The story of Cyril Rosenblatt
Marty Rosenblatt his father was a veteran from world war two and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He
was a scout in L Company, 289th Regiment, 75th Infantry Division.
Because of my website about Grandmenil we found eachother many years ago.
“My father was a fair and honest man and he was a good parent to my sister and I growing up. He went through a lot of rough times. My mom passed away in 1963. He was raising us as a single parent until 1968 when he remarried.”
Cyril Rosenblatt was born on 24 August 1925 in the Bronx/ New York
He was the son of David Alex Rosenblatt and Mollie Armband, a Jewish family that migrated to the USA in the early 1900’s.
His father (Born 1890) came from Russia and migrated to the US in 1906
His mother (born 1893) came from Austria and migrated to the US in 1908.
We do not know the exact birthplace of both of them.
David and Molly married on 16 December 1910. For the family it remains a mystery till today how they met. David worked as a presser in a factory.
Marty: “My grandfather lived in Eastern Europe in or near Russia, I am not sure. My grandmother lived in Austria but how they met each has always been a family mystery. Grandfather came to NYC in 1910 and worked as a clothing tailor made business suits. He settled in the bronx in a neighborhood project owned by the Amalgamated Clothing Union. This organization built buildings and rented apartments for the workers. He was 22 years old when he immigrated to NYC. My Grandmother’s family were from austria but she was born in NYC. How they met in the USA or how they knew each other is a totally mystery! Only thing in common was the both were Tailors for clothing shops!”
Cyril grew up in Vyse Avenue in the Bronx, New York and had 3 older brothers and 3 older sisters.
He enlisted in the army on 24 January 1944 in New York.
His brothers Kalmen joined the army and Harold joined the Navy.
Arriving from Le Havre on 14 December, Cyril and his buddies were transported to Riksingen/ Belgium on 21 December 1944 . The whole unit had just arrived and never saw war before.
The Battle of the Bulge would become their Baptism of Fire.
Marty: “The officers made him a Scout as he and others were always up front. He said the reason was because he was Jewish and by then the world knew of the concentrations camps and killing jews. Why would they send a tall 6″2″ (over 1.80mtr) up front? It was hard to stay concealed!
Cyril wrote down two of his experiences:
“My outfit, Company L/ 289th Infantry/ 75th Infantry Division received orders to leave the little village of Riksingen, Belgium. We were packed in trucks with hardly enough room to move and we were off to the front. Nobody spoke, the air hanging with individual thoughts of what was in store for us.
We ended our trip at a small intersection called Durbuy, Belgium. It was a bout five in the morning of December 23rd 1944. Here we took up defensive positions along a small creek in a heavely wooded forest. In front of us was the enemy, likely to pounce on us at any moment.
An attack never came and at 09.00hrs we finally moved out on a forced uphill march to the village of Warre, Belgium. We were cold, tired and very hungry but there was no lagging behind, for none of us wanted to fall prey to snipers bullet. At Warre we rested for the entire day, a much welcome rest indeed.”
On 24 December his unit arrives in the area of Erezee and Fanzel. German troops had broken through the thinly held line of Baraque de Fraiture. They took Manhay and then turned towards Grandmenil.
Although they lost several tanks, they went on into the direction of Erezee with 8 Panther tanks, proceeded by a captured Sherman tank.
Cyril: On December 24th 1944, towards four in the morning we packed up again and were again off to the front lines. It was a raw cold morning and after marching a few miles we could make out flashes of shells bursting in the surrounding hills. Suddenly, from nowhere, shells started exploding all around us, throwing snow, dirt and the most deadly of all missiles to an infantryman, shrapnel, in all directions. I dropped in my tracks and started to inch my way to a ditch I saw a few yards distance. This I thought was our baptism of fire.”
For a long time it has been discussed if there was a Sherman Tank in the lead of the German column, used as a distraction and Judas Goat. The story of Cyril is one of the most authentic stories:
“An American Sherman tank came around the bend in the road and for a moment I was relieved. But to my dismay I saw him speed past, followed by a German King tiger tank. Another tank with its long nozzle reaching for the sky followed and then another. In all, this lone Sherman tank, the only survivor of a tank battle a few moments before, was trying to dodge eight German Tiger Tanks!
The Germans did not know they were in the middle of a company of American infantry and would never have found out if some GI had not opened fire with his M1 rifle. The tanks halted and from my position in the ditch I saw the tank turret slowly turning and it started, all eight tanks opened fire almost simultaneously which made it seem like the whole world was on fire. I crouched lower in the ditch only praying that the turret would not open in the tank closest to me, for if it did nd the Germans could use their machine guns mounted on the tanks, we would all be slaughtered. Our bazooka men were hit before we could even try to jockey them into position for firing and in the darkness we could not locate the bazookas. If we stood up to fire at the Germans handling the machine guns we would not have lasted a second, so I crouched there in the ditch. All we could do is pray and Brother I prayed more than I ever did in my whole life.
My prayers were answered for as suddenly as we were attacked, the tanks decided to leave. Why I’ll never know. The casualties were heavy and we regrouped awaiting further orders.”
So, in Cyrils mind, the Sherman tank was on the run for eight King Tigers. In fact it were eight Panther tanks, led by Alfred Hargesheimer.
“We set up positions on a slope overlooking the town of Grandmenil which was still in German hands. This sector was heavily wooded about a mile from the town. It was snowing very hard now and we could expect no help from the air corps to take the town directly in front of us. Before we could dig two feet of a six foot foxhole we received orders to attack Grandmenil at 15.00 hrs. As first scout in the first platoon I was ordered to scout the area west of the town and make my report to the Commanding Officer of any German units threat and their strength.
I left my outfit with my heart pounding furiously, my second scout was hundred yards behind me. The snow was deep and it was a hard task running and crouching for cover because with every step I had to lift my feet almost up to my chest. I approached the edge of the woods safely, crawling the last two hundred yards on my stomach. There wasn’t a soul in sight.
It started to snow again. Thick large flakes dropping from the heavens curtailed my vision. I looked ahead and saw the clearing about three hundred yards long which attached itself to another wooded area. My second scout crawled up alongside of me and we decided that while he waited at the position we were in, I would go through the clearing and about five hundred yards into the wooded area and the return to his position.
I squinted and tried to see if I could make out any movement at the edge of the wooded area across the field. Turning my eyes from the woods I suddenly noticed that the field I was to cross had footprints all over them! It seemed to me at this particular time that footprints should have some sort of identification on them. Why when the Almighty made man didn’t he distinguish footprints of Nationalities. That was what was running through my mind at that time. Were they American footprints or German footprints? My second scout didn’t know and I didn’t know but it was up to me to find out.
How was I to get across that field and still remain alive? Would there be one hundred rifles and an assortment of burp guns aimed and cocked for target practice. I reached for my dog tags around my neck just to make sure that if I went at least they would know who I was, if that was any consolation. I erased the thought of turning back from my mind as this would be in direct disobedience of orders. I had gone far enough, but my orders were to find some trace of the enemy and now that I did could I turn back?
Impossible, I thought, as I shuddered from the wind and the snow. My second scout seemed as uneasy as I was and I figured that in taking time for a smoke I would break the tension for a while.
Sitting there in the snow of a Belgium forest I could only think of my childhood days when the snow and the woods (Of Bronx Park) enticed me from attending school once in a while. If I ever got out of this mess I pondered, snow to me would only memories of a Belgium forest. I was back to the present in an instant when I suddenly heard voices! I dived for cover and looking in the direction the voices were coming from.
I was slated with joy and I jumped up, waving my arms and yelling at the top of my voice. What a break, I thought. Those guys could give me the details of what the sector holds and my second scout and I could be on our way in a few moments. They spotted me also and they started waving back and yelling at the same time. I moved out int the field and began to strudge through the snow. With the excitement over, I felt my body quivering from the exertion of the past few days. I didn’t because of all the tenseness, realize how really exhausted I was and slowly, I trudged my way to the men who were still waving at me. They were talking loudly but because of the shift in the wind, I could not make out what they were saying. As I approached them, I knew something was wrong: there was a look of stark horror written all over their faces.
I was stunned. Maybe they weren’t Americans’ after all, but Germans dressed up as American soldiers. I had heard that the Germans were doing that during this push and I started to back away. As I backed off, the leader of the soldiers walked up to me and said: “Pal, you just done something that will live with all of us the rest of our lives.” I smiled and wondered what he meant but I didn’t matter. Where they not American soldiers? How much more happier can one be to know that he was safe and sound after going through such an ordeal? The tall fellow with the beard kept talking. “Didn’t you hear what we were yelling about?”
He exclaimed loudly, “Didn’t you see us waving back frantically?”
I shook my head and he answered:
“Son, that field you just crossed is completely covered from stern to stern with anti-Personal mines and Anti-tank mines laid down by us an hour ago. We’re engineers!
I remembered rolling my eyes and then I collapsed.”
According to the After Action Report, Cyril was Wounded In Action on 8 January 1945.
Looking at the papers, it is most likely he was WIA in the area of Forge A La Plez.
The Medical Diagnosis on his hospitalization card mentions a cold injury of the foot. According to Marty his father was threated for a severe trench foot in Paris. Marty:
“When my father got home from the army he did odd jobs getting back to life. I know he worked in a laundry business and he was a presser running the machines. In the late 1950’s he joined the NYPD and was assigned to a police precinct not that far away from were we lived. He did many different assignments ranging from Traffic to walking the beat policing in that area. Things were getting bad in the Bronx. He hurt his back and then he was assigned to roll call in the basement of the station. Seemed his back pain got worse sitting all day long and he retired after working 23 years. He tired to work again with Brinks armored car and also security at kennedy airport for EL AL airlines. Finally Retired for good after that.”
Marty spoke many times wit his dad about the war. Most veterans did not want to talk about it, when they went home. Cyril was an exception.
Working together with other unexperienced men was also a risk:
Marty: “He and another soldier went to some town on recon mission. My dad told the guy there is a sniper in on the roof. Dont go around the corner yet! The man didnt listen and he peeked around corner and was shot and killed!!! He swore up and down thats the Nazi’s used Mustard gas somewhere. He and a few guys had some symptoms but it was never reported.
He told me the story of how his units liberated a concentration camp but he never said where or which one, only the people there were just skin and bones!
And he had told me he saw american soldiers taking things from towns as the moved and hiding the goods in trees and buried in the ground for retreival after the war ended. He said if he visited those places he would know exactly were items were hidden. Never mentionend and division, Company or who the soldiers were!”
There was question that remained for me. Did Marty think the war had a impact on him in later life.
Marty: “I remember my father sitting in his living chair watching the TV show series ‘Combat!’ and he sat there biting his fingernails and shaking his leg nervously!! I asked him a few times how many enemy soldiers did he kill and he would always give me that thousand yard stare and say “a lot!”.
He would say they wanted to kill me and then ‘They aint gonna kill me! Better them then Me!’. He always mumbled ‘Lousy Krauts’!”.
Cyril passed away on 18 January 1998.
May we never forget his sacrifices.
Many thanks to Marty Rosenblatt!