Oh, the Memories They Shared; Conversations with The Osborn’s Veterans
Last fall, The Osborn held a Remembrance Ball on 11/11/11. A number of residents at the senior care facility were asked to share their veteran experiences.
By Robin Jovanovich
Last fall, The Osborn held a Remembrance Ball on 11/11/11. A number of residents at the senior care facility were asked to share their veteran experiences. Susan Olson, who works as Fund Development Coordinator, was so moved by the stories that she made a video. We were so moved by her work that we asked if we could meet with the veterans in their homes at The Osborn to hear their stories again. A video featuring the stories of eight veterans now living at The Osborn can be accessed on RyeTV.
Bernard Tofany grew up in Rochester. Four of his brothers served in World War II. A student at Union College, he was enrolled in the Navy V-12 program. When one of his brothers was wounded on Saipan, Tiffany asked to be transferred to amphibious duty. “All I wanted to do was get Japs after that,” he recalled.
He went to midshipman school on Lake Champlain to sub chaser school in Miami and then on to Norfolk, Virginia, where he was picked up and traveled on a training ship through the Panama Canal, then on to the Pacific, island hopping from the Philippines to Luzon Bay. “We were always behind the war. We came into Japan, a week before it was secured.”
All of the Tofany boys survived the war. Afterwards, Vic, the oldest, who’d been a paratrooper, would joke, “Sometimes Bernie had to go a whole week without ice cream!”
Tofany said, “We don’t talk about hardships. I lost good friends in the Pacific. Luckily, my brothers survived their injuries. When I look back I always think that without Harry Truman it would have been much more of a bloodbath.” He also remembers that on VJ Day 1, the skipper let them bring out the beer.
He decided on a career when he was in the Pacific and he lost a filling. “I had a heck of a toothache and was sent to a clinic. That dentist really impressed me.” He continued, “I didn’t know when I went into the Navy what I was going to do when I got out. I didn’t have any money to speak of. I decided because of that lost filling to go into the dental profession, where I could have a good family life. We did.”
Dr. Tofany was glad to attend the 60th reunion of the commissioning of his ship in 2004 in Sarasota. “We were a small ship — six officers and 60 men.”
Richard Schneider served with the Army’s 303rd Signal Operations Battalion. He saw quite a lot of action and marvels at the situations he got through.
“At Chateau d’Ardenne, headquarters of the 15th Army, the Germans were coming up the road and all we had were carbines — pea shooters — to defend ourselves,” he remembered.
Schneider was envious when a buddy of his was sent to Japan a day before him. “We were laying in a tent in Marseilles when the order came. As things turned out, my friend ended up doing guard duty for a year in Japan and I got to come home.”
His ship, the General Harry Taylor, was the first to land in New York after the war. “I was excited when I made it to the front of the line at a payphone booth, but nobody answered.”
The next week, Schneider was on a train back to Chicago and his family’s home in Oak Park, “once the largest village in America”, he noted proudly. The following week he reconnected with Betty, his sweetheart and future wife.
Looking back, Schneider reflected that he’s here today because of a typing class he took in high school. “I was in a specialized training program with the 97th Infantry in Missouri. We were replacements, and our average length of stay was three days before we were sent out. But in January 1944 they stopped the program and they sent me to a signal outfit because I could type.”
His typing skills have come in handy more than once. Schneider has been a journalist and editor for over 50 years. He’s the author of over 20 books for adults and children, the most recent of which, “An Abundance of Virtues”, was published this month. (He has also been a long and valued contributor at The Rye Record.)
It was Betty Schneider who got her husband into the field with one act: she was at a Marshall Field’s and saw a bunch of books. She brought home a copy of “Writer’s Market”.
Dick said, “I was with Walgreens for 20 years in marketing. I thought is this all there is to life, after serving in a World War? I flipped through the book and found myself reading about Guideposts.” He went on to be a senior editor there for close to 40 years.
Stanley Marlin grew up in the Bronx. A serious young man, he played violin and saxophone. He was drafted soon after he graduated in 1942. A language major, he wanted to be a Spanish stenographer.
“One advantage of being in the Army was that you met people from all over the world,” he said.
But he lost his best friend. A self-described national mourner, Marlin says mourning teaches you to be human.
“Harry live up the block from me in the Bronx. He was a year older than me and used to recommend books. He was with Patton’s Army in Metz on Armistice Day. He was sent out and a sniper killed him. My wife and I visited France years later and found his grave in St. Avold Cemetery.
At the end of the war Marlin was in Germany for several months. “We all thought we’d be sent to Japan. We were shipped back to Boston and from there sent to a camp on Long Island for a month’s furlough,” he remembered. “The streets were filled with honking horns. I thought about all the boys.”
His whole unit met at Penn Station, traveled to California and spent several months there.” Marlin worked for a meat packing company in the fall of 1945. “Families took in soldiers. I lived with a Methodist family in Glendale. They invited us to come to church with them on Sunday and we went. It was very interesting.”
After the war, Marlin worked with his father, who was a printer. “But I wanted to do something else. I was fortunate to have a Latin teacher who made a big impression. I was a language major at City College. The government was generous with veterans back then.”
For a dozen years, Marlin taught at elementary schools in the Bronx. “Those were the only openings.”
“When I met my wife, she was working on her thesis. We would meet up at the New York Public Library. We loved the city, going to concerts and foreign films. We had big appetites for learning and eating.” They lived in Scarsdale after the Bronx.
He lost his wife in January. They were married for 62 years.
Elizabeth Landauer was volunteering at St. Luke’s Hospital for Physical Therapy in New York City when the war started. She enjoyed the work and was encouraged to study to become a physical therapist. “In those days, you could get a degree quickly. The field was young then,” she said. After three months at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, she shipped off for Europe with the 32nd General – Indiana University unit.
“We left on the Queen Elizabeth, which became a troop ship. I used a code in the letters I wrote my parents. I’d say, ‘Give my best to Fred’ (a beau).”
She landed on Omaha Beach D-Day plus five. Trucks took us up. The women got rides. I was one of two therapists out in the field. We had a lot of success with our boys,” Landauer recalled.
She frowned when remembering that the C.O. ordered the women to wear skirts. “Out in the field, doing the work we were doing, we wore pants like the other soldiers.”
As the Army moved on, so did her unit. She was at the Battle of the Bulge. “I finished out the war in Belgium.”
She came back in 1946. Her brother, Donald Blum, survived the sinking of the Indianapolis.
“He’d only been an officer for 13 days.” She spoke quietly when telling us that her brother, whom she was very proud of and extremely close to, had died earlier this year.
She married Roger Landauer, who was a friend of her brother’s and was stationed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Until she was 80, she worked as a physical therapist at the Hospital for Joint Diseases. “One of my patients was head of Bendix. I always got a good deal on watches.”
David Blank enlisted in the Signal Corps in 1942, where he served for four years. “I wasn’t a hero, but I was a good soldier and I did the best I could for four years. I carried my whole duffel across Europe in the Third Army under General Patton.
“If the Germans had dropped a bomb on us when we were crossing the English Channel, they would have won the war,” he said. “We were all sick as dogs.”
When Blank and his unit went through Paris on a freight train, he jumped off to get a baguette in a suburb. That fact still amazes him.
He was a member of the 187th Signal Repair Corps, which moved along behind the lines, repairing walkie-talkies and radios. At the end of the war he was transferred to the Signal Depot Corps. “We were guarding German soldiers who were doing the work. They were either very young or very old.”
Eight or nine years ago Blank was in Washington, D.C. and someone asked him to attend a dinner for Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. “I happened to mention that I was in Patton’s Third Army. The man I was sitting next to was the son of a soldier who was the first casualty of World War II.”
One story of Blank’s that didn’t make the video was a dog story.
“It was the summer of 1945 and we were in a suburb of Munich lying on cots when we heard that Japan had surrendered. One of the soldiers had a female dog, which I grew attached to, so when he was shipped home before me I offered to keep the dog. I called her Gal.”
Lots of soldiers smuggled dogs home on troop ships, but fewer did after Stars and Stripes reported that a ship would be provided just to transport dogs.
“I was discharged in January 1946; Gal arrived home two months later. When I introduced Gal to my fiancé, the dog acted jealous. I ended up giving her to my aunt, who had two small children,” said Blank.
His arrival home was not what he thought it would be. Like many soldiers, he raced to a pay phone to call his parents. “I hadn’t spoken to them in two and a half years. They weren’t home!”
Blank recalled being struck by the fact that when he went to grad school after the war, no one ever talked about their war experience and they were all veterans.