At last week’s Shabbat Evening Service, we commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight German forces on the beaches of Normandy. This perilous undertaking was a pivotal event in the war to defeat Nazi Germany. In addition to remembering those who perished on D-Day, members of the congregation shared remembrances of family who served during World War II.
The following reading was offered by Michelle Eisenbruck:
“My father, Abe Hertzberg, served as a sergeant in the Army Air Corps during the war. He was trained in Colorado and Texas as a tail gunner. With his slight stature of 5’6”, and weighing around 120 pounds, he was able to fit into the small space in the rear of the aircraft; hence his assignment. He was stationed in England, and flew bombing missions into Germany, almost always returning with badly damaged aircraft and enduring crash landings. One of the crashes put him into a coma for several weeks. He was not expected to pull through, but Dad’s always been pretty stubborn and he recovered, although deaf in one ear. He did not participate in D-Day, but recalls being awakened early in the morning to a blackened sky with hundreds of aircraft flying over the barracks. Other assignments included loading armament and participating in photographic missions.
After the liberation of the camps, Dad recalls attending to truckloads of near-dead survivors. There was one woman who sat apart from the others, and refused all offers of bread and water. Dad went to her and started speaking in Yiddish. She responded to him and took some water. It took many years for my father to speak about his service. In 2010, he, along with his children and grandchildren, visited the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. It was a powerful experience. While there, he said Kaddish for his fallen comrades. He’s now 92.”
Susan Amaroux spoke about her late husband, Bud:
“From the time he was a little boy, Bud had big dreams of becoming a United States Marine! After graduation in June of 1943 from Castlemont High School in Oakland, California (known as the "Victory Class") he went down to sign up for the military because WWII was on going. His father wouldn't sign for him to go in the Marines, so he crossed the hall and signed up for the Navy (13-Sept-1943).
During his time in the Navy he was aboard the ship "USS Hoggott Bay" CVF 75, 3rd Division radar station. Arriving in Pearl Harbor, 3-June-1944, he was assigned to an anti-sub patrol. 16-June-1944, he participated in the Pelielu operation. One day he was able to detect a Japanese sub at 10,000 yards. He notified the ship’s escort and they managed to sink the sub before it could attack their ship!
In April of 1945, Bud was then sent to Okinawa. 27-Sept-1945, he left Tokyo and was sent back to San Diego. At that time he was released from active duty.
On August 8, 1946, Bud's dream finally came true when he joined the United States Marine Corps! He went on to participate in the Korean and Vietnam wars before retiring as First Sergeant with 30 years service.
I am very proud of my husband’s love for his country and his family.”
Phyllis Wood shared remembrances of her father’s experiences during World War II:
“My dad, Leon Lerch, was very proud of his service in the U.S. Army from January 5, 1942 to October 14, 1945. He was part of the 351st Searchlight Battalion and first landed in Oran, North Africa. During his time in the Army, his battalion travelled to Italy, France, Belgium, and Germany. He told me that while in the service, he would ask for leave on Friday night so he could go to synagogue, not because he was so frum, but because it was a bit of home so far away from home. While in North Africa, he was befriended by a family he met at temple. They would have him over for Shabbat dinner and then go to services together.
Another story he told me was when he was in Germany as the war was winding down, he went into a synagogue and found all of the Torahs on the ground. He picked each one up and placed them back in the ark. Later, as he thought about this incident he said he felt very fortunate to be alive because the Germans could have very easily placed a bomb under each Torah since most likely a Jew would be the one to pick them up.”
During last week’s Shabbat Service, without prepared notes, other congregants spoke about family members who served during World War II. Speakers included Jack Samosky, Herb Nagel, Florence Silver, Herman Rosenbaum, and Terri Gladish.
It was very moving to listen to all of the remembrances offered last Friday night. Truly those who have served in our Armed Forces, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, are worthy of our gratitude for their heroism safeguarding our cherished values of freedom and justice.