Thursday, November 11, 2010

Harold Borenstein in North Africa: A Veterans Day Post.

I was…invited to join the Army on December 2, 1941. The draft was already going and my number came up. From Madison, I went down to Fort Knox, Kentucky, with a bunch of other guys. I took a draft into the 1st Armored Division and I’d never heard of them before. I was born in 1916 so I was already 26 when I shipped out.

Harold Borenstein, 94 this year, served with the US 1st Armored Division in North Africa and Italy.

We left Fort Knox, April 5, 1942 for Fort Dix, and left there on May 10 for Northern Ireland. I’d been to New York and of course, Sioux City, Iowa – for a whole day – but not any further. Sailing across on the Queen Mary, I was numb: seasick as could be, couldn’t eat a thing. I was one of a million guys…to the Army, I was just another piece of equipment.

After Ireland, I was loaded on another boat, Durban Castle. I didn’t know where I was headed so I thought I was going to France – that wasn’t it, thankfully. I never thought about North Africa ‘til I was on that ship and I landed in Oran as part of Torch.

The 1st Armored was part of the Allied invasion of North Africa - Operation Torch – on November 8, 1942. Division units met unexpected resistance from Vichy-French units, but invasion forces suppressed all resistance in the beachhead area within three days.

We landed at Oran and drove 700 miles east to Tunisia. I was with Combat Command B headquarters, a driver of a White half-track (see photo). I greased that half-track, changed the oil, everything.  When we first landed, we went ashore and drove inland, past an airport. I thought the French would turn their guns on us because they knew where we were…either we’re going to get it or we not going to get it – it was out of our hands.

I was at Kasserine Pass and I was lucky, I got through it without a scratch. We spent a year in North Africa, two years in Italy. The best part was demobilization – I came back from overseas, through New York, trained to Chicago and then I was home.

You know, I traveled up and down Tunisia, many a night ride I had, trying to stop the Germans. And I went through dive-bombing in Tunisia. I said, Harold, if you live through this you’ll be the nicest person in the world for the rest of your life.” That was the biggest lie I every told.

Today’s the day we remember: Paul Hirsch Baron, Emmanuel Katz and Sam Slavik. Tom Ritter. Phil Slavik. Norman Sabel and Sherman Sabel. Joel Hirsch Goldberg. Thomas Biddulph, Richard Dailey, Richard Fox, Bill Gay and Richard Sutter. David Starr. Frank B Foulk. Chris Hrabe. AJ Smith and Paul Hoven. John Naumann. James Hairgrove.

Herman L Eisenberg. Phillip Becker. George A Schuler, Jr., Alan Vera. Nathanael Charles Yonka, Jr. Hoi Nguyen and Ellis Alexander. The names from the Gunroom (you know who you are): Paul Johnson, KCMO, and “Charlezzzzz” Muñoz. Charles Rose and Bill Krull. Gary Bearden. Bernard Mazursky. Clarence Everett Latham and Irene Helen Phillippe. Meyer Horwitz. Irving Kaplan. Columbus D Reeves and Jimmy Reeves. And me – USN, ’68-’72.

Every year this list grows longer – you’re welcome to add names of your own, so we’ll always remember.


S. Reeves said...

Well I'll add a few. Thank you Richard.

My father-in-law was Columbus D. Reeves

My sweet and talented brother-in-law is Jimmy Reeves

Josh Kaplan said...

Great column today. Thanks for that! One request? Would you add my dad's name to your published list? Irving Kaplan. He served in Africa and Italy, mostly. He was a good man. I am going to copy your column and send it to my mother regardless as I know that she would appreciate not only what was written but also by whom. If dad's name was there, it would make her day. Thanks.