Interview with Harry Rosenfeld, WWII Veteran. CCSU Veterans History Project.

Uploaded by ccsuvhp on 20.06.2011

MS. FREDERICH: My name is Alice Frederich and I'm
the interviewer. Also present is Becky Lewis on camera.
Mr. Rosenfeld, I just want to say thank you for your
time and participation in the Veterans History Project.
This is really a great opportunity to learn about and
preserve our nation's history. We want to hear your stories
today, so let's get started.
You served in World War II, specifically in the battle
of Iwo Jima.
MR. ROSENFELD: And Normandy.
MS. FREDERICH: And Normandy.
MS. FREDERICH: Can you tell me where you were
when you heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor?
MR. ROSENFELD: I was living in New York City on
Madison Street, Madison -- Madison House and at a club
meeting that Sunday. And that's when we learned about it,
December 7th, 1941.
MS. FREDERICH: And how did you feel at the time
learning about that?
MR. ROSENFELD: I felt that we were dealt a good
blow and we have to respond --
MR. ROSENFELD: -- to the war.
MS. FREDERICH: Now, were you drafted or did you
MR. ROSENFELD: Oh, I wrote a letter to enlist to
all the services and they all wrote back saying that be
drafted, and when you're drafted tell them about your
aviation experience --
MR. ROSENFELD: -- and they'll put you in the Air
Force, which I wanted to go in.
MR. ROSENFELD: And so I put the letter aside, I
got drafted. And at the drafting there were two gentlemen
in a brown uniform and I thought they were both Army and so
I approached them and then found out to my surprise one was
Navy and one was Marines. And so they decided which one
should get me after telling them a few lies like I couldn't
swim, this, that, and the other thing. Finally, the Navy
said that they would take me.
MR. ROSENFELD: So came July, I went to my draft
board, got invited to go in. And so we went up to the Great
Lakes, Samson Naval Academy -- Training Center. There I
spent three months learning how to march, taking orders,
maybe shooting a rifle one day or so. And that was it. And
so when I was interviewed there I wanted to fly and they
said to me, you're too big, you're too tall. I said, it
can't be. It's impossible. I had somebody who not knowing
at the time was on his way out. So he said to me either
you're a hospital corpsman or you become an electrician. And
I said fine, I'll be an electrician. So he said we'll send
to you electrical school. I said that's not too bad. I
can't fly at least I can do something with aviation. I want
to be an aviation electrician.
So I went to Bainbridge, Maryland after boot camp, and
then went and had an interview with the commander there of
the electrical school and told him my experience, the
training I had, and what I wanted to do. So he said to me,
see me after you graduate, or just before you graduate and
I'll have you transferred to aviation electrical school.
And so as I graduated he disappeared. He was
transferred out. So there was no one to talk to. So I
ended up being an electrician. And on my way I went to Pier
92. There was some cook, and there they wanted me to become
a cook. But to my surprise I learned I was assigned to the
USS Nevada, and that once you're assigned you couldn't get
off. So I said fine. I'll go.
So I traveled up to Boston from Pier 92 in New York,
and after about a week there I went aboard the Nevada. And
then the ship a couple of days later sailed to New York, we
had convoy duty. And on the way over the chaplain called
Kelley, called me to --
MS. FREDERICH: It's okay.
MR. ROSENFELD: On the ship there were a lot of
people. And Father Kelley who was in charge of the Catholic
on the ship called me into his stateroom and asked me what
should he say in case of a boy of Jewish descent passes
away. And so I got the books I have and I showed him. We
got to be very friendly. And as I noticed aboard this ship
there was a Protestant chaplain, a Catholic chaplain, and
there -- and the men of the Jewish faith, which didn't
consist of many, maybe 15, 18 aboard the ship, had no
services whatsoever.
So knowing Father Kelley, one day I said to him, is
there any chance of going to a synagogue _____________ on
___________ Ireland. Because at that time the ship was
ferrying convoys to Europe. So he said I'll see what I can
Well, we came back to New York, we did a lot of firearm
practices, we went up to Maine, we fired our guns. Then all
of a sudden I was assigned to an pier crew ___________ the
ship. And ______________ the ship everyplace it went. And
on our way back to Ireland, not knowing that we were going
for the last time, the chaplain called me and said to me I
worked out a weekend, you will be in charge. I said, I
shouldn't be in charge, I'm just a seaman. So he said to
me, no, I trust you. You'll be in charge.
So I became in charge of a group of about 15 to 18
sailors who were aboard the ship. And so we went through
into Northern -- this was Northern Ireland. I met this
______ on the ship -- on -- in the synagogue who told me
food was very difficult and most of the people were in the
British Navy or Army and there was very little services. So
I thanked him, went back to the ship and reported --
reported to Father Kelley, who informed me, says, well, you
still got liberty. You can go. I arranged a tour of the
castles of Northern Ireland for the fellows.
So we were ashore having lunch just ready to go on the
trip, and this was, like, June 4th. And a whaleboat came
alongside looking for me. So I said -- I learned one thing,
never to volunteer. Don't give any information, that way
you don't have to, and listen before you speak.
And so I said, what do you want Harry Rosenfeld for?
He said, well, the captain of the Nevada has a message for
him. When I heard that I knew it was serious. So he -- I
said, what's the message? He says, gather your men, come
into the whaleboat and come back to the ship as soon as
So I gathered everyone together, we went onto the ship,
and soon as we came on they dropped the gangplank. This was
just the ladder on the ship, and the loud speaker roared,
we're off to invade France.
MR. ROSENFELD: Well, we sailed down the Irish Sea
towards France just between England and Ireland. And on the
way down, we -- on the way down anyway -- before that we
were in Scotland doing firing practices. And the ship got
beached and they couldn't figure out why the ship got
beached because, number one, they had maps. But the maps
were incorrect. And so they tried to tow us off. And
finally an aircraft carrier towed us off the ship, towed us
off the beach, the sandy part.
Well, going down to the invasion of France I was
topside and you could see everything what was going on. And
the closer we got we saw planes going overhead. It was like
the 4th of July. And they postponed it a day so we waited a
night, one night, waited a day, and the next day we
continued in.
We ended up at Utah Beach, about a quarter mile from
the beach anchored the ship right there. The guns were
firing like crazy and the Germans were firing. It didn't
bother me at the time, you know. If -- I felt if my number
was up it would be up. But what bothered me was the
invasion forces, the combat troops on the beach when they
got injured in the water or dead, their bodies floated by
the ship. And when I saw that I couldn't believe it.
Anyway, we stayed there about three to four days. Ran
out of ammunition, went back to England, got more
ammunition, did a lot of damage to the Germans. And on the
way back we went to Omaha Beach and we stayed there until
probably the 20th of June. On the 22nd of June went back to
England. And then we were informed that we had to go to
Cherbourg. The Germans had 15-inch guns there which
outranked our 14-inch guns.
MR. ROSENFELD: They could shoot about ten miles
further than we could shoot. And we devastated the guns
there, took about two, three days. And then we left back to
England again and they informed us that to go to the
Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean, through the Gibraltar and
the northern part of Africa. There we stayed at Oran,
Casablanca, Algiers, Morocco, had liberty in all these
MR. ROSENFELD: And then we went to Italy. In
Italy, we stayed at the naval base, the Italian naval base
for about a month. And at the end of August, we were
informed that we were needed for the invasion of Southern
France, which we went.
MR. ROSENFELD: After about two or three days of
the invasion they informed us that they didn't need us
anymore, to go to Corsica. So we went to Corsica and we
waited there for a day or two. And then said, okay, the
invasion is not doing too good in Southern France, go to
Marsais. The Germans took their 15-inch guns off the French
battleships and installed them on land and used it to help
the German army so Marsais wouldn't be captured.
Well, we stayed there, used the French battleship as a
decoy. The American ________ laid down smoke screens. And
again, when we left there after two days there was no more
German guns.
We then went back to North Africa and we were informed
that we can go home. So we went back to the United States.
And this is, like, we started off at the end of August. In
September, as we were crossing the Atlantic Ocean, a
hurricane or typhoon came along. And so instead of going to
Norfolk, Virginia where we were headed, they headed to New
New York was a beautiful port. Every sailor aboard
ship was happy. We were home, no one got killed, they were
all intact, we were very lucky. Shrapnel was flying all
over the ship, we were really lucky.
We stayed in New York about a week to ten days and we
left for Norfolk, Virginia to be refitted for the Pacific
Ocean. Well, everyone had liberty, and when liberty was
over we sailed out like at the end of November, beginning of
December we left for the Panama Canal from Long Beach,
California. When we got there we stayed a weak. We
traveled to Hawaii. Received liberty there. And then on
our way to the South Pacific we passed the Japanese islands
that the US forces had overstepped. They didn't have to
capture it because it didn't mean anything, they would lose
too many men.
And so we ended up in Carolina, or Solomon Islands
called -- an island called Monmon (phonetic) which ended up
as the Navy base for the South Pacific fleet. There we
stayed about a month. And then we got orders to go to Iwo
We went to Iwo Jima. And again, we were about a
quarter mile off shore. The capital ship there, the entire
island was surrounded by Navy ships and each one was firing
into the island. When they fired you can see the Japs
running from cave to cave. And the 40-millimeter crew,
which we had four 40-millimeter guns on the ship, good
positions, were shooting at the Japs entering their caves
and taking bets how many they could kill. You know, it's
like a crap shoot.
MR. ROSENFELD: It's like picking up -- you go into
a circus and you're shooting. And then -- and the guns we
were firing on the ship.
We had two airplanes aboard the ship. The airplanes
were used as spotters all through the war. And when we were
over Iwo Jima the pilot, the captain of the Navy Air Force
aboard the ship was killed. And so we were -- we were
missing one airplane. And on our way back from Iwo Jima the
generator caught on fire, which was my department aboard the
ship. Just like you recently heard of the ship at sea --
MR. ROSENFELD: -- they couldn't use anything yet.
The same thing happened aboard my ship. And it was -- the
generators just consisted of two DC generators. I forget.
There may have been four. But they were cleaned and
maintained. One happened to catch on fire. And the Navy, I
never realized it, but they have an NCIS, which is on
And so they came down to blame somebody. And so they
shuffled around and they came to my first class electrician
who was in charge and they wanted to hang him. So they came
to me and they said to me, he -- he's the -- he's at fault.
So I said, he's not at fault, the officer was at fault of
our division. So he said why. And I told them that
supplies for cleaning the generators couldn't be gotten
because the officer didn't want to get them. So he was
transferred out.
The next officer that came in on top came and said to
me, which is in the report, I'm going to watch you. So I
said, do me a favor, watch me all the time.
So -- but we became good buddies. One night he was
very hungry. He came to me and he said to me, have you got
something for me to eat? I said yes, if you take my watch
I'll get something to eat for you. And so I did. And so it
became very smooth. We went to Okinawa after that, and the
ship got hit by a -- by a -- I'm missing a point.
Before we went to Okinawa, the ship was hit by a
kamikaze in which about ten -- ten or 12 people passed --
died and the guns on the ship were damaged.
MR. ROSENFELD: So we had to go back to Pearl
Harbor and get new guns. So that meant more rest and
recreation. And so when the guns were on the ship we went
back. And so the area we went to was Okinawa in the North
China Seas. So we went to Okinawa, and lo and behold, out
of nowhere a Japanese battery fired a shell and it hit the
ship. It hit the ship and it came through the steel of the
ship and it hit the deck, which was a 12-inch steel deck.
And I was standing underneath.
MR. ROSENFELD: And it's made an L-bolt, and it
came off, went through and killed some sailors on the other
side. Well, this time we were used to, you know, this is
war -- wartime.
MR. ROSENFELD: And people get killed, yet you bury
them at sea.
MR. ROSENFELD: So this is -- we buried the
individuals at sea. And then we went to Monmon again. And
then we went back up to Okinawa, fired -- the invasion of
Okinawa took place.
When that was over we were all -- we were all -- we
went back to the North China Seas with the minesweepers,
protecting the minesweepers. And the Japanese Navy,
whatever they had, came out and they were taken care of. At
this time they decided that they can invade Japan.
MR. ROSENFELD: So all the ships, especially our
ship, we went back to the Philippines, had recreation for
two weeks, and then the war ended. It was August 16th, we
were in the Philippines, the war ended. So what were we to
do? We went back to Okinawa, took a lot of soldiers and
sailors from Okinawa on the ship, took them back to the
United States. So we had a ferry service up and back.
On the second trip back, I was informed that my service
more or less had ended. And why was it ended? Because each
individual had points. Every battle had a point. So when
it came to the end of August 1945, I was short about four
points. And so in September they said to me, you're going
to leave the ship but we need you aboard the ship. So I
said, in what capacity do you need me aboard the ship? He
says, we'll promote you to a chief electrician if you stay
aboard. I said, why? They said, well, we need someone with
your experience, the ship is going to Bikini Atoll, it's
going to be used as a target ship and we need someone to
help take the ship there so you'll be one of the skeleton
crews. At this point I had it up to here --
MR. ROSENFELD: -- and decided I'm going back to
home since my two brothers weren't home, they were in the
service, and so I figured I would be the first one. And so
I wanted to go to college, which I did. And so I went home,
I looked for a college, finally got into LIU. And that's
the end of the story.
MS. FREDERICH: Okay. Okay.
MR. ROSENFELD: It's very hard for me, because
whenever I think of the war I think of the dead going by the
MR. ROSENFELD: And it bothers me. Okay. Shoot.
MS. FREDERICH: Were you there for the raising of
the flag at Iwo Jima?
MR. ROSENFELD: No. But I saw the flag go up --
MR. ROSENFELD: -- twice. The first time it was up
it came down. I was wondering why it came down. Then it
went up again. And I later discovered that they wanted to
take a picture of it. So was I there next to them? No, I
wasn't. I was maybe about a half a mile away --
MR. ROSENFELD: -- on a ship looking up.
MR. ROSENFELD: And, of course, my ship was at the
base of Mount Suribachi. And the ships would come in. Oh,
I forgot to tell you that one of the LCIs came in with
troops. They stopped at our ship with some orders and we
had the ammo aboard our ship. And as he approached the
beach when he came back from shore 50 percent of his crew
was demolished, dead and a lot of them were wounded. So he
came aboard my ship. My ship had two -- three doctors and a
very good surgeon named __________. And he put them both
together and sent them to a hospital ship.
So Iwo Jima was easy on the Navy but difficult for
those who went ashore.
MR. ROSENFELD: No matter what you did, they had so
many caves, no matter what embarkment they did, it even
bothered the air field, the caves, the men, everything. It
wasn't a big island. And that was -- that was Iwo Jima.
MS. FREDERICH: And how did it feel to see the flag
up for the second time?
MR. ROSENFELD: It felt -- it felt good because you
knew it was your island again, you know?
MS. FREDERICH: Yeah. That's great. Now, when you
-- when you were away, how did you stay in touch with your
MR. ROSENFELD: Always wrote.
MR. ROSENFELD: About ten years ago I wrote a
letter to my brother. He ______________.
(Break in recording)
I have here a letter to the Navy that we could use, you
know, to -- and it tells about the ship, where it was and
everything else. I have a picture of the ship.
MR. ROSENFELD: And this is where the ship went.
MR. ROSENFELD: All the ports. And I've got some
pictures of highlights through the war.
MS. FREDERICH: Uh-huh. Good.
MR. ROSENFELD: Some of this was taken -- I also
have a book. This is like when you graduate high school.
MR. ROSENFELD: And this came after the war with
everyone's pictures.
MR. ROSENFELD: Not their names but pictures of
where you were and I guess this all comes -- it comes from
here, you know.
MR. ROSENFELD: Where the ship was. And it's a big
book about the islands and everything. I also bought a
logbook of where the ship -- what the ship did, which I have
MS. FREDERICH: Like a personal diary?
MR. ROSENFELD: Yeah. I have a personal diary too.
That's how I made all this stuff.
MR. ROSENFELD: I used a personal diary plus the
information I got from both, plus some individual escapades.
MS. FREDERICH: So what were the living conditions
like? Were you --
MR. ROSENFELD: It was like a -- you had a room --
let me say this. The ship was about 700 feet long and about
90 feet wide. It was about 30 tons of steel, solid steel.
And in Pearl Harbor the ship was beached.
MR. ROSENFELD: They took it off, demolished the
entire superstructure of the ship and put a new
superstructure on it. Now, the sleeping accommodations were
probably the same as before. You had a large room, you had
a mattress, which was like two or three inches thick on
springs, and there was four or five feet -- four- or
five-feet bunks in a row.
MR. ROSENFELD: And I would say the room held 150,
200 sailors.
MR. ROSENFELD: They each had a locker in it too.
MR. ROSENFELD: So you can imagine, okay. When the
shell came through from the Japanese artillery, the tip of
the shell hit where the living quarters I was in, explodes
in the compartment below killing the individuals there.
MS. FREDERICH: Did you see any entertainment? Did
you see any USO shows?
MR. ROSENFELD: You have -- USO shows. They sent
me -- in the Mediterranean we saw -- this is the Army which
my -- prior to service I was a musician and I had a
scholarship playing the clarinet.
MR. ROSENFELD: And at that time I was thinking of
it. But when I went to the service I decided not to be a
musician. Now, and in the Mediterranean Sea, this is -- the
Army came aboard. And to my surprise my clarinet teacher,
who I got a scholarship from, was leading the orchestra and
the whole band and the whole stage play.
MR. ROSENFELD: So I talked to him. In the Pacific
we saw the Bob Crosby show, he came aboard, plus a few more
shows that came on. In Monmon they went from one ship to
MR. ROSENFELD: And even in Monmon it was a Navy
base but there was a Japanese island about 60, a hundred
miles away who always sent a plane over to bomb the Navy.
And when I was there they put a bomb right off an aircraft
carrier. I can never figure out why they didn't take out
the airfield on that island called Yacht. And that's the
way it was. Either they were too lazy or they didn't think
too much of it.
MS. FREDERICH: Yeah. Do you recall any humorous
events or pranks that others would play on each other? Or
was it all business?
MR. ROSENFELD: Mostly business. As far as pranks,
there may have been a few, but incidental really. Yeah.
MS. FREDERICH: So you were telling me a little
about after the war. So did you go on to college?
MS. FREDERICH: And what was your major?
MR. ROSENFELD: I started off majoring in insurance
and real estate. When I took accounting 101 I became an
MR. ROSENFELD: And then later on I became a CPA.
And I've been retired for 20 years.
MS. FREDERICH: Uh-huh. Is there anything else
that you would like to add that we haven't covered today?
MR. ROSENFELD: We talked about pranks. Well, I'll
tell you about one story. In the town of Morocco myself and
two other individuals went on liberty. And one of the
fellows I was with was showing movies on the ship so we
always had movies to transfer and swap. And so going over
one day he took some movies over and he dropped them off,
and instead of getting a new one he said we'll get one
later. And so as we walked away he said to me, I've got a
bedsheet wrapped around my stomach. So I said, what are you
doing with a bedsheet wrapped around your stomach? He says,
we're going to sell it. I says, you can't sell it, it's
against the law, it's against regulations. So he said who's
going to know? So I said -- he says, Harry, he says, I
already planned this. So I said fine. If you listen to me
we'll plan it.
So I pulled one in the further -- one place
_____________ and the other, I held up the sheet and I sold
it. And with the proceeds we went and got drunk. That's --
when we went back to the ship I was dancing and singing.
But I learned one thing, never get drunk on wine. Okay.
MS. FREDERICH: You went back to Normandy?
MR. ROSENFELD: Yeah. We did go back. Went back
to Normandy.
(Break in recording)
MS. FREDERICH: Thank you for time, Mr. Rosenfeld.
I appreciate hearing --
MR. ROSENFELD: You're welcome.
MS. FREDERICH: It's wonderful to hear all those
stories and I think this interview will be very valuable for
our nation's history.
MR. ROSENFELD: Well, let me say this. I see
history repeating itself and that's what bothers me.
MR. ROSENFELD: We fought a war and the kids don't
realize it, at least the younger generation, that if we had
lost the war half of them would be speaking German and the
other half would be dead, they wouldn't be alive. So I feel
that we have to get it to the people, the ______________
people that war is pretty rough. You've got to put yourself
in somebody else's shoes before you can talk about it. And
it's very difficult.
MS. FREDERICH: Yeah. Thank you for your service.
MR. ROSENFELD: You're welcome.