I was born in New York City on August 8, 1923 and attended public schools there including Townsend Harris High School (Class of 1939) and The College of the City of New York (now Baruch College, Class of 1942). This Affidavit is about my Military Service from March 6, 1943 to December 6, 1945 (Army Serial No. 32825778)…
I have spent some time looking back and realized that probably the most significant influence on my life and what I did well was my service in the United States Army in World War II, and specifically one event in January 1945 that I have rarely spoken of but which I still recall almost word for word….
The reference is to the bravery of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds of Knoxville, TN who faced down the Nazi commandant at the Stalag IXA POW camp to save American Jewish prisoners.
I was inducted at Fort Dix, N.J. and assigned to HQ Company of the 422nd Infantry Regiment of the 106th Division, which was then being formed and manned, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina for three months of basic infantry training (to June 30, 1943). Master Sergeant Edmonds was cadre and the senior non-commissioned officer of the regiment, and the leader of the non- coms at HQ Company. For a new recruit of 19, he was "all Army" and so proficient that I assumed he was 31. At the time we called Edmonds, affectionately, the "Old Man," thinking he was much older than us. I learned only recently from his son that Roddie was the youngest person appointed as Master Sergeant at the time and only 5 years my senior - amazing to be a Master Sergeant at 24. I was a Staff Sergeant in that Company.
The affection was for his skills, his reputation among the commanding officers of the Regiment and the other officers whom we came to know, but mostly because of his concern for the men in the regiment. I came to know him well during basic training and he recommended me for three months leadership training at the Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia. While I was there I was accepted for fighter pilot training at the Army's Air Corps School in Stuttgart, Arkansas and after D Day was reassigned to his Company in time for joining the European campaign to defeat Germany. We both were in Stalag IXA in January 1945, having been captured in December when HQ Company was overrun in the Battle of the Bulge.
There were about 1,000 American POWs at the POW camp, all noncommissioned officers, the most senior of whom was its commanding officer, Master Sergeant Edmonds, the commanding noncom of Headquarters Company of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, which had been engaged in three campaigns by December 22, 1944.
One night in January the Germans announced by loudspeaker in our quarters that all Jewish Americans would line up in front of the barracks the following morning and those who did not would be shot. Sergeant Edmonds summoned the senior officers and informed them that they and all the American prisoners would assemble in military formation in front of the barracks the following morning. And there we all were when the Nazi commandant walked up to Sergeant Edmonds.
I was standing nearby and heard the conversation. The German said to Edmonds, "You can't all be Jewish." Edmonds replied, "Under the Geneva Convention you are entitled to have us provide only our name, rank and army serial number." Whereupon the German took out his Lugar, pressed it against Edmonds forehead between his eyes and said, "you will order the Jews to step out or I will shoot you right now." It was only a few seconds but I remember it as an eternity before Edmonds calmly replied, "Major, you will have to shoot all of us because we all know who you are, this war will soon be over and you will be a war criminal." The Major reddened in anger but lowered his pistol and returned to his office. Sergeant Edmonds dismissed the Company, we all returned to the barracks, after which we were not again threatened until General Patton's advance liberated our camp which is another story of Sergeant Edmonds leadership and daring for another time.
The lesson of that day has shaped my life for there have been times when you must take a calculated risk, however perilous, to stand up for the right thing for yourself and those for whom you have responsibility. It influenced me to attend Law School with the help of the GI bill and my wife's job as secretary to one of the Professors at the school. An international law and a man's courage had saved many lives, mine among them. When I look back at all the years since that fateful day, I find many occasions in my personal, family, business and professional life when I can link my decisions and action to my service in the war and that experience in particular. I am still doing that at age 89…