And I had a cousin living
there in Cleveland and I could get out any time I wanted to and go out for 24
hours and stuff like that. They didn’t keep, as long as they weren’t working
on you they let you go. But when you get ready for an operation, you have to
stay there and that was in January 20, 1946.

Interviewer: You were married in Columbus?

Gurvis: In Dayton, Ohio.

Interviewer: In Dayton? Okay. Okay.

Gurvis: Got married in . . . .

Interviewer: What Temple was it? Was it in a temple?

Gurvis: Want me to tell you something? I can’t remember it. And I’ll tell
you the reason why. It was being built.

Interviewer: Oh I see. While you were in Columbus were you able to attend
temple here in Columbus while you were . . . . Cleveland.

Gurvis: Yeah I moved, yeah.

Interviewer: Okay.

Gurvis: So anyhow we got to Dayton and I forgot the name of the synagogue.
And I always said, “I got married in the basement and I never got out of
it”. They had no first floor and all the services were in the basement of
the shul. That’s the only thing that was done. So we got married in the
basement of the shul and that’s, I never got out of the hole since.
Anyhow, we’ve been married for 54 1/2 years. I have three boys and a girl.

Interviewer: Their names real quick?

Gurvis: And I have six grandchildren.

Interviewer: Six grandchildren? What are the names of your children?

Gurvis: Ronald, David, Dale and Kathy.

Interviewer: And have any of them entered the business with you?

Gurvis: Two sons. Ronnie is the one just walked in.

Interviewer: Oh I see.

Gurvis: Dale, my other son, runs our carpet division in Greensboro, North
Carolina, and Howell, Indiana. He runs back and forth.

Interviewer: Is that auto carpeting or?

Gurvis: Yeah, auto carpeting.

Interviewer: Okay.

Gurvis: My other son is a doctor. He’s a podiatrist in Indianapolis and
Avon, Indiana. And my daughter is a legal secretary in Chicago.

Interviewer: Wow, wonderful.

Gurvis: And my daughter’s coming in Thursday morning because I had had my
82nd birthday Friday.

Interviewer: Last Friday?

Gurvis: This coming . . . .

Interviewer: This coming Friday? Wonderful. Congratulations. That’s
terrific. And you still come to work most every day?

Gurvis: Well I come, I’m supposed to be retired but I, you know, you can’t
get, got to get rid of the house. Can’t listen all day to them. And if course
you know, you want to turn that off for a minute? . . . . about my grandson. I
have also a grand- daughter. My daughter-in-law was a Gentile girl and at the
time they were going to get married, I said to my son, and I came right out to
her, I said, “Are you going to convert?” She said, “Yes”.
“Fine”. Went to Temple Israel, Rabbi Folkman, and he gave her the
books to study and she studied them, she answered all the questions and that was
fine. When they were down, living down in Florida, we had a business down there,
he was running a warehouse. Went to a rabbi down there and he was going to take
her to the ocean for the mikvah. At that time my granddaughter was just
born. And she didn’t want to put a six-month-old baby under the ocean water.
So she never went because they didn’t have a mikvah there. When she
moved to Greensboro about 16, 15 or 16 years ago, for about six months they
belonged to the Reform Temple and they didn’t like it, even my granddaughter
who was a Gentile. They went to the Conservative and they got to talking and the
rabbi asked her everything about this and that. He said, “Did you go to the
mikvah?” She said, “No”. He said, “You’re not a
Jew”. He said, “I can’t say, and neither are your son or your
daughter, ’til you go through the ritual”. Well my daughter-in-law did
not hesitate. She took my granddaughter and took my grandson and herself and she
went to the mikvah. And they’re in good standing at the Conservative
temple. My granddaughter was Bas Mitzvahed. My grandson, just a year ago,
was Bar Mitzvahed. And every so often my kids go to the synagogue and
they help them conduct morning services to the young kids. I’m quite proud of
them and what they became from what they were.

Interviewer: Relating this to your wartime as a younger man, did you have the
same devotion to Judaism at that time as you probably have now?

Gurvis: I did have it but it would not, let’s say it was not as strong as
it should have been.

Interviewer: How did it affect you during your wartime experiences? Did . . .

Gurvis: It affected me very much so with the outfit I was in. I met this . .
. . in maneuvers in South Carolina in the Summer of ’42 and if you know what
it is, you’re one Jew with 200 Gentiles and 199 of them are from the South and
don’t know what a Jew looks like. And I had my fights.

Interviewer: You had the . . . . encounters?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. I had my fights with some of them.

Interviewer: What would trigger that, I mean, was it . . . .

Gurvis: They just, they couldn’t cope with it.

Interviewer: Did they make comments about you personally, or?

Gurvis: Made comments and . . . .

Interviewer: . . . . Jews in general?

Gurvis: like “you Jew” and this and that. And it would never stop.

Interviewer: So this was actual anti-Semitism?

Gurvis: Yeah. But they didn’t know any better. They were from Alabama, from
Missis- sippi. I won’t name the name but I had a first, a buck sergeant that
when he got letters from home, I read them to him because he couldn’t read.

Interviewer: Oh my gosh.

Gurvis: And he’s a buck sergeant. He could take orders, he was a good

Interviewer: And they knew you were Jewish?

Gurvis: Oh yeah.

Interviewer: You had the “Hebrew” on your dog tags, did you,

Gurvis: No, but I wore a Star of David.

Interviewer: You did?

Gurvis: Oh yeah.

Interviewer: As a jewelry or what?

Gurvis: Yeah. I wore a silver Star of David and I got this one right here.

Interviewer: Oh I see, a large . . . .

Gurvis: I’m never without it. I never take it off, even when I go to bed.

Interviewer: Did you wear one, you say a silver one, during your war . . . .

Gurvis: Oh yeah, I wore it all through the years.

Interviewer: in Europe?

Gurvis: Oh yeah.

Interviewer: Whatever became of that one?

Gurvis: When I got . . . .

Interviewer: That would be a treasure, wouldn’t it?

Gurvis: When I got hit, we had all our stuff in a duffle bag. It was on the
side of the armored car. And I also had a couple P258 pistol revolvers.

Interviewer: Sure . . . .

Gurvis: And everything was lost. About nine months later, my wallet came back
with me with the papers but no money. The money, I had $15 or $20.

Interviewer: . . . .

Gurvis: In fact it is, one of our sergeants in our outfit was Japanese in our
Company C.

Interviewer: Did he suffer racial . . . .

Gurvis: No, no.

Interviewer: or ethnic . . . .

Gurvis: But I went in a private and I didn’t care whether I was going to
get up or not as long I would do is get out.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: They got P.F.C. was a big deal. I never even put the one stripe on.
And . . . .

Interviewer: When you had the anti-Semitism in training, did anything happen
. . . .

Gurvis: Not too much in the training because in the training there were a lot
of Jewish fellows from Brooklyn, New York, the Bronx and Cleveland. There were a
lot of Jewish fellows down in there.

Interviewer: Oh I see. It happened when you were with the division at . . . .

Gurvis: Yeah this was after I got out and into the division. Because they
never saw a Jewish fellow and you know, with your 200 southerners . . . .

Interviewer: The division itself?

Gurvis: From Alabama and Mississippi and Georgia, they “you-all” .
. . .

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: and stuff like that there.

Interviewer: Did you have any Jewish friends in the division?

Gurvis: Army, no.

Interviewer: No?

Gurvis: No.

Interviewer: Did you have any close ties with other guys?

Gurvis: Only had a couple of fellows. One fellow by name of Demont Neilson
who was from California. And a guy by the name of John Rachel who was a Polish
fellow. And he went bad.

Interviewer: What do you mean “he went bad”.

Gurvis: Well he didn’t want to, he wanted to get out. We were overseas and
he did something, they put him in the Stockade.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: And he started to walk away. And he wouldn’t listen to . . . . so
they shot him in the leg.

Interviewer: Wow! You heard about this or you . . . .

Gurvis: Oh I was there.

Interviewer: You saw it?

Gurvis: I didn’t see the actual shooting but I knew what happened.

Interviewer: They shot the man?

Gurvis: And then of course he got discharged. Oh a lot of fellows found ways
of getting discharged. This is not one of them.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: I got double vision from what I have wrong so they make me new lenses
and I’m trying to straight out.

Interviewer: That’s why you have a black patch on one eye.

Gurvis: Yeah. We had one fellow who wanted to get out and the Army told you
never hold your thumb in the air when you fire your rifle.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: Because it kicks back. So it kicked back and he lost his eye.

Interviewer: Oh his thumb went into his eye?

Gurvis: Yeah and of course, back to the States, discharged. Guys, they would
shoot themselves in the foot. I mean, I didn’t actually see it but I saw the
guy after he got his eye put out.

Interviewer: You did?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. He was in our same company. And when we got to Belgium and
Holland, there was another fellow by myself, he was a German. But my Jewish came
in handy.

Interviewer: Yiddish?

Gurvis: Yiddish because I would say, “Ich gait ahaim,”
“I’m going home”. And them would they say, “Ahaim ir
. It’s just about the difference of the wording in the way it
was said. And between he and I, we got along with the people in Belgium and
Holland. It’s what’s called a “low Flemish” and we got along that
way and they took us into the church one night and brought us hot water and for
us all bathe and they were, more or less were shy until they knew that we could
talk and they could understand us. Then they was a little better.

Intrerviewer: Speaking of a church or something, religious events or
observances while you were in Europe, there were a couple of Holy days while you
would have been there up until the . . . .

Gurvis: Well . . . .

Interviewer: Yom Kippur, what was that?

Gurvis: Yeah for Yom Kippur we did the best we could.

Interviewer: Do you recall anything about that?

Gurvis: I remember cheating.

Interviewer: What do you mean?

Gurvis: Eating.

Interviewer: Oh (laughs). You felt guilty, did you?

Gurvis: I felt a little guilty, yes.

Interviewer: Aren’t you able to do that though if you have a situation . .
. .

Gurvis: But for Rosh Hashonah we had services out in the field.

Interviewer: Uh huh. You attended, did you?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. They’d come, different parts of the division, there was
enough Jewish fellows, maybe 25 or 30, that we had the Siddurs and one of the
fellows conducted services.

Interviewer: Who served as rabbi in this?

Gurvis: One of the fellows who had a little more knowledge than I did.

Interviewer: Okay.

Gurvis: And for Pesach, we didn’t have any matzo or nothing and we’d
just do it, that’s just another day. Let’s be honest about it.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: We couldn’t have anything out in the field. We were in France and
there was a barrage came over so while the barrage came over, we shot a couple
cows. That’s how we got meat that day.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Gurvis: And then for one day, one time we didn’t have any supplies come and
got to us for 30 days, approximately 30 days, we subsisted on C Rations. And I
don’t tell you what that does to you.

Interviewer: Now is that cold food?

Gurvis: That’s cold food. And we never had enough time to just stop to do
anything. But that’s, I think of the days, last year, my son got me some names
of the outfit, fellows that were in my outfit. The one fellow I did want to talk
to was dead. But the one I was telling you about that he couldn’t read, I got
ahold of him in Alabama and we talked for about five minutes.

Interviewer: Was this recently?

Gurvis: Last Summer.

Interviewer: Last Summer?

Gurvis: And had to refresh his memory. He said, “I don’t remember you
really,” but we talked about different things and brought it back, some of
the memories.

Interviewer: Do you know, the division does have an annual reunion for the

Gurvis: Never got a thing on it. Never got a thing on it. I would of gone

Interviewer: You would have?

Gurvis: I don’t know, I would imagine very, very few fellows were left from
the outfit.

Interviewer: Well your crewmen for example. How many were there in your . . .

Gurvis: Two hundred in our battalion.

Interviewer: In your battalion, but in the armored car itself, there would be
what, four of you would there be or?

Gurvis: Yeah, the driver, just the driver, the commander and where I lost my
hearing is I had a 30 caliber and a 37mm cannon co-actually mounted in the

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: And on the top, sometimes we had one and sometimes we had two 50
caliber machine guns. And we didn’t have anything like ear plugs or anything
like that. Had a leather helmet. Had a couple things for your ears to talk to
and that was it and we just fired from the inside the turret. You got all the
concussion back from the noise of the breach coming back or firing a 30 caliber.
Or you stood up there and, oh I’d say in circumference it wasn’t over maybe
36 inches circumference as a turret. And we stick your head up, the 50 caliber
is right there. And you’re shooting and it just does it all.

Interviewer: That caused the hearing loss.

Gurvis: That caused it and you see the fellows that get killed. We had a
fellow by the name of Fred Summers. He worked for a bank in New York and he was
a gunner in one of the other armored cars and we’re in France. And when you’re
there they had a hedge running (tape ends) . . . .

Interviewer: This is Side B of our interview with Isadore Gurvis. The
interviewer is Dave Graham and we’re at the business at 830 West Broad Street
and now we’ll continue with our interview.

Gurvis: We were talking about the hedges.

Interviewer: You’re talking about Fred Summers.

Gurvis: He was a gunner in an armored car, just like me and I always told
him, “Keep your head down”. And we’re in combat going to the front
there in France and all of I hear was a whoosh and he went down. A sharpshooter
caught him in the forehead. Also for the reason that he never kept his head down
like he should. When I looked out, you could only see my eyes. I had my helmet
on. You could only see my eyes because I never stood up and made a target of
myself. But that day he did.

Interviewer: You saw him get hit?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. I saw him get hit. I didn’t see him actually hit but all I
know is I heard a thud and he said, “Oh,” and he went down. He was in
the car right next door to us.

Interviewer: Right next to you?

Gurvis: And that his name was Fred Summers. He worked for a bank. He was a
teller. Young fellow, real nice.

Interviewer: You’d knew him and that was somewhere in France?

Gurvis: Yeah, he’s somewhere buried in France.

Interviewer: Do you recall what happened after that? Was this the beginning
of an attack or just a random shot?

Gurvis: It was just a random thing where Jerry would come out, pop out
between a hedge, shoot and duck down and go somewhere else. On the road in
France, there were hedges, wasn’t open. But here’s the road. One each side
of the road is the hedges and they could hide. And one of our lieutenants got
hit like that, Lieutenant Eustis. He got hit. He rode in a jeep and he really,
he was a devil-may-care and he got hit from one of the guys shooting behind the
hedges and that was it.

Interviewer: Did you see that one happen or?

Gurvis: No I didn’t see that down. He was about a car or two behind us. But
we always said, “Hope we feel tomorrow like we feel today”. That’s
when we got into battle.

Interviewer: Well what was your closest call, so to speak? The most at-risk
you were, where you thought perhaps your number had . . . .

Gurvis: When our armored car got hit. And that didn’t, it wasn’t very
much of an armored car, I mean. But we got hit and it knocked us out and of
course, we got out and then the thing blew up but we were out of it.

Interviewer: What hit you?

Gurvis: Probably an anti-tank missile that they shot. But they had what they
call an 88 with a fantastic camera, a cannon that was absolutely, we never had
anything like it.

Interviewer: High-velocity shell?

Gurvis: We had a, that was a fantastic weapon, that 88mm.

Interviewer: You think that’s what hit your armored car?

Gurvis: No if it had hit us, we’d have got killed.

Interviewer: Oh yeah, some other . . . .

Gurvis: But what we, the armored car really didn’t start, I don’t think
it could have stopped an armored person 50 caliber.

Interviewer: Oh yeah? Do you happen to recall where it was your car was hit .
. . .

Gurvis: No just somewhere . . . .

Interviewer: Or time of year? It was before Thanksgiving, of course?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. It was in France sometime, in the Summer of France. I can’t
remember it. You don’t remember everything.

Interviewer: Your car was totally destroyed?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. It was, caught on fire and that was it.

Interviewer: But you were not injured?

Gurvis: No. The four of us got out and everything was fine.

Interviewer: Wow. What did you do then without a car?

Gurvis: Got into a jeep. We got split up in a couple of jeeps and got taken
back and . . . .

Interviewer: Well that armored car is a very modern-looking vehicle and it
has that gun, the 37mm. You would fire that gun?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. Yeah, we fired the millimeter. The only good part about it
is I was the one that zeroed it in.

Interviewer: Oh yeah, you aimed it?

Gurvis: I zeroed all the 37mms on the armored cars in our company.

Interviewer: Oh I see, for accuracy purposes?

Gurvis: For accuracy. I zeroed them in about at a thousand yards,

Interviewer: Then in actual combat, did you fire that gun or did someone

Gurvis: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Interviewer: Did you ever have a target that you fired it on?

Gurvis: I never fired at anything else.

Interviewer: Well what, for example? Do you recall any targets, the tank, or
equipment or personnel?

Gurvis: Oh, well we fired at buildings that we knew the personnel was in. And
we fired them into the windows or the areas to try to keep them away so we can
get in there close enough to get in there and throw them out. We really didn’t
do any house-to-house like some of the infantry did. We never went . . . .

Interviewer: Did you get close enough to see German soldiers?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Interviewer: Firing at you and that kind of thing?

Gurvis: I don’t know if they were firing at me but I didn’t look that
close at them But we saw them and they were belligerent and just like, did you
watch the movie last night?

Interviewer: You mean, which one, the Nurenberg?

Gurvis: Yeah.

Interviewer: Yeah, I’ve seen some of that. So that reminds you of German

Gurvis: Oh yeah. They very gung-ho.

Interviewer: Did you take any prisoners at any time?

Gurvis: Oh yeah. We took prisoners in Sicily. Took a lot of Italian prisoners
who gave us no fight whatsoever. They were glad to see us.

Interviewer: When did you get those German pistols?

Gurvis: Off of dead ones.

Interviewer: Dead ones? Off of the battlefield?

Gurvis: Off of the battlefield and found them and that was it. And of course
somebody got two of them, I’ll tell you that. But it happens. I had a couple
other things that got lost.

Interviewer: So you don’t have any of the souvenirs that some soldiers had?

Gurvis: No, whatever I had was lost when I got hit, was in my wallet in my
duffle bags and that was it.

Interviewer: Just thinking here, did you ever see any of the famous generals
like General Patton or . . . .

Gurvis: Oh yeah. We saw Patton.

Interviewer: You did?

Gurvis: Yeah. He’d come around. He was, thought he was God.

Interviewer: What did you think about him? Did you have any personal thoughts
. . . .

Gurvis: As a soldier, he was good but as a personal man, I really didn’t
think too much of him. We had a General Rose . . . .

Interviewer: Maurice Rose.

Gurvis: was a very, I think he got killed, I’m not . . . .

Interviewer: Highest-ranking Jewish officer. Yes.

Gurvis: Right. He was a nice fellow.

Interviewer: Did you know him, ever see him?

Gurvis: No. I, we saw him in passing by but that was all and he was up in the
front lines when we were there and he’d ride in a jeep. Maurice Rose. But he
was a real nice fellow. And we had a couple of other generals that took over
after Patton. We went into the First Army from there and then we entered the
Third Army and every time we got another general.

Interviewer: But you don’t recall any particular meeting with Patton or . .
. .

Gurvis: No, no, no.

Interviewer: speech or something famous where he did any of this and . . . .

Gurvis: I was sorry to see he died the way he did.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Gurvis: That was a very bad accident on the Autobahn.

Interviewer: Uh huh, yeah.

Gurvis: But . . . .

Interviewer: After the war was over.

Gurvis: Yeah it was after the war was over. I think his son is a major . . .

Interviewer: Major general.

Gurvis: Is it major general or brigadier general.

Interviewer: Yeah, very high rank, yeah, high ranking. Have you ever gone
back over to Europe?

Gurvis: Nope.

Interviewer: To visit?

Gurvis: I went over to England but only on business . . . . As far as going
to France, I had nothing to do with France, the French people or anything to do
with them.

Interviewer: Why is that?

Gurvis: They were people that waved at you and “Hail Mary”
everything else and between your back, ptui (spits).

Interviewer: Oh. Was that personal experience with them or some . . . .

Gurvis: Just the way some of the things that were did. What really turned me
sour altogether is when United States had all the stuff over there in France,
all the equipment, their air fields, and De Gaulle kicked us out.

Interviewer: Oh out of NATO?

Gurvis: If you remember that?

Interviewer: Yeah. He kicked . . . .

Gurvis: And kicked everything, and he took maybe $5,000,000,000, $2,000,000
of our equipment and got, didn’t get a dime for everything we did for them.
And . . . .

Interviewer: He apparently, during the war, didn’t . . . .

Gurvis: Huh?

Interviewer: During the war apparently you did not have any close attachment
to the French . . . .

Gurvis: Only went through some of the towns.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: Oh they waver, “Americana, Americana,” this and that . . .
. But we, the funniest thing, turn it off for one second. I’m going to tell
you . . . .

Interviewer: You mean the credit for your division was not . . . .

Gurvis: Yeah we never got the credits like, that we should.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well what do you, what do you think . . . .

Gurvis: Well I’m talking about things like, no I got hit before the Battle
of the Bulge. Now I know that some of the fellows that I talked to when I was in
the hospital how fast they moved the division up into the cold . . . .

Interviewer: Right.

Gurvis: and with not waiting and we held the front lines.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: But they don’t give them all the story and with the different
divisions, I think they told, I think they said, if I read correctly that the
Second Armored Division moved a whole division 85 miles in 24 hours.

Interviewer: Uh huh, in the Battle of the Bulge.

Gurvis: Battle of the Bulge.

Interviewer: Yeah they were positioned, I think, at the spearhead point . . .

Gurvis: And they never got . . . .

Interviewer: at the Bulge?

Gurvis: they never got the credit for really what they did.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: The other companies came in and oh they did this and they did that.
They didn’t get the credit for it. And that’s one of the reasons I hate them

Interviewer: Your unit doesn’t get the credit?

Gurvis: I wasn’t there but I think they should get the credit for what they

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: Now I know that you move a division for 85 miles in 24 hours with the
snow and the cold and still, I know what the guys went through.

Interviewer: Well you were there in November. The weather conditions were
getting bad then. You had . . . .

Gurvis: We got caught, that’s the reason I got caught in the rain.

Interviewer: Yeah, the mud and the . . . .

Gurvis: And just, but you know history really never tells you everything
honestly. You know it.

Interviewer: What do you think . . . .

Gurvis: When I die . . . .

Interviewer: Yeah.

Gurvis: They’re not going to say everything good about me. They may say
some good. I don’t know they’re going to say something bad about me. But you
know ever since I found out that I have this, what I have, and the fact that
there is no treatment whatsoever, the only thing if I wanted to do, I could take
an experimental, which I am not going to do . . . . (ruffles papers)

Interviewer: “Obituary notice” . . . .

Gurvis: I wrote my own obituary.

Interviewer: Well that’s not a . . . .

Gurvis: And not only that, I have my cemetery plot.

Interviewer: At Forest Lawn.

Gurvis: My brother and I, we have four of them together. I told them the only
thing, when I die or my brother dies, we want to be put on each end so we get
the women, we’ll protect them.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Gurvis: (Laughs)

Interviewer: It sounds like you’ve had a close relationship with your
brother . . . .

Gurvis: We still do. He’s right in the other office.

Interviewer: over the years. What was he doing during your wartime

Gurvis: My father was ill. My father lived with one lung for 19 years. He was
unable to work and my brother run the business, kept the family together until I
got back and the minute I got discharged, the business was waiting for me to
come back in. I had no qualms. I just walked in as if I had never left. And when
I would come home for a couple of weeks from the hospital, they would let me out
for a couple of weeks when they were going to operate on me, I would come home
and go right down to the office and work.

Interviewer: Hmmm. So it was all set?

Gurvis: And we have been together 69 years.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: We’ve, outside of my that, my 47 months in the army, we have never
been apart.

Interviewer: Wow. That’s really something.

Gurvis: And we still talk to each other (laughs).

Interviewer: Well I think that . . . .

Gurvis: And he’s three years older than I am.

Interviewer: He is?

Gurvis: He’s 85. But the problem is that he’s got what I got.

Interviewer: He does?

Gurvis: But he is taking a treatment for it. We don’t know if it’s
remission or not but we both found the body, you know, it’s funny how things
run in a family. When my brother was 70, he had open-heart surgery. Three years
later when I got 70, I had open-heart surgery. In December he found out what he
had and in December I found out what I had.

Interviewer: Well that’s just amazing.

Gurvis: Now how close can brothers get?

Interviewer: That’s very close. Did you get mail during your time in
Europe? Was, you know, did people correspond with, your brother, girlfriends.

Gurvis: No I didn’t.

Interviewer: Were there chances for letters?

Gurvis: I really, I didn’t get close to anybody in the Army other than I
wrote a couple of letters home to the Jewish Chronicle when, a
fellow by the name of Allan Tarshish, Rabbi Allan Tarshish.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Gurvis: That’s way behind your time because you didn’t even smile.

Interviewer: (Laughs) That means something to the scholars, I know.

Gurvis: He was the rabbi for Temple Israel. And people would write him
letters and they would print them in the Ohio Jewish Chronicle.

Interviewer: And you got the Chronicle in Europe?

Gurvis: No.

Interviewer: That was mailed to you . . . .

Gurvis: No, no, never did. The only thing we got is Tarshish trite words.
Happy to get that to read. But we, I wrote a couple of letters home and my
mother, rest in peace, saved them but over the period of years, you know, they
got lost, got lost.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: And I remember telling them when I got hit, I said, “I’m okay,
I can write to you”. And my brother never went to the office . . . .

Voice: You almost ready here?

Gurvis: Huh?

Voice: You almost ready?

Gurvis: Yeah.

Interviewer: Yeah, we’ll finish now.

Voice: Okay . . . .

Interviewer: . . . .

Gurvis: That’s my brother.

Interviewer: Okay. It’s time . . . .

Gurvis: Well he only comes down for about three hours a day.

Interviewer: He does?

Gurvis: I take him back. He lives in Granville. I take him home every day.

Interviewer: Granville? All the way into . . . .

Gurvis: No he drives in to close to my house . . . .

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Gurvis: at Canyon Center at McNaughten and Main, or Broad rather, and I take
him here and I take him back and he drives home. But that’s all he can stay,
two or three hours here on account of his condition.

Interviewer: Eighty-five.

Gurvis: So . . . .

Interviewer: Well we’re touching on letters from here and that’s another
interesting topic.

Gurvis: And he never went to the office until the mail was delivered and he’s
the one who got the letter. He told Mom, he said, “Izzie got hit”.

Interviewer: Was it a telegram or . . . .

Gurvis: No, no, I sent a letter.

Interviewer: You sent a letter? I see, okay.

Gurvis: He said, “Izzie got hit” . . . .

Interviewer: Oh my goodness.

Gurvis: “or wounded,” he said, “but he’s okay because,”
he said, “he wrote the letter and this is his writing, so he’s okay. And
that’s it.” Now you got me with my one eye. (Laughs)

Interviewer: That was interesting. Your brother got the letter that you had
been wounded.

Gurvis: And then I came home, just about four months later I came home and
saw my mother the first time in about three years.

Interviewer: How did you feel about suffering such an injury that did affect
your appearance? Did you have a struggle to deal with that or . . . .

Gurvis: No because, not really because when they got all through with me, I
probably was almost as good as I was, I think maybe made my nose a little better
(laughs) but outside of that . . . .

Interviewer: You didn’t have any problems adjusting to it?

Gurvis: No I didn’t have any adjustment problems.

Interviewer: Well clearly you had a young lady who didn’t waste any time .
. . .

Gurvis: No.

Interviewer: . . . .

Voice: . . . .

Gurvis: We’re just about finished . . . .

Interviewer: . . . .

Gurvis: In about five minutes we’re through. Now he’s got his limitations
this morning too.

Interviewer: Well you both look like you’re in wonderful shape. I’m 58. I
hope to be in as fine shape as you are . . . .

Gurvis: I’ll be 82 Friday.

Interviewer: . . . .

Gurvis: He was 85 last March.

Interviewer: One thing we do . . . .

Gurvis: It’s a hell of a time to get what we did when we did but . . . .

Interviewer: Listen, my father died at the age of 68. I miss him dearly. But
you’ve had a lot longer life.

Gurvis: My father died at 69 and my mother died at 54.

Interviewer: I think you’ve got a lot to be thankful for. And we would like
to thank you for this donation of your tape and if you would approve it by
signing the donor sheets.

Gurvis: Okay.

Interviewer: That would make it a lot more official.

Gurvis: I don’t write like I used to. (Laughs) Don’t do anything like I
used to.

Interviewer: This will be on file and this will be the end of our interview.
David I appreciate . . . .

* * *

Transcribed by Honey Abramson

Proofread by Marvin Bonowitz

Edited by Peggy Kaplan

Editor’s Note: K.P. refers to Kitchen Police (utility or

“Jerry” disparaging nickname referring to German

M.P. refers to Military Police

PFC stands for Private First Class