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In 1927 Walter Fradin, Fred Hecht and Harry Bader were childhood friends in Spring Valley New York. They were Jewish boys, around 7 years old. They became buddies and grew up together, helping their families scratch by in the depression, becoming hellraisers constantly in trouble with their teachers and other assorted grownups.In the early 30's, Walter and a number of other Jewish and non-Jewish boys got into several running brawls with the local Bundists, who would come up from NYC and hold pro-Nazi rallies/drunken parties at places like the Platzl Brauhaus, near Pomona, NY. After having the snot beat out of them, the Bundists stopped coming.The boys graduated from High School in 1939. Walter worked in his fathers grocery store and had been accepted by U.of N. Carolina, but there wasn't enough money to send him, so he kept working. By then, Hitler had been in power for over 7 years, concentration camps were being planned and built, the Nazi regime had swallowed Austria and Czechoslovakia, Poland was on the brink, the Japanese were threatening to overrun Asia, and the world was descending into a frightening violent madness.After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, lots of young people volunteered to join the armed forces, including Walter, his sister Charlotte, Fred and Harry. Walter joined the Army Air Corp and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt., a co-pilot and a navigator. Fred joined the Army infantry and Ben joined the Marines. Charlotte was accepted into the first class of female officers for the Army Air Corp, and was also commissioned as a 2nd LT in 1942.Walter married Marjorie on the 4th of July, 1942, and after a 10 day honeymoon, shipped out to the Pacific. Paul Lefkowitz married Marjorie's sister Bertha. Paul and his three brothers also had enlisted in the army. Many young people got married and then were separated by the war, in Walter and Marjories case, for 3 years.Fred was killed in action in Africa near the end of 1942. Walter, Harry, Paul and his brothers all survived the war. Walter flew many missions against Japanese targets, while Harry went island hopping with the Marines in some of the heaviest fighting in the Pacific theater.In early 1946 Walter was approached by Ben Wild, an older Jewish man and an American veteran of WW1. Ben told Walter that a local post of the Jewish War Veterans group should be formed in Spring Valley since so many young Jewish men from that area had served. Walter agreed and let Ben convince him to organize it. Walter was 26.The Jewish War Veterans (JWV) is the oldest veterans group in the United States, now in its 111 year. Walter visited the Hecht family and told them that he wanted to name the new post after Freddy, his buddy who had fallen in Africa. The family agreed and the Fred Hecht post of the Jewish War Veterans was born. Walter became the founding President in 1946. The next year, Moishe served as President, and the following year, Harry did.In 1947 some of the vets decided to help the Jewish fighters in Palestine in their struggle for independence. Walter and some of the others quietly visited many of the veterans and made their pitch, and in that process, collected over 100 guns of various kinds, war surplus and souveniers.The guns were stored in the back room of a kosher butcher in Spring Valley, and one night a representative of the Haggenah, a Jewish underground fighting group, came and took the weapons. According to Pauls brother Moishe, the Haggenah man was shocked that so many guns had been collected and that they were in such good shape. The Jewish fighters were greatly outnumbered and had few weapons.Over the years. the Fred Hecht post of the Jewish War Veterans became one of the most active Veterans groups in the US, doing tremendous fundraising for American veterans of all faiths. Today they are supporting returning Iraq war vets. Many of todays veterans are older than the vets of the Vietnam era when the typical age was 18, 19 20. There are many Iraq wr vets in their 30's and 40's and older. Some of them have been sent on multiple duty tours and the ones who had small businesses have seen many of these ventures go under, their families have struggled, and they face problems that are unique to older vets.I got an email from my Walter, my dad, around a month ago inviting me to a breakfast hosted by the JWV, honoring its members. I accepted and last Sunday we went, along with my brother. Like so many vets of his era, my dad is a pretty modest guy. When we got to the event, I discovered it was not just an event to honor the members of the post, as my dad had told me, but to honor the past Presidents, especially the first President, my dad Walter. Over two hundred people were in attendance, with many older vets in their 70's 80's and 90s, mostly WW2 and Korea, some Vietnam vets too. I got friendly with one of the ex-Presidents, a Brigadier by the name of Elliot Herman, who served in Korea and 2 tours in Vietnam. Pretty friendly guy for a General, with a deadpan sense of humor. The local congressman was there, several local judges and assemblymen, and some media representatives. Lots of speeches were made, thankfully mostly short. During the breaks the politicians went trolling for votes and worked the crowd, which was friendly enough.Of the 60 Presidents of this post, only 10 are still alive. They were all invited to make speeches, in reverse chronological order. When they got to the last third President, Harry Bader, now 85, shook his head and shouted that too many speeches had already been made. Everyone laughed. Then they handed the microphone to the second President, my uncle Moishe, now 94 years old and in attendance with his girlfriend (I kid you not). Moishe is in great shape and his mind and speech still sharp. He gave a wonderful speech, about 5 minutes long, talking about the old days, the butcher shop in Spring Valley, his brothers, now all dead, his fallen comrades. Tears were in attendance.And then finally, the first President, my Dad, now 86 years old, had his turn. He also gave a great short speech, about being a Jewish American, being in a room with his old comrades, some of whom he had known for 75 years, and again, tears and laughter. He recounted how proud his parents were to be able to say that their two oldest children, my father and my aunt, were officers in the American armed forces. To Jews in most other countries, serving in the armed forces, let alone being officers, was beyond imagination.It was a privilege to be there, to see these old men and their families embrace each other, recount the recently departed and the shrinking number of those remaining, seeing men who had not seen each other in 50 years in some cases (happened twice to my dad) find each other again.During dark times, and it sure seems like we are entering an era of dark times, it is easy to get discouraged and apathetic. There is violence all over the globe, governments and movements that are venal, corrupt, aggressive and ruthless, and a great fear for the future is taking hold.But spend time with a group like this and you realize that the human race has some nobility, has some good, and we do not have the luxury to be resigned, to be complacent, to be discouraged.It's our turn now.Dov ben WalterPs – I did use real names. Thought about using fake names for security reasons, but what the hell, these guys deserve the recognition … just don't stalk them, lol, cause even though they are all old, they know how to defend themselves, trust me.
Dov,Thank you so much for sharing. Try to get it published. Your dad, uncle and his fellow veterans highly deserve this recognition.Mark
thank you Mark ... d
Excellent! I think it should be published.
Great post...clean it up a bit and send it to the Jewish Week.--ET
Dov it made my day to see this post got enough recs to make "best of".-silencer
That was extremely moving.You are fortunate to have such a father, and such an extended family.A gentile friend of mine (and ex-marine) has made the point that joining the military is one of the best ways for immigrants children of immigrants to prove their loyalty and to become acculturated to American life.Who were among the most decorated soldiers of WWII? Japanese-Americans in the Nisei brigades. Even while their families were locked up in internment camps, they were fighting and dying for their country. (But only in Europe -- these fine men weren't trusted to fight in the Pacific, and that fact is a stain on our national honor.)I grew up at a time and place where the military was held in scorn, and we snobbish liberals looked down on those who joined up after high school. The military was something for the lower-classes. If we heard about someone enlisting (or even thinking about it), the presumption was that they were too stupid to get into college.I'm now embarrassed by the way we behaved back then.
In 1947 some of the vets decided to help the Jewish fighters in Palestine in their struggle for independence. Walter and some of the others quietly visited many of the veterans and made their pitch, and in that process, collected over 100 guns of various kinds, war surplus and souveniers.The guns were stored in the back room of a kosher butcher in Spring Valley, and one night a representative of the Haggenah, a Jewish underground fighting group, came and took the weapons. While I totally support what they did, consider how such an action would be viewed today?They'd all be locked up for supporting terrorists.
Dov it made my day to see this post got enough recs to make "best of".-silencer ====================I knew I had a hit even before I finished it.to the top of the charts ... with a bullet!!!!!!!!next we'll see if it makes POD ... Dov ben Walter
In 1947 some of the vets decided to help the Jewish fighters in Palestine in their struggle for independence. Walter and some of the others quietly visited many of the veterans and made their pitch, and in that process, collected over 100 guns of various kinds, war surplus and souveniers.The guns were stored in the back room of a kosher butcher in Spring Valley, and one night a representative of the Haggenah, a Jewish underground fighting group, came and took the weapons. While I totally support what they did, consider how such an action would be viewed today?They'd all be locked up for supporting terrorists. =============================yeah, they probably would be ... running guns to paramilitary organizations is not exactly the most legal thing to do ... but luckily ... no one knows about it :) ... and of the principal actors in this little operation ... the youngest is 86 years old.the mindset of American Jewish war veterans, barely a year after the Holocaust, was something to be reckoned with.
Dov it made my day to see this post got enough recs to make "best of".-silencer And because it made "Best Of" I got to read it and it made my day.Frydaze1
Great story Dov. Derek
Dov, I'd like to share stories about two more Jewish war veterans.One is my cousin Dave, now 83 years old. He graduated from the University of Michigan, with a degree in mechanical engineering, in (I think) 1943. He joined the U.S. Army, as a machinist. Dave's job was to follow the U.S. troops, just behind the front lines. When a machine (tank, troop transport, jeep, etc.) broke down, it was Dave's job to diagnose the problem, then to machine any needed parts, then to repair the machine. Because Dave could machine the part, on site, the army supply chain didn't have to carry a large inventory of thousands of kinds of potentially-needed spare parts.During the Battle of the Bulge, Dave ran out of the special steel, that was needed for machining parts. Taking an Army truck, plus one or two soldiers, Dave crossed the Rhine River to Aachen, behind the German lines. He knew that the Allies had bombed German factories, and he planned to scavenge machine steel, from the hulks of the factory machines.While Dave was scavenging, he was challenged, by a German sentry. Dave answered in Yiddish, which was close enough to German, to pass the challenge. Whew!! We now know that Jewish prisoners of war were separated from other American prisoners of war, and sent to concentration camps. I'm not sure whether Dave's courage was ever recognized...I don't think so.The other Jewish war veteran was my father, Richard. After he got his B.S. in electrical engineering, from CCNY, my father joined the U.S. Air Force, in 1950. He took the Officer Candidate test. The youngest man to ever have taken the test, at the time, he was also the first to score 100% on the test.Although the Korean War was on, Richard wasn't sent to Korea. Instead, the newly wed 21-year-old electrical engineer was sent to OCS, then assigned to be the C.O. of an electronic/ radar tracking station, in Alaska. I believe that he spent 2 years there (with occasional breaks, during one of which my brother was conceived).Richard stayed on, as a Reserve officer, for almost 20 years, after his active duty. I remember, as a kid, that he went weekly, to his Air Force station, at Idlewild Airport (now JFK Airport). The station was crammed with all kinds of electronics.In later years, Dad told me that he and a buddy had "liberated" surplus electronic gear, and had built, entirely on their own, an early-warning radar system. He said that they probably would have been court-martialed, except that it was the first operational electronic warning system in the NYC area. Dad held the rank of Major, when he retired from the Air Force Reserve. At the time, the Vietnam War was raging, and the military was sending reserve officers. Dad had no desire to be sent to Vietnam.Dad is no longer alive, but Dave still is. The patriotism and hard work of the Jewish veterans were second to none.Wendy
thats great Wendy. thanks for telling us about your father and cousin.allright!
Awesome thread and a great post from Wendy as well.And a hell of a POD!Nicely done.Mark
< But spend time with a group like this and you realize that the human race has some nobility, has some good, and we do not have the luxury to be resigned, to be complacent, to be discouraged.It's our turn now. >Awesome story, well written and touching.I felt honoured to have had the opportunity of meeting your father in person during your visit to Israel.Kol akavod !Dubi
< But spend time with a group like this and you realize that the human race has some nobility, has some good, and we do not have the luxury to be resigned, to be complacent, to be discouraged.It's our turn now. >Awesome story, well written and touching.I felt honoured to have had the opportunity of meeting your father in person during your visit to Israel.Kol akavod !Dubi=============thank you Dubi. I know he greatly enjoyed his time with you. I can tell you that my dad loves meeting young men like yourself, who are picking up the baton and running ... it gives him some hope for the future.he lived through the Depression and the War ... lost hundreds of cousins in the Shoah ... and then lived a very good life in America as the country recovered from the War and grew prosperous. Early life for him was a struggle, later life was much better.But he is worried about the world again. He feels itis becoming more like it was in the 1930's ... and he has no confidence in the current US President will make it better, on the contrary, he feels like Bush is the worst President of HIS lifetime, which is a pretty amazing thing since he was born when Woodrow Wilson was in office. It must be a difficult thing to come near to the end of your life and know that you will have to leave the stage soon, and feel that things are going back to the bad old days that you fought so long ago.But when he meets youngsters (anyone under 70), like I said, it makes him more hopeful.d v
It is good to see that people appreciate the memories that parents and grandparents pass on to their kids. Always remember them and pass them on to your kids, for they will feel it missing if you don't.Personally my family was over in Europe and Russia when the war broke out. Nobody of that generation talks much about what happened, and I get bits and pieces here and there, usually on may 9th (victory day). From what I gathered so far my grandfather's family were all gathered in a ghetto in Poland. The only ones to escape were the older girls in the family who were serving in the army (god bless the military that saved them). My grandfather was too young to serve. At the age of 15 all the jews were rounded up and shot. He faked being shot and spent the night on a pile of corpses. Later on (i'm not sure how much) he and his wounded older brother were picked up by the russian underground where they served out the rest of the war. My grandmothers brother also served in russian military, while being engaged to what I understand was a nice jewish girl. He was captured and was a POW for a while, but somehow he escaped and started sending my grandma and his fiancee letters as he made it towards Moscow. The last letter came from just outside of Moscow, and that was the last anyone heard of him. When I was little I used to pretend that the fire for the unidentified soldier just outside of Red Square was my great uncle. It probably isn't, but that fire is for him too. For all of those that didn't come home.-TVK
dov:I forwarded your story about your father to a friend of mine, and I want to share his reply:Good story, Steve. I read the whole thing. The one guy, Walter, was a 2nd Lt and co-pilot in the Army Air Corps. (The writer kept calling it "Corp," but I knew what he meant.) Anyway, my dad was also a 2nd Lt and co-pilot in the Army Air Corps. He flew a B-24 Liberator, perhaps one that was made right down the road at the Willow Run Assembly Plant. He was awarded the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also died on this very day, October 25, in 1991.
hey Steve, if you want to send me his name by email, I will ask my father if he knew him.very neat.
Walter Fradin, Moishe Lefkowitz and Harry Bader have all passed on since this email was written. My Aunt, Charlotte Fradin passed away when she was 45 years old, around 1960, from cancer. She was among the first female officers commissioned in the US Army Air Corp, in 1942.I visited the graves of Walter and Moishe a few weeks ago.The JWV banners are still there, and the graves look nice .... but cemetaries are lonely places. soon, they will all be gone and the eyewitness generation of WW2 and the Holocaust will be no more.Dov ben Walter http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Jewish-War-Veterans-of-the-...
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