A series following the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. He was in Europe with the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.This updates the series Following the 10th Armored that I did five years ago.

# 21 - The New Family

  •    May 10, 1944
A letter from Buddy and one from Dora and she sent me some pictures of Buddy. Wrote to Buddy and sent him a nice wedding present.
    •    May 13, 1944 [Day before Mother's Day]
Got a lovely pocketbook from Buddy and Dora.
    •    May 26, 1944
Letter from Dora w/picture of her and Buddy
— Diary Entries, Beula Keller Lehman
Separate letters from each of them and an obvious Mother’s Day gift from both. Over the two years he has been gone from home,Buddy appears to have been conscious of his mother and was a dutiful son with regular letters. Of course in those days it was a very common form of communication. Beula was writing letters to either Harold or Ruth at least three times per week. It cost money to make phone calls. A letter was 3 cents! (In 2019 money that is still only 43 cents! In spite of what we hear from time to time about the cost of letters, etc. They were- and remain- a very economical way to connect. ) It would appear that this has just become even more necessary than in the past. He would have been aware, I am sure, that his family is now in a state of shock over what has happened. Dora would have been just as aware from her side. Perhaps she understood the implications better than he did. Being aware of possible issues, she is no doubt trying to be a good daughter-in-law.

Beula seems to be accepting it- at least on the pages of her diary- and is  grateful. The two women will be facing some difficult separation ahead. Perhaps it was a good thing to make sure they were on good speaking terms. It is a new family for both of them.

#20- Interlude: Memorial Day

    ◆    75 Years Ago
    ◆    Memorial Day 1944

In 1944 Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 as it had been for decades. (It became a Monday holiday in 1970.) It must have been a solemn day as many had already died- and everyone knew it would only get worse. It was only 8 days before D-Day.

Memorial Day (or Decoration Day) was, and is, a time to remember those who died in war. It was begun, as we know it today, after the Civil War and slowly was accepted across both north and south. It was the day to go to the cemetery and decorate the graves of the lost soldiers. It was a day to remember.

But in the midst of World War II, it was also a very real reminder of the cost the country was in the midst of paying. There was a debt being built that might live for many more decades and may never be able to be fully repaid.

John L. Sullivan was a Navy lieutenant during World War II. For Memorial Day 1944 he wrote this essay. The New York Times printed it on May 31, 1982, with the headline: “Memorial Day 1944: Looking Beyond Victory”. As I pause in my remembering thoughts of World War II, grateful that my Dad lived through the war, the essay is a haunting reminder across these past 75 years.

It began:
Recurrent in all our tributes to those who fall in battle is a dominant resolve that their sacrifice somehow shall bear fruit. How, we do not know, except in terms of generalities, even platitudes, about a bright new world which shall rise out of the desolation of war. This is our answer, and the only answer we have, to the wanton waste of blood and treasure which is the essence of war.

He continues:
For Victory alone is inconclusive. It decides the conflict, it ends the war, but of itself it settles no problems, establishes no principles. It is purely negative, for it brings us back where we started, and it was not for this that our comrades died.

His clear-eyed awareness of what was happening around him in the Pacific that year was filled with the pain of what he himself had no doubt witnessed. He knew that war doesn’t solve anything. It only, hopefully, sets the stage for something important and better. Victory is not the purpose of all this he says. Peace it the eventual purpose. But peace is not just the end of or the absence of war. It is the action of building a different and better world in the absence of conflict.

He concludes:
We are taking the first objective of this war, which is Victory. But our sights must be lifted higher. Beyond Victory lies Peace. Will it be the kind of Peace those men had in mind? It is for us to answer that question, all of us. If we answer it well and faithfully, if our voices and ideals help to make the Peace just as our weapons help to make the Victory, then in the years to come, years untroubled by the march of armies, we shall be able to say, in truth, that we have kept faith with those who died. We can do no less, and we can do no more.(-Link)

As Lincoln had said at Gettysburg almost 80 years earlier, it is for us the living to dedicate ourselves to the cause for which they gave their last full measure. It is for the living to build the peace. The war cannot do that. World War II did not do that. But it gave a place for that to happen.

Which is why I have been writing this blog and doing this research. It is about my Dad and his journey in war, but it is also about what happened as a result of that war- and how we may be losing the peace that built a different world. We may be losing the compassion that came at the end of the war to rebuild the countries of our enemies. We may be forgetting that these soldiers on one level or another believed that they were there to build a better world. Very few of them would have put it that way, of course. But to “keep the world safe for democracy” can be such a goal.

Today is another Memorial Day today. It is now 74 years since World War II ended. It did not end war. There are many more graves of many more young men and women in all corners of the world as well as in cemeteries around the United States. Maybe we can raise our voices and live our ideals in order to “make the Peace just as our weapons help to make the Victory.” It is in these actions of ours that our debt for their sacrifice will be redeemed.

# 19- Performing a Miracle

Before we get to the next months and the 10th being sent overseas, it is good to take a quick review of the US Army before the war began and the miracle performed in a short period. To say the strength of the US military was low would be an understatement. Politics, including isolationism, had to some extent tied the hands of President Roosevelt. Many hoped that the other European nations would take care of Hitler and Mussolini without US intervention. Roosevelt and others managed to finagle different ways of building readiness for what they felt was inevitable. It may only be through the lens of history that we can see that FDR and Churchill were correct and that Hitler’s advances were certainly one of the greatest threats to world peace and democracy that had ever been seen. It was a tightrope that they walked with finesse.

Even with that, however, in the months after Pearl Harbor, the United States was in the war but without a large and broad-based military. It was only the pre-Pearl Harbor draft which gave the foundation for what would become a huge fighting force. New armies and divisions were being created as long-range plans were developed and implemented in Washington for a war across both oceans and very far from home.

The 10th Armored Division was officially activated on July 15, 1942, at Fort Benning, Georgia. My dad’s 80th Armored Medical Battalion was an organic unit the 10th Armored- where the 10th went, the 80th went. When the 10th was created the new commander, Major General Paul Newgarden held a competition to give the unit a nickname. They took the name “The Tiger Division”. For the next year, Lester Nichols, author of the 10th Armored’s history, Impact, writes that the
training was especially rugged. There was the Tiger Camp with its night problems, forced marches, endurance tests, 'dry runs' and firing problems.
10th Armored Division, December 1942-  Fort Benning, Georgia
A division is somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 soldiers. Fort Benning and the many training camps like it, became small cities providing more than just training. They also sought to provide entertainment, activities, sports, and more than enough “fun and games” to keep the troops occupied when they weren’t too tired from the training that Tiger Camp provided.

In late June 1943, the Division packed up and left Fort Benning for what has become known as the Tennessee Maneuvers. These maneuvers were at the heart and soul of turning the American Army into a world-class fighting force.
The Tennessee Maneuver Area was a training area in Middle Tennessee  selected because the terrain resembled France, Belgium and Germany. In June 1941, Major General George S. Patton conducted maneuvers with the 2nd Armored Division in the Manchester, Tennessee vicinity, where he soundly defeated the opposing forces, using large-scale armored fighting. These maneuvers led to the creation of the Tennessee Maneuver Area.

In June 1942, Governor Prentice Cooper, announced that nine counties would be used as a maneuver area by the Second Army, and was eventually expanded to twenty-one counties by the time of closure in 1944. Cumberland University, in Lebanon, Tennessee was the location of the Headquarters for the Army Ground Forces field problems, commonly known as the Tennessee Maneuvers. (Nashville was the principal trailhead.)

Between 1942 and 1944, in seven large scale training exercises, more than 850,000 soldiers were trained in the Tennessee Maneuver Area.

The 10 Armored was there with the 101st Airborne Division, the 80th Infantry Division and the 83rd Infantry Division through June, July, and August 1943. (--Link)
Between the wars, German officer Erwin Rommel, as a young military attache, had visited Nashville and Middle Tennessee to study and follow the cavalry campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to help him develop a pattern for the use of tank units as cavalry. This is part of what led General Patton to choose the area for his training in 1941.

Over the hills and valleys of twenty-one counties “Blue” and “Red” armies engaged in weekly strategic “problems,” with troops moved in and out according to a calendar of “phases” that lasted about four weeks apiece. In the military’s scenario Nashville was Cherbourg, without the bombing.

Maneuvers paused at noon on Thursday or Friday, when a light plane would fly over the mock battle lines, sounding a siren. Then thousands of soldiers would seek recreation in Nashville and the county seat towns. Facilities were limited, despite the best efforts of the U.S.O. and the American Red Cross; movie theaters and cafes were packed; drug store soda fountains were forced to shut down twice a day for cleanup. Each army PX was strained to the limit. Churches opened their doors and set up lounges; schools opened their gyms for weekend dances. The Grand Ole Opry had never drawn such crowds than during these months when Middle Tennessee hosted the army’s preparations for the eventual invasion of Normandy in 1944. (--Link)
According to Nichols the maneuvers themselves were

the scene of combat with chiggers, choking dust, sleepless nights, sore backs and aching feet. As always, the ‘enemy’ was constantly pursued. The battle umpires, too, were on hand to declare tank, track and truck ‘knocked out’ by a hidden ‘enemy’ anti-tank crew. (Impact!)
Other personal reports from other units indicated that the maneuvers were tough and often see as the toughest thing they ever did in the Army. Bob Wells who trained with the 100th Division through Tennessee Maneuvers wrote
In Tennessee we were as ‘in the field’ as we could be. When we slept it was in our pup tents, but each week for, as I remember, six weeks, we had problems Monday through Thursday. It was cold and wet, and I for one learned a lot about keeping myself together with no roof or facilities. (--Link)
Wells then records a poem written by and for the 35th Division vets. It begins:
The Tennessee Maneuvers
The devil was given permission one day,
to select a good place for the soldiers to play.
He looked around for a month or more wanting a place that would make them sore.

And, at last was delighted a country view
where the black walnut and the hickory grew, and vowed that Tennessee could not be beat
as a place for maneuvers in rain, snow, and sleet.

He scattered the rocks so the men could not sleep
and brought weather so cold it froze the sheep.
He then sent some rain, the bed rolls to soak
and a few cards and dice, so the men could stay broke.
And the final stanza
Now we’re on the last problem we’ve all done our part,
and at the end of this week the furloughs will start.
Then the men will go home with tall tales to tell
of the things that they did through this six weeks of hell.
35th Divisionaire. March 2008 Association Newsletter
The first week of September 1943 the 10th left Tennessee and settled at its new home, Camp Gordon near Augusta, Georgia. Here they would continue to train, grow and develop into a highly effective unit for the battles that lay ahead. Tiger Camp and lots of training continued.

By mid-May 1944, 75 years ago, training and planning were coming to an end. The war was waiting, and it appears as if they were ready. The US Military was working miracles and more were to come.

#18- An Awful Shock

    •   May 4, 1944
Buddy called at 9:45 from Georgia saying he was married on Wednesday [the previous day, May 3.] Well the shock was awful
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman

It may be that the shock is simply that he married someone other than the one he had been dating for years. It may have sunk in that the “friend” grandma mentions speaking to in a phone call from Georgia 13 days earlier is now Mrs. Harold Lehman.

Here we meet Dora Moldawsky. Her parents, Sam and Anna, came to the United States from Eastern Europe, most likely the Ukraine. It was the early 1900s, probably around 1904 before the Soviet Union, but not before the pogroms. That is no doubt why they made the trip to the United States. How they entered is a piece of the myth. In those mists of childhood overhearing, I remember something about them posing as brother and sister, even though already married.  All genealogical research points to them already being married when they got here. It makes an interesting story. Legal, illegal, or semi-legal immigrants, they came through the golden door of Ellis Island in New York Harbor next to the uplifted lamp of the Statue of Liberty.

Sam and Anna had three children. Dora, the youngest, was born in 1913. I have some pictures of Sam from the 1940s- a tall, handsome man, tanned and well dressed. Anna was the typical Jewish, eastern European Bubbe, grandmother. Sometime in the late 40s or early 50s, Sam had a leg amputated. Family lore had it due to diabetes, but a cousin later discovered other possible causes.

They were observant, Orthodox Jews. They kept Kosher and Sabbath. When we visited, the strict separation of meat and milk, for example, was hard for my brother and me to understand. Mom was not observant back in the Gentile wilds of Pennsylvania, Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform. When we were in Brooklyn I don’t remember any time when anyone went to services on Friday evening or Saturday morning. It is quite likely that at least the men went, but, since Sam died when I was nine or ten, it wouldn’t have been unusual for us not to even notice what was happening.

Sometime in her late 20s, Dora did her version of running away from home. In 1940 according to that year’s census records, she was still in Brooklyn, working as a bookkeeper at a wholesale dress house. In some magical and mysterious unknown way by 1943 at age 30 she ended up in Augusta, Georgia. Different versions of the story claim she was working as a secretary or did accounting or was a club singer in Augusta. Maybe all three. What is clear is that while there she met a GI from Pennsylvania who was eight years older than she was. That adds a certain amount of rebelliousness to her character. It would take a great deal of what her family would call chutzpah for her to be on her own, in 1944, and then get married to a gentile! This was as “mixed” a marriage as any other in 1944.

Sam and Anna must have loved her, though. They did not disown her. Beula’s diaries mention Harold and Dora both going to New York to visit and then, after Buddy was deployed, Dora coming to spend time with his family in Pennsylvania. Later pictures show Sam and Anna visiting in Pennsylvania with my brother and me, their two youngest grandchildren.

What we have here is a story with a glimpse into a far-different time. We have Harold Lehman, a run-away gentile from Pennsylvania standing at the Jewish USO of Camp Gordon, Georgia, marrying Dora Moldawsky, a run-away from her Brooklyn family.

People have asked me what it was like to grow up Jewish in Gentile, Bible-belt, Pennsylvania. My immediate answer often was, “I have no idea.” My brother and I grew up culturally Gentiles. I was living in the midst of my family’s home area. As I have mentioned before we were the 7th or 8th generation from my family tree in the West Branch/Pine Creek Valley. And they were all culturally, if not actively practicing Christians. Christmas was a big holiday in our family with a tree and a midnight Christmas Eve/Day party where my brother and I were awakened. We went out to open our presents, delivered by Santa Claus, with family and Dad’s workers there.

I know there was an awareness in the community that our mother was Jewish and that therefore I was, in some way or another, Jewish. Before 1964 each school day started with a reading from the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer,* and the Pledge of Allegiance. When I became aware of such things, I noted that I was always given a passage from the Old Testament. Socially, and practically, though, I was far more Gentile than Jewish. That does not mean I wasn’t aware of “Jewishness.” It was just far more prevalent and obvious to me that I was part of a Pennsylvania native family. I have no idea how others in town felt.

Seventy-five years ago today none of this was on the table, at least in any way I can see. Knowing my family, I am sure there was a great deal of uncertainty, fear, perhaps even anger, at what Buddy had just done. I would guess they had some of the same stereotypes and prejudices, especially about New York City Jews, as were common in the day. Beula never mentioned in her diary that Buddy’s wife was Jewish. I have a hunch that, like many a mixed marriage today, the tension would have been incredible. It is May 1944 and he is only a few months away from shipping out to Europe. As if that wasn’t enough stress, they would have to get used to a new and very unfamiliar family member.

*Footnote: Many years later, living in the Midwest, I learned that in a number of places in the United States this daily Bible reading and reciting the Lord's Prayer was NOT the practice. I had a roomful of church members look at me like I was crazy and dreaming when I said that we did that each morning. The reason was simple- there were Christian groups in the community that were not allowed to pray with others, Christians or not.