Feb 10, 2012
By Scott P. Moore
Standard Staff Reporter
Now nearly 70 years after two atomic explosions over Japan finally brought the world’s deadliest conflict to an end, Sgt. Rosenfeld was finally able to receive five medals he earned while serving in the U.S. Army during the war. Representative Carolyn McCarthy awarded Rosenfeld his medals during a presentation on Monday morning at her office in Garden City with his partner and his daughter in attendance.
“It’s a very nice thing,” said Rosenfeld, a Far Rockaway native. “I didn’t even know I had them. It shows how much they appreciate the men who served.” McCarthy called him a part of “the greatest generation” of Americans, especially since they sacrificed greatly for the well-being of the country during World War II. McCarthy was able to obtain the medals for Rosenfeld after he neglected to apply for them in 1945 because he simply “wanted to get home.”
Rosenfeld was awarded seven medals for his service in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945, including the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze Stars, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star, World War II Honorable Service Lapel Button and the Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar.
Sgt. Rosenfeld celebrated his 18th birthday on December 7th, 1940 by registering for the draft. While attending Far Rockaway High School, he majored in math and was a part of a winning math team before graduating and moving on to Brooklyn College the next fall. On his 19th birthday, the Japanese executed their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and launched the United States into World War II.“The country was shocked, but it shouldn’t have been,” wrote Rosenfeld in a collection of his war stories. “Most people did not even know where Pearl Harbor was or what the attack really meant, but when the boys started getting called to their draft boards, we all began to understand.” Less than a year later, Rosenfeld was drafted into the U.S. Army during the summer.
Rosenfeld recalled in his war stories that on his second day at the Induction Center at Camp Upton on Long Island, he was called into the commander’s office by his first sergeant, prompting him to wonder what he did wrong. Appearing nervous, his sergant asked him if he was Jewish. After answering that he was, the officer told him to relax.
“So am I,” he said to Rosenfeld. “And if anyone gives you any trouble about that, come see me.” Rosenfeld said he was stunned, but managed a “thank you” before leaving. After surviving the tough rigours of basic training, Rosenfeld was assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), which was a predecessor to the Officer Candidate School (OCS), and sent to train at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
After spending nearly two years at MIT, Rosenfeld was brought back to basic training to prepare for his eventual deployment. The troops then were not told while training where they would be assigned, whether it be the European battlefields or the Pacific Island campaigns because, as Rosenfeld put it, “loose lips could sink ships.” Eventually he was told on the day of departure that he and his fellow troops were headed to the Pacific theatre for battle. Rosenfeld said he was on a troop ship for some time in the Pacific Ocean when the ship was attacked on October 25, 1944 at Leyte Gulf. Rosenfeld said he learned sometime later that the attack was the first instance of the Japanese using the Kamakaze attacks on American warships.
“It was brutal,” he wrote. “The Japanese were zooming down on us and above them American bombers were attacking.”
Before he knew it, an officer yelled at him to man a two-man gun by himself to try and take out the attacking aircraft.
“‘You’re the best shot, get over there,’” Rosenfeld recalled the officer yelling. “It was huge and had two seats, like bicycle seats… I did not really know how to handle it, [but] I quickly learned that what I had to do was turn the wheels which made the gun turn in the proper direction. Once properly aimed, I had to fire.” Rosenfeld said that he hit a few of the diving aircraft and thinks he might have saved a few lives that day. The gun’s volume eventually led to Rosenfeld losing his hearing. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, as it became known, was one of the largest naval battles during the entire war and was a key American victory, but came at a great cost to both sides – Allied forces lost over 3,000 men while the Japanese total losses exceed 10,000 men.
“The battle was short lived,” he wrote. “We landed [in the Philippines] and were confronted by [the Japanese] all around us.” Rosenfeld also recalled that every tree or building was a possible death trap, leading to him note that “sleep was a luxury.” As American forces dug in, Rosenfeld remembered how many of the local Filipino children were eager to help him and other U.S. forces to rid the island nation of their common enemy.“To this day, I have a very soft spot in my heart for the [Filipino] people,” he wrote. “Every now and then through the years I have had contact with one and I always relate my gratitude for the help and kindness that was extended to me during my experience in his or her country. Sometimes when talking about it, I have been moved to tears.”
He added: “It is bittersweet to talk about it.”
The war for Rosenfeld ended in October 1944 when the United Services Organization (USO) showed up to provide the troops with entertainment.
“What a relief it was to feel human,” Rosenfeld wrote. During the show, Rosenfeld noticed the drummer for the USO band was his cousin Mel. He rushed on the stage as the band assembled and hugged, possibly shedding some tears he recalled. “He was really good and showed off beautifully.”
Rosenfeld and the rest of the army cleared out the remaining forces on the island for the rest of 1944 and the beginning of 1945 before declaring the island free of Japanese troops. Many of the troops began to relax around the Philippines as the war’s attention turned on the Japanese home island. After the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, many of the troops eagerly awaited orders to return home. As a single man with no children or wife, he was one of the last troops to leave. Rosenfeld was finally returned home to Fort Dix, New Jersey.
“We were given our discharge papers, whatever pay was due us, a handshake and a wish for good luck,” he wrote. “We were then loaded onto troop trains which brought us to Grand Central Station.”
After finally returning home, Rosenfeld would marry his sweetheart Regina, who had “faithfully written to [him] and waited for [him] through those awful years.” He also graduated from Brooklyn College, settled down and raised a family, including his daughter Lynda who was in attendance on Monday morning. Rosenfeld would go onto become mayor of the Village of North Hills for sometime and recently moved into Hewlett last year with his partner, Esther Bogen.
“It’s kind of neat to see him receive these medals,” said Lynda, who said her father did not speak about the war much when she was growing up. “It’s became increasingly more important over the years.”
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