Establishing an Oral History Project for NJ Veterans

Uploaded by JonSCorzine on 26.08.2009

Governor Corzine: I am just going to tell this little story.
Bernie is a guy that from everything I understand,
sort of broke the rules to get signed up in the military
in World War II because he was so desirous to serving the country.
He was in North Africa, the United States then went and invaded and moved north into Italy.
He was on the beaches at D-Day and he was in Germany
and he has been a participant in all of those various activities.
Think about the sacrifice and the exposure that this gentleman made.
And I want to just both thank you and congratulate you
and tell you that that kind of story we need to save for generations and generations,
and tell you that that kind of story we need to save for generations and generations,
not just Bernie’s story, but everybody’s.
And that is what we are trying to do here today by creating a foundation
and then we will start interviewing individuals and capturing those for files
that will be available to future generations,
both for research and to make sure our children have and our grandchildren have the ability to understand.
Bernard Friedenberg: Well I enlisted... I tried to enlist the day after Pearl Harbor.
Right here a couple of blocks from here at the post office. I lived in Atlantic City.
Governor Jon S. Corzine: How old were you then?
Bernard: 20, young and foolish.
Well they turned me down on my eyes. I was determined to get into the service.
I kept going back I was at the stage where each of the recruiting officers called me by my first name.
He told me they were going to lessen the requirements for visibility and he says come back again next week.
And I did. And they took me in.
As a matter of fact, when I went to Fort Dix for my physical, everything was fine
until I got to the medical officer who got to my eyes and he says you don't have to go.
I looked him right in the face and I said... Yes I do, sir...
And he looked at me like I was some kind of a nut
which I guess I was, stamped the papers and said, 'You're in the army now.'
Well they put me on limited service and I often joke about it...
Governor Corzine: Yeah, limited service, North Africa, Italy and D-day.
Bernard: North Africa, Sicily, France, Belgium, Germany
and Czechoslovakia is where I wound up.
Normandy, I landed on Omaha Beach, there was a wave every ten minutes.
Governor Corzine: Did you land the first day?
Bernard: Yeah, 40 minutes after the first troops hit.
Governor Corzine: Oh my goodness.
Bernard: I came in right at the beginning. It was rough.
I don't know how I got through.
I lost most of my buddies in the first half hour.
They weren't all killed, but a lot of them wounded.
But D-day…if you saw the Saving Private Ryan movie, that's exactly what it was like.
As a matter of fact, the scenes that they shot in the first half hour, is exactly where I came in.
I was awarded a silver star for action on Omaha Beach. What I did was...
Governor Corzine: You were just raw infantry?
Bernard: Well I was a medic with the infantry.
I was an aid man and then later on I was in charge of evacuation.
My job was to get a wounded man from where he fell back to an aid station.
I was in charge of all the [inaudible], I was wounded twice incidentally.
So I didn't get away scot-free. I was knocked unconscious, had concussions half a dozen times.
The result is I lost most of my hearing,
but I'm not complaining. I'm here.
Governor Corzine: I do not think that anybody is going to say with that smile on your face
and how you're telling this story that you're a complainer.
Bernard: No I'm not. But they gave me that medal... what I did was... the Army is a little bit goofy.
[Laughter] Governor Corzine: You hear that General?
Bernard: I was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross for what I did.
I heard some men... this is right off the water,
it was a minefield and there were men screaming for help that had been wounded
and I crawled in probing with a trench knife
and I carried five men out of that minefield, gave them first aid and went on my way.
Well they reduced the Distinguished Service Cross that I was recommended for,
they reduced it to a Silver Star,
which there is nothing wrong with a Silver Star,
but my commanding officer told me it was reduced because
I didn't follow the prescribed procedures.
He says you should have called for engineers to clear a path through the minefield
and I said... Well Sir, there were so many casualties,
no communications, no radio men,
and these guys were hurt, time was of the essence.
If I did not get them out of there they would either bleed to death
or go into shock and die.
So I crawled in.’ He says oh okay. But they still did not give me the Distinguished Service Cross.
Governor Corzine: My dad was at the Battle of the Bulge
and I've heard these stories over and over again.
He was not in the first wave at Normandy
but a couple of days later it was still pretty nasty.
I can't imagine what your generation sacrificed so that we all have the world that we live in today.
God bless you. Bernard: Thank you Governor.