From the Franco-Prussian War to the Cold War
By Martin Fischer
While some in our families may have avoided military service or served under duress, others have served willingly, perhaps even enthusiastically out of patriotic duty. Here are accounts of some who, for whatever reason, may have risked life and limb for their countries.
In 1870-71, Salo Daus of Wongrowitz, Posen, Prussia, served as a non-commissioned officer in the Franco-Prussian War, receiving the Iron Cross from the hands of Kaiser Wilhelm I. He immigrated to the United States in 1892 and later owned a dry goods store in St. Louis, Mo. He became a U.S. citizen in 1906.
After being inducted May 15, 1917, at the age of 34 as a Red Cross nurse for the U.S. Army, Flora Kober of St. Louis served in France during World War I from May 19, 1917, to April 23, 1919. For more about Washington University Base Hospital Unit 21, where Flora served in the nursing staff, see this site: http://beckerexhibits.wustl.edu/gh21/ww1/index.htm. She had graduated from Jewish Hospital Nursing School in St. Louis in 1905. After the war, she eventually became head of social services at Bellevue Hospital in New York.
Leib Levik, who may have been born in Kraków, Poland, was taken into the czar’s army at the age of 12 and served for 25 years. In the army he worked initially as a servant and became a tailor, preparing uniforms for officers. He later set up a tailor shop in Kiev, Ukraine.
Leib’s son, Abraham Levik, served in the Russian army in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), which was a defeat for Russia. Place names that he recalled in connection with the war were Irkutsk, Siberia, which was north of Mongolia; Birobidjan, Siberia, which was just north of China; and Manchuria, the northern Chinese territory where much of the Russo-Japanese war took place.
Abraham recalled having been in a ferocious battle that knocked him out cold. When he came to, he saw that he was being shaken awake by a Russian Orthodox priest and he was surrounded by dead bodies. The fright of being awakened in that situation caused him to run and run and run. He was eventually caught and hospitalized, but the trauma of the incident, he later claimed, had caused him to lose all of his hair and teeth.
An official listing of Jewish soldiers in the Russian army who were casualties in the Russo-Japanese War includes a listing for a wounded soldier, Rifleman Lejba Levich (which sounds like Abraham’s father’s name). Levich, a member of the 12th Eastern Siberian His Majesty Crown Prince Rifle Regiment, was injured April 17-18, 1904, near Tiurenchin (possibly T’ien-chin [Tianjin], China). With the Russian use of patronymics, it raises the question about whether this might have actually been Abraham, rather than his father, who most likely would have been too old to serve in the Russo-Japanese War.
Abraham Levik immigrated to Cuba in 1928 and to the United States in 1943. He became a U.S. citizen in 1948.
Morris Sol Fischer of St. Louis first served as a private in the U.S. Army with the 33rd AB Squadron of the 34th Air Base Group, Air Force Combat Command, based at Paine Field, Everett, Wash., from June 9, 1941, to Oct. 18, 1941, when he was honorably discharged from the Army and transferred to the Enlisted Reserve Corps (the Army Reserve). But on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
So, from Jan. 18, 1942, to Oct. 24, 1945, he served in Squadron BG of the 4130th Army Air Forces Base Unit, which was located in Jackson, Miss., but for much of the war, Morris served in Alaska. He worked for 29 months as a duty soldier loading freight for air transport and for 11 months as a guard patrolman, doing general guard duty, motor patrol and gate duty.
For two years (from Oct. 4, 1942, to Oct. 8, 1944) he was stationed overseas on Adak Island in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, in World War
Adak and other western Aleutian Islands had been occupied by the Japanese in June 1942 in an attempt to lure the U.S. Navy away from Midway Island. But on Aug. 30, 1942, U.S. forces seized Adak. And starting on Sept. 14, 1942, the U.S. Army Air Forces used a newly constructed airfield on Adak to launch attacks on the Japanese forces still holding other Aleutian Islands. Less than three weeks later, Morris Fischer arrived at Adak, where his primary responsibility was loading military aircraft.
Morris received the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with one Bronze Battle Star (awarded Oct. 29, 1943, during his stay at the Adak airbase), four Overseas Bars and the Good Conduct Medal, according to his honorable discharge papers. We don’t know what happened to his original awards and we don’t know why he received a Battle Star other than the fact that he was serving in a combat zone.
In 1999, in response to a 1997 query for further information about my father’s military service, the Army sent me a new, different set of military awards: American Defense Service Medal, WWII Honorable Service Lapel Pin, WWII Victory Medal and Good Conduct Medal. The discrepancy in medals is likely due to the major fire on July 12, 1973, at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis that destroyed his service records.
We would still like to know why he received a Battle Star, but it may be impossible to find out because of the fire at the records center.
For more information about Adak, Alaska, in World War II, see John Huston's 1942 documentary "Report from the Aleutians," which is available through interlibrary loan or for purchase on the Internet. Huston and his camera crew spend six months on the isolated island. The film includes a piece showing how the soldiers prepared bombs for loading onto bomber aircraft, which is what Morris Fischer did for much of his stay on Adak. This 46-minute film can be viewed here by clicking the box above.
Joseph Frank Levin served in the U.S. Army Enlisted Reserve Corps from May 31 to June 13, 1943, and in active service from June 14, 1943, to Nov. 3, 1945, reaching the rank of sergeant. He worked as a weather observer in Squadron B of the 4117th Army Air Forces Base Unit at Robins Field, Ga. He served a total of two years, five months, three days.
He entered service at Ft. Custer, Mich., and was trained to be a weather observer at Chanute Field, Ill., where he observed and prepared hourly meteorological reports and transmissions of data over a teletype network. He also prepared weather charts. His honorable discharge was from Scott Field, Ill. Awards presented were a WWII Victory Medal with American Theater Ribbon and an Honorable Service Lapel Button.
We honor the memory of Harry Lubansky (a grandson of Gershon Lifshitz), who was born in Jerusalem in 1922 and served in the Australian army in World War II. He died July 27, 1942, in the Battle of Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.
For more information about Australia's most important military battle, see the Web site: http://www.battleforaustralia.org.au/kokoda1.html
Victor Weisskopf: A Cold Warrior and world traveler
By Victor C. Weisskopf
My military experience began in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps at Washington University, in the fall of 1961. For the next four semesters, I found that my marching skills were nil, though I did well in marksmanship and shoe polishing. I remember how concerned we were when our instructors called a special meeting to brief us on the developing Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. One of my fraternity brothers was recalled to active duty with his Reserve Unit. It was a serious and dangerous time.
Traveling and studying in Europe during my Junior Year Abroad in 1963 and '64 convinced me totalitarianism and communism were great evils. I visited numerous countries caught behind the Iron Curtain. In Prague, where I visited Great-grandfather Filip Weisskopf’s grave, an East German student pleaded with me, in all seriousness, to exchange passports with him. I saw people lined up on the streets of Prague to buy a few watermelons off a truck. They were perhaps 10 cents a pound in St. Louis, with never a shortage! Almost everyone was shabbily dressed, and money seemed to have little value. The Soviets plundered and impoverished Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, etc.
I attended Washington U's Graduate School of Business from 1964 to 1966, a high point in the build up in Viet Nam. Barbara and I were engaged, but few corporations were eager to hire young men without a deferment. I tried unsuccessfully to join a Reserve or National Guard unit before graduation. A fraternity brother told me he had joined the Air Force and qualified for officer training. I followed him, after narrowly missing the long arm of the Draft, and entered the US Air Force in January 1967.
Following 10 weeks of Officers' Training in San Antonio, Texas, the USAF sent 2nd Lieutenant Weisskopf to McChord AFB near Tacoma, Washington, as an entry-level Accounting & Finance Officer. I learned how the Air Force prepared payrolls, paid vendors and kept financial records. The base hosted the 318th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron and served military units in Alaska and the Far East with its fleet of transport aircraft. Military Airlift Command was headquartered at Scott AFB, in Belleville, Ill., so I felt a St. Louis connection. Barbara and I married in June of '67, and enjoyed touring and living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. For more information on McChord, see http://www.mcchordairmuseum.org/.
There's a joke about never volunteering in the military, but it's only partially true. I tried volunteering into specialized units outside the Southeast Asia combat zone, and finally found an opening with US Air Force Security Service in Trabzon, Turkey. From its monitoring stations ringing the Soviet Union, USAFSS supplied the super-secret National Security Agency with intelligence data. They were the “Silent Warriors.”
From January 1969 through February 1970, I lived on Boztepe, a bluff overlooking the eastern Black Sea, and served at the TUSLOG Detachment 3-1 (The United States Logistics Group). Visiting Israel and Greece several years earlier familiarized me with the Middle Eastern environment and diet, which I liked. The climate was mild, the locals friendly, and I took advantage of the opportunity to acquaint myself with another culture. As a 1st Lieutenant, I was the senior Jewish service member on base – there were a handful of Jewish enlisted men. Barbara came to visit in April ‘69, and we explored Istanbul and Ankara together. Though I couldn't get to Israel for Passover, the Air Force allowed me to go to Germany for the High Holidays! Philipp was born in September 1969. I didn't see him until my return to the States to report to my next assignment.
More about TUSLOG: http://www.merhabaturkey.com/index2.html
Luke Air Force Base, about 20 miles west of Phoenix, Ariz., became our next and final military address. By this time, I was a Captain, and headed the Base Accounting and Finance Office for the next 14 months. Luke trained fighter pilots, and was at one end of a vast gunnery range that extended across the desert almost to San Diego, Calif. My office served several small military installations in northern Arizona, and I once visited them by hitching a ride with some colonels who were logging flight hours in a single-engine propeller plane. Barbara, Philipp and I took a three-week vacation to visit relatives in California and enjoyed the 'privileges' of military service. More about Luke: http://www.luke.af.mil/
In general, I have positive feelings about my service. Although I saw no actual combat, I served in units necessary to US military power and influence. Service gave Barb and me an opportunity to know people we would otherwise probably never meet, and to experience a life-style to which few American Jews are exposed.
In May of 1971, I left active duty and moved to Chicago.
Experienced amateur genealogist Martin Fischer is available to conduct freelance family history projects including searching online databases, creating family trees, editing memoirs and developing genealogical Web sites. For more information, go to http://www.the-efa.org/, click on find a freelancer, and type Martin Fischer in the search box, or go to http://www.apgen.org/, click on search by name, and type Fischer and Martin in the search boxes.