by FRANK DESORBO
I was working on the first event of ‘D-Day Revisited Day of Remembrance and Recognition’ in the spring of 2011. This involved finding survivors of the Normandy Invasion in a 60 mile radius of Albany. The first event was held on June 4, 2011 at the Holiday Inn Express in Latham with 38 survivors and over 270 people in attendance.
During the search for key speakers, my son one evening told me of a person who might be a good speaker. Through our backyard and into Dooley’s backyard lived a Veteran Next Door to Dooley. The two boys were in their 20’s and would see Doug often. A pleasant and friendly man they mostly shared small talk as neighbors. Then one day Doug told them about a book that was written about him and two friends from his WW II Army days. Now the conversations shifted to stories about his experiences as part of tank crew in the Battle of the Bulge. Through a google search I discover the book, ‘Into the Dragon’s Teeth.’ I also discovered that Doug past away about 10 months earlier in June 2010. I mail ordered the book and started to read it. Within a few weeks Jim Haggerty (a Korean War Veteran and active with Veteran affairs) called me and gave me the names and phone numbers of these three Veterans who he thought might be Normandy survivors.
I tracked down Al Cohen and Richard Marowitz. For the first time in my life I read a book that I personally met the characters. Unknown to each other during the war, they were united through the local Battle of the Bulge Association.
Marowitz was a successful musician in the early 1940’s making $5,000 a year with the big bands of New York City. He was drafted and returned to a $30 a month life. He became part of a forward observer group when he took advantage of a lucky chance to leave a unit that was overly daring and foolish. He found a nice top hat with the initial ‘AH’ in a chalet closet outside of Munich. PBS made a TV documentary entitled “Hitler’s Hat.” I met with him many times and he gave me a DVD copy of the documentary.
Cohen was a front line infantry and a BAR man (Browning Automatic Rifle). Most infantrymen keep stories close to the heart and left deep in the head. I visited his home off Whithall Road in Albany by ringing the doorbell and showing the book when his wife answered. I was invited in for the quickest 2 ½ hour visit. His basement was a museum. He was on the cover of a Look Magazine showing him guarding the Nuremburg prisoners. Knowing he was Jewish, I asked him ‘how did he ever control himself?’ He said he learned a little German and when the prisoners came to cell door’s little window he said “I’m Jewish.” They had this peculiar and dismal look on their face and just walked away.
Vink was part of a three person tank crew. Living with two others in close quarters in refrigerated temperatures, Vink tells the story when they had a chance to sleep in building one night. The cold of the tank or building was the same but at least they could stretch out. The building stairs were destroyed. They improvised by orderly placing frozen German soldiers as a stairway.
My son knew Vink and he was truly a Veteran Next Door. I was blessed to know Marowitz and Cohen. The Veterans went on a book tour through the local high schools. The book was written in 2004 by Dick Lynch (TV and radio broadcaster of WNYT and WROW) and Paul Rutherford, Vice President of Homestead Funding.
The 75th Anniversary of two very important WW II events are upcoming in 2019:
June 6, 1944 D-Day the Normandy Invasion and the
December 16, 1944 The Battle of the Bulge the largest battle of WW II.
To all the Veterans Next Door, God Bless You.