Soldiers from New York: Jewish Soldiers in The New York Times, in World War Two: The Gans Brothers – Sgt. Ralph Gans – January 31, 1945


The Second World War was characterized by near-universal military service among the warring nations, either voluntarily, or through conscription.  As such, multiple members of a single family – fathers and sons; sets of brothers – would find themselves wearing the uniforms of their countries, serving in combat or military support duties on land, in the air, or at sea.  Sometimes, this would occur in the same geographic theater of operations; sometimes, even in the same branch of service. 

Sometimes, fate – or God – would cast a favorable face upon a family: All its members would return, and resume their civilian lives in the fullness of time.  Or, like soldiers throughout history, they would be transformed, traumatized, or inspired (often in reinforcing or contradictory combination) by their military experiences, and embark – by decision or chance – upon new and unanticipated paths through life.

Sometimes, God – or fate – would cast an entirely difference “face” upon a family, perhaps manifesting what is known in Hebrew (most notably in the book of Isaiah) as an aspect of “hester punim”.  (Perhaps; perhaps.)  For such a family, the course of life would unalterably, irrevocably altered… 

In that sense, while my prior posts about Jewish soldiers reported upon in The New York Times have by definition covered specific individuals, in 1945, for the Gans family of the Bronx, life indeed took that different course.  The Gans brothers – Ralph (Rafael bar Yaakov) and Solomon (Zalman bar Yaakov) – lost their lives in military service with four weeks of one another, and their loss was covered in the Times on April 17 of that year.

Ralph, born in 1920 and the older of the two, lost his life in England on January 31 under non-combat circumstances while serving with the Ordnance Corps.  Solomon, a Second Lieutenant who had been enrolled at City College, was killed in combat while serving in I Company, 253rd Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division on January 3. 

The sons of Jacobs and Mary Gans of 494 Claremont Parkway (East 171st St.) in the Bronx, their obituary appeared in the Times on April 17.  They are buried adjacent to one another at Mount Lebanon Cemetery, in Glendale, N.Y. (Workmen’s Circle Society, Block WC, Section 5, Line 28): Solomon in Grave 12, and Ralph in Grave 13.

(While this post covers both brothers, information about other Jewish servicemen is limited to those soldiers who became casualties the same day as Sgt. Gans: January 31, 1945.  As such, a second post will repeat the biographical information (above) about the Gans brothers, and present information about Jewish military casualties on January 3, 1945.)

Bronx Family Loses Its Only Two Sons

War Department notification of the deaths of Lieut. Solomon Gans and T/Sgt. Ralph Gans, only sons of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Gans of 495 East 171st Street, the Bronx, has been received.

Previously reported missing, Lieutenant Gans, 22 years old, was killed in action in France Jan. 3, while attached to the 253rd Infantry.  He was a graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School and had completed three years at City College before entering the Army, on June 16, 1943.

Sergeant Gans, 25, died in England on Jan. 31, according to the War Department.  Also a graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School, he worked for the Noma Electric Company prior to induction.  He entered the Army on Jan. 20, 1942, and was serving with an ordnance battalion at the time of his death.

This image, by S. Daino, shows the matzevot of Ralph and Solomon, at Mount Lebanon Cemetery. 

Some other Jewish military casualties on Wednesday, January 31, 1945, include…

Killed in Action

– .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. –

Averbakh, Leonid Borisovich (Авербах, Леонид Борисович), Junior Lieutenant [Младший Лейтенант]
U.S.S.R., Red Army, 26th Tank Corps, 25th Tank Brigade
Tank Commander
Born 1908
Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume V – 82
[Книги Памяти еврееввоинов, павших в боях с нацизхмом в 1941-1945 гг – Том V – 82]

Benamou, Paul, Sous-Lieutenant, Legion d’Honneur, at Durenentzen, Haut-Rhin, France
France, Armée de Terre, Bataillon de Choc (Nieme)
“At Durenentzen, on 31 January 1945, was one of the first to enter the village at the head of his men.  Hunted the enemy from house to house, to the edge of the church.  Fell gloriously as he reached the last objective assigned to him.”
(A Durenentzen, le 31 janvier 1945 fut un des premiers à pénétrer dans le village à la téte de ses hommes.  Chasse l’ennemi de maison en maison, jusqu’aux abords de l’église.  Tombe glorieusement alors qu’il atteignait le derneir objectif qu’on lui avait assigné.)
Place of burial unknown

Livre d’Or et de Sang – 126-127

Beylin, Yuriy Evseevich (Бейлин, Юрий Евсеевич), Guards Sergeant [Гвардии Сержант]
U.S.S.R., Red Army, 8th Guards Army, 259th Autonomous Tank Regiment
Tank Commander (T-34)
Born 1925
Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume IX – 69
[Книги Памяти еврееввоинов, павших в боях с нацизхмом в 1941-1945 гг – Том IX – 69]

Brachman, Max, PFC, 32904506, Purple Heart
United States Army, 9th Infantry Division, 39th Infantry Regiment
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. and Rose Brachman (parents), Freida and Min (sisters), Bronx, N.Y.
Born 8/25/11; Father died 12/26/44
Place of Burial – Cedar Park Cemetery, Paramus, N.J.
New York Times Obituary Page Memorial Section 1/31/46
American Jews in World War II – 282

Buschnoff, Frederick M., Pvt., 12221150, Purple Heart (In Belgium)
United States Army
Mr. and Mrs. Emil and Lena Buschnoff (parents), PFC Milton E. and Robert L. Buscnhoff (brothers), 473 West End Ave., New York, N.Y.
Born 1926
Place of Burial – unknown
Casualty List 3/8/45
The New York Times (Obituary Page) 2/14/45, 1/31/47
American Jews in World War II – 287

Cohen, Haskell D., Sgt., 32736088
United States Army, 84th Infantry Division, 335th Infantry Regiment
Mrs. Bessie L. Cohen (mother), 52 Hanover St., Rochester, N.Y.
Born 1926
Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Henri-Chapelle, Belgium – Plot E, Row 7, Grave 13
American Jews in World War II – 290

Falk, Mark, Pvt., 13941547
England, British Army, Pioneer Corps
Mrs. Sophie Falk (wife), Merton Park, Surrey, England; Mr. and Mrs. Hersz and Rosa Falk (parents)
Born 1899
Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerpen, Belgium – V,B,18
We Will Remember Them (Volume I) – p. 267

Grinberg
, Mark Yakovlevich (Гринберг, Марк Яковлевич)

Lieutenant [Pilot (Bomber – Flight Commander) [Командир Звена] Лейтенант]
U.S.S.R., Military Air Forces – VVS, 5th Bombardment Aviation Corps, 640th Bombardment Aviation Regiment
Killed in crash (accident) of A-20G Havoc attack bomber; 3 crewmen – no survivors
Born 1919
Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume I – 408
[Книги Памяти еврееввоинов, павших в боях с нацизхмом в 1941-1945 гг – Том I – 408]

Harman, Marvin A., Pvt., 42041845, Purple Heart
United States Army, 78th Infantry Division, 311th Infantry Regiment
Mrs. Ruth C. Heimowitz (mother)
Mr. Sydney N. Craig (uncle), 5606 15th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Born 1926
Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Holland – Plot B, Row 21, Grave 14
Casualty List 3/14/45
American Jews in World War II – 341 (Incorrectly gives surname as “Harmin”)

Saperstein, Eugene, PFC, 42007276, Medical Corps, Silver Star, Purple Heart
United States Army, 104th Infantry Division, 413th Infantry Regiment, G Company
Mr. Samuel Saperstein (father), 1204 Fairmount Ave., Elizabeth, N.J.
Born Elizabeth, N.J., 9/3/24
Place of Burial – unknown
Casualty List 3/31/45
American Jews in World War II – 252

Semhoun, Michel Moise, at Guewenheim, Haut-Rhin, France
France, Armée de Terre, 6eme Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains
Tlemcen, Algeria
Born 2/22/25
Place of burial unknown
Au Service de la France – 147

Wajc
, Jakub, 2 Lt.

Poland, Polish People’s Army, 7th Infantry Regiment
Mr. Benedikt Wajc (father)
Place of burial unknown
Jewish Military Casualties in the Polish Army in World War II (Volume I) – 72

______________________________


Three of the servicemen lost this day – Co-Pilot 2 Lt. Bernard “Benny” Jacobs, Radio Operator S/Sgt. Martin Feldman, and Flight Engineer / top turret gunner S/Sgt. Harry J. Ofsa – served in the same air crew.  Members of the 38th (“Sunsetter”) Bomb Group’s 405th (“Green Dragons”) Bomb Squadron (5th Air Force) their B-25J Mitchell (serial number 43-36201), piloted by 2 Lt. James J. Benjamin, was lost during an attack against three Japanese destroyers south of Taiwan.

As reported by Sgt. Walter B. Kuzla in Missing Air Crew Report 13759:

“As this aircraft was starting making its run I noticed a few bursts of ack-ack coming from the destroyer.  I don’t know whether the ack-ack hit the aircraft or it hit the mast but it seemed to wing over and crash into the water and exploded.  [sic]  All four bombs made direct hits on the destroyer.  It is believed that this destroyer sank a few minutes later.”

On March 8, Major Edward J. Maurer, Jr. supplemented the Report with the following information:

“The left engine of Lieutenant Benjamin’s airplane appeared to be burning when the plane was about two hundred yards from a destroyer and immediately afterward the plane exploded and hit hard into the water, the remaining airplanes in the flight then formed in formation and circled the area for signs of any survivors, but it was definitely ascertained that there were none.”

Biographical information about the men is presented below.  Though I have no idea about the number of sorties their crew had completed before January 31, the level of the awards they received (Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and Purple Heart) suggests – due to the lack of multiple Oaf Leaf Clusters for the Air Medal denoting over 5 missions – that they were a members of a relatively new crew. 

______________________________

Feldman, Martin, S/Sgt., 32903672, Radio Operator, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Purple Heart
Mr. Reuben Feldman (father), 588 E. 93rd St., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Casualty List 5/10/45
American Jews in World War II – 307

______________________________

Jacobs, Bernard (“Benny”), 2 Lt., 0-815149, Co-Pilot, Purple Heart
Born Somerville, Ma., 8/6/16
Mrs. Sylvia Jacobs (wife), 34 Beale Road, Waltham, Ma.
Casualty List 5/7/45
American Jews in World War II – 165

This image of Lt. Jacobs, provided by Barkas, appears at his FindAGrave profile.

______________________________

Ofsa, Harry J., S/Sgt., 39571347, Flight Engineer, Air Medal, Purple Heart
Mrs. Anita R. Ofsa (wife), Steven (son – YOB 1944), 1319 North Washburn St., Minneapolis, Mn.
Mr. and Mrs. Simon [12/6/87-4/3/39] and Beulah (Bachrach) [5/29/92-52/29/53] Ofsa (parents); Mrs. Doris Jean (Ofsa) Kohn (sister)
Born Williamson, West Viriginia, 3/15/18
American Jews in World War II – 203

From his FindAGrave profile, this image of S/Sgt. Ofsa, provided by Laurie, presumably shows him in pre-war civilian life. 

S/Sgt. Ofsa’s family created a symbolic matzeva in his memory, as seen in this image, provided by Alan Bachrach.  The matzeva is found at Temple Emanuel Cemetery, in Roanoke, Virginia. 

______________________________

This is an excellent representative view (from pinterest) of B-25J Mitchell bombers of the 405th Bomb Squadron, immediately and distinctively indentifiable by their vivid, green “dragon head” nose markings.  The aircraft in the rear, 44-30921, probably (?…) survived the war, as there is no Missing Air Crew Report for the plane, and it does not appear at Aviation Archeology’s  USAF  / USAAF Accident Report database

This is a beautiful example of an original (early 1945) Australian manufactured 405th BS “Green Dragon” squadron patch (from Flying Tiger Antiques), as intended to be worn on aviator’s flying jacket.  In the same way that there were many stylistic variations of the “dragon head” insignia on 405th BS Mitchell bombers, so were there stylistic variations in the squadron uniform patch, other images of which can be easily found.

______________________________

From the Missing Aircrew Report for B-25J 43-36201, the following page presents information about the plane and crew as well as the mission on which they were lost, while the next page gives the crew’s next of kin and home addresses.

______________________________

This page, also from MACR 13759, shows – as denoted by a small “x” – the location of the Mitchell’s loss.  The Google map beneath covers the same area in a smaller scale, showing the location of the plane’s loss via Google’s red locator arrow. 

______________________________

Prisoners of War

Silverstein, Martin, PFC, 32975882, Purple Heart
United States Army
POW at Stalag 12A (Limburg an der Lahn)
Mr. Benjamin Silverstein (father), 197 Utica Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mrs. Helen Weiseltheir (?), 901 Carroll St., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Born 1924
Casualty List 4/19/45
American Jews in World War II – 445

Zeiler, Albert I., Pvt., 42130938, Purple Heart
United States Army
POW at Stalag 9C (Bad Sulza)
Mrs. Florence F. Zeiler (wife), 344 New Lots Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Casualty List 5/15/45 (Liberated POW)
American Jews in World War II – 477

Zelman, Paul, Cpl., 33308496
United States Army, 9th Infantry Division, 60th Infantry Regiment
POW at Stalag 12A (Limburg an der Lahn)
Mrs. Miriam Zelman (wife); Barbara Lee Zelman (daughter; YOB 1948), 826 Collins Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Mrs. Bessie Zelmanov (mother), 844 Sheridan Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Born Russia, 3/6/18
Casualty List (Liberated POW) 6/5/45
American Jews in World War II – Not Listed

Wounded in Action

Asch, Clifford M., Trooper, D/143297
Canada, Royal Canadian Armoured Corps
Mr. Michael Asch (father), 3482 Northcliffe Ave., Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Canadian Jews in World War II – Part II: Casualties – 85

Benichou, Albert, Aspirant, Char (Chef de Section), Croix de Guerre, Medaille Militaire, at Village de Durrenentezn, Haut-Rhin, France
France, Armée de Terre, Nieme Battailon de Choc
On the night of 31 January to 1 February 1945, on the attack of the village of Durrenentezn (Haut-Rhin), he brilliantly distinguished himself by pushing his section behind the tanks, securing the capture of 82 prisoners including 2 officers.  Wounded in the action; refused care; retained the command of his section pursuing the fight until the complete annihilation of any enemy resistance at Durrenentezn.  (Dans la nuit du 31 janvier au 1er février 1945, à l’attaque du village de Durrenentezn (Haut-Rhin), s’est brillamment distingué en poussant sa section derrière les chars, réussissant la capture de 82 prisonniers dont 2 officiers.  Blessé dans l’action, a refusé les soins, a conservé le commandement de sa section poursuivant la lutte jusq’à l’anéantissement complet de toute résistance ennemie à Durrenentezn.)
Wounded subsequently, on 4/13/45

Livre d’Or et de Sang – 148, 173

Other Incidents

Aviator – Returned with crew after aircraft last seen heading to Yugoslavia

Dondes, Paul, Cpl., 11100425, Radio Operator, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal
United States Army Air Force, 15th Air Force, 454th Bomb Group, 739th Bomb Squadron
Mr. Israel Dondes (father), 153 Loomis St., Burlington Vt.
MACR 11831; Aircraft: B-24J 44-41134; Pilot: 2 Lt. Artist H. Prichard, Jr., 11 crewmen – all survived
American Jews in World War II – 576

Aviators – Reported missing, but returned to duty (circumstances unknown)

Mandel, Harold, Sgt., 42059203, Ball Turret Gunner
United States Army Air Force, 15th Air Force, 451st Bomb Group, 724th Bomb Squadron
Mrs. May Mandel (mother), 1842 Anthony Ave., Bronx, N.Y.
MAVR 11830; Aircraft: B-24L 44-49460; Pilot: 1 Lt. Lloyd O. Boots; 10 crewmen – all survived
American Jews in World War II – Not listed

Stein, Leonard, Cpl., 35059185, Flight Engineer
United States Army Air Force, 15th Air Force, 460th Bomb Group, 762nd Bomb Squadron
Mr. Sam Stein (father), 791 East 105th St., Cleveland, Oh.
Born 1924
No MACR; B-24H 41-28805; No other information available
Mentioned in AFHRA Microfilm Roll BO 609, Frame 871
American Jews in World War II – Not listed

References

Bell, Dana (Illustrated by Don Greer, Betty Stadt and Dana Bell), Air Force Colors Volume 3: Pacific and Home Front, 1942-47, Squadron / Signal Publications, Carrollton, Tx., 1997

Chiche, F., Livre d’Or et de Sang – Les Juifs au Combat: Citations 1939-1945 de Bir-Hakeim au Rhin et Danube, Edition Brith Israel, Tunis, Tunisie, 1946

Dublin, Louis I., and Kohs, Samuel C., American Jews in World War II – The Story of 550,000 Fighters for Freedom – Compiled by the Bureau of War Records of the National Jewish Welfare Board, The Dial Press, New York, N.Y., 1947

Freeman, Roger A., Camouflage and Markings – United States Army Air Force, 1937-1945, Ducimus Books Limited, London, England, 1974 (“North American B-25 Mitchell U.S.A.A.F, 1941-1945”, pp. 217-240)

Maryanovskiy, M.F., Pivovarova, N.A., Sobol, I.S. (editors),Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume I [Surnames beginning with А (A), Б (B), В (V), Г (G), Д (D), Е (E), Ж (Zh), З (Z), И (I)], Union of Jewish War Invalids and Veterans, Moscow, Russia, 1994

Maryanovskiy, M.F., Pivovarova, N.A., Sobol, I.S. (editors), Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume V [Surnames beginning with А (A), Б (B), В (V), Г (G), Д (D), Е (E), Ж (Zh), З (Z), И (I), К (K)], Union of Jewish War Invalids and Veterans, Moscow, Russia, 1998


Maryanovskiy, M.F., Pivovarova, N.A., Sobol, I.S. (editors), Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume IX [Surnames beginning with all letters of the alphabet], Union of Jewish War Invalids and Veterans, Moscow, Russia, 2006

Meirtchak, Benjamin, Jewish Military Casualties in the Polish Armies in World War II: I – Jewish Soldiers and Officers of the Polish People’s Army Killed and Missing in Action 1943-1945, World Federation of Jewish Fighters Partisans and Camp Inmates: Association of Jewish War Veterans of the Polish Armies in Israel, Tel Aviv, Israel, 1994

Morris, Henry, Edited by Gerald Smith, We Will Remember Them – A Record of the Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown 1939 – 1945, Brassey’s, United Kingdom, London, 1989

References – No Author Listed

Au Service de la France (Edité à l’occasion du 10ème anniversaire de l’Union des Engagés Volontaires et Anciens Combattants Juifs 1939-1945), l’Union Des Engagés Volontaires Et Anciens Combattants Juifs, Paris (?), France, 1955

Canadian Jews in World War II
– Part II: Casualties, Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1948