Snippets of My Newark-Related WWII Memories as Posted on

by Nat Bodian


With the dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington on May 29, 2004, attention has been focused, like nothing in recent memory, on that generation of Americans who served in that war -- no known as "The Greatest Generation."

The 16 million who made up "The Greatest Generation" included 40,000 from Newark.

Only 25 percent of those who served are still living. But stories that emerged during the weeks leading up to the National Memorial Dedication indicated that many veterans have WWII memories that are still vivid.

As I watched the National War Memorial televised ceremonies, I visually scanned a list of my own contributions on the Old Newark website and found that ten percent of my 90 posted memories included WWII-era content, drawn from my own World War II experience.

Recollections with Journalistic Flavor

Having entered World War II service with a journalistic background, my wartime recollections have a journalistic flavor that may appeal to Old Newark visitors who had fathers, grandfathers, or other relatives in that long-ago war.

It should be noted, however, that because I served on air fields, rather than in combat areas overseas, my wartime writings dealt mainly with everyday military life that existed in my environment, and GI reactions to war-induced situations.

My Writing Approach

That was my approach for the stories I wrote for Yank -- the Army Weekly, as a field correspondent, and for my articles in the various base newspapers published at the bases where I served. Wartime censorship required it.

My World War II-related memories on all have Newark ties. If you haven't read them on this site, the capsule 'samplers' of each that follow may peak your interest:

'Snapshots' of WWII-Era Memories
  • In my memory about my grammar school, Monmouth Street School, I recalled my classmate and childhood playmate, Louis Schleifer -- the first Newarker killed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
  • In my memory on Newark's Moe Berg, former big league ballplayer, and World War II spy for the OSS, I related how he took skyline photos before the war in Japan which helped guide American bomber pilots in their bombing missions over Tokyo. Also, as a wartime OSS operative, he was assigned to assassinate Germany's leading nuclear scientist in Switzerland, and how he dealt with that assignment.
  • In another memory, I detail my enlistment into the US Army on Armistice Day in 1942, and of the strange coincidence that occurred on that same day two years later when I was stationed at an AAF base on the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil.
  • In the memory of my service at the US Air Force Base, Val de Cans Field, on the outskirts of Belem, Brazil, I recalled how I had tried to bring a touch on Newark's Dreamland Arena roller rink to South America by having a wooden-floor skating rink built in an unused airplane hangar for the men of the base, and of my failed quest to obtain roller skates for it.
  • In my recollection about my VFW activities, which began while I was still overseas, I relate how I was assigned to Newark's Cushing Post No. 14 at 96 Wright Street, which dated back to the Spanish American War, and, of post activities after the war when members from earlier wars helped me write the history of Cushing Post. The Post history is included with the 'memory'.
  • There is also a memory that deals with a "Newark Newspaper" I published in my spare time from an overseas base during World War II. It circulated to Newark-area servicemen in spots around the world and included wartime news items from Newark, rewritten from clips sent to me by family and friends in Newark. In my memory, I included one sample from an issue in which I featured on page 1 my obituary of Louis Bamberger.
  • In my recollection of the old High Street 'Y' at High and West Kinney Streets, I tell how, during World War II, the 'Y' maintained contact with close to 2,000 former members in uniform through a newsletter called "Enlisted Mens Friendly Letters" to which I was a contributor. I include a copy of that newsletter containing the names of close to 150 Newark servicemen.
  • In my memory (and 'obituary' tribute) of the Newark Evening News, which 'died' on August 31, 1972, I recalled the names of the Newark News staffers who served on wartime U. S. Army publications -- at Stars & Stripes; Whitney Ball, John Davies, Paul Horowitz, and Bill May; and at The Army News Service: News Reporter Frank Romain.
  • And, as a post World War II entry, I tell the story of my experiences at wars' end in the Public Relations Office of the Newark Veterans Administration Building at 20 Washington Place. It was the headquarters for handling the World War II veterans benefits program for New Jersey's 560,000 returning servicemen, 40,000 of them from Newark.

    I explained how I viewed this assignment: Explaining the little-understood details of the GI Bill both to the media and to the returned veterans was the biggest news-making assignment of my post-journalistic career.


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