Gun's don't kill people. People with guns kill people.


"No body could have done a better job than Obama, with the economy he was handed —including me!" —Bill Clinton—

Monday, January 21, 2008

Local Boy Helps Save The World

After writing about "carebear" I was still thinking about what makes America Great, and it occurred to me that its Americans themselves. I am not talking about famous people, or great leaders, but the everyday guy that happens to leave his home and family and risks his life to help save the world. America is actually full of these heros, but, I was privileged to personally have known one of them.

I considered him to be a hero, though I am certain he never thought of himself in those terms. In fact, I know he didn't. He was part of the" Greatest Generation" of young American men and women who were willing to die to preserve freedom in the world. At the time I am sure he was not aware that, that was what he was doing, but, its exactly what he did along with hundreds of thousands of other young Americans.

The army knew him as a serial number and as: Goldstein, Jerome B. but, his buddies, I am sure, probably called him, "Goldie". My two boys, Josh and Jeremy and their first cousin, Michelle called him "Papa". I knew him as Jerome B. Gale, or Jerry. He was my father-in-law. I liked him from the beginning and that fondness grew over the years into the respect and admiration of a son for a beloved father. He had changed his name after the war because of the prejudice against Jews at that time. That must have been a painful and bitter irony for him. He was deeply religious and spent most Saturdays in his room with his Torah praying. He usually had a "stogie", clinched in the corner of his mouth and loved to fish and tell whoopers which he would spin until you caught on that he was seeing how far he could string you along. He was a gregarious man and always made even strangers beam when he showered them with attention, and called them by name even after a brief encounter weeks later.

Memorial Day was a high holy day for him. He complained when he would see people shopping or going about their everyday business on that day. He knew what the day really meant. It was sacred in his view. I could see a transformation in him every year around that time. His usual jovial, outgoing nature became introspective and contemplative. He would dress in coat and tie instead of his usual one-piece jump suit and leave for services at a local veterans cemetery. He'd spend the entire day there by himself visiting graves and listening to the ceremonies, and I am sure praying.

I have always been deeply curious about WWII ever since I read the Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis as a young boy. I knew Jerry had served in that area at about that time period and tried to open up conversations with him several times. It was like pulling teeth to get him to talk about it. It seemed to embarrass him. I think it must have been a part of his life he'd just as soon forget. I knew he had been in the Pacific Theater and fought during the Solomon Islands campaign, which is a string of islands due east of Papua New Guinea and includes Guadalcanal, and that he had been severely wounded, and that he had won two medals. I had a suspicion that the story he told about being wounded while he was on a PT boat, by a shell from a Japanese plane, was not a real account, not because he wanted to embellish the event, but, because the real experience was too painful to be recalled or dealt with.

He opened up once when I gave him several drinks, and he recalled a small glimpse of the hell he and his buddies had endured. His deep baritone voice lowered to almost a rattling growl when he referred to the Japanese as "those dirty rotten sons a bitches." Shaking his head almost in disbelief that he had slept in water filled holes full of slime and mud for weeks on end, and how he had defecated from dysentery in his one piece uniform, because it was too hard to get off without exposing himself to enemy fire. And then was forced to wear it for weeks on end because supplies were limited. He contracted malaria there which flared up from time to time during his lifetime. And was hit in the knee by shrapnel, which left his leg fused like a stump. He moved with a severe limp that forced him to swing his leg in an arc in order to walk. He described how the night was pitch black and full of sounds, and how the Japanese would infiltrate their lines and kill men in his company with knives and grenades. He told me about several men who bled to death when wounded at night rather than cry out and give away their position.

He recalled being in a full body cast, lying in the hold of a hospital ship, and the absolute terror he felt when he was sent home. He was deep inside the ship and knew no one would have time to get him topside if they were torpedoed.

After he died, we found a weathered news paper article about how he and two of his buddies charged three machine gun nests with hand grenades, that were holding down his company. They wiped them out. He won the Silver Star for it. And, a Purple Heart for the leg wound. The article said he was wounded on August 1, 1943. that was the same day John F. Kennedy 's PT boat was sunk in the same area of battle.

I am still digging, trying to find out more about the history of that battle and Jerry's part in it. I just read a book called "Into The Shadows Furious" by Brian Altobello. It recounts in gory detail the battle of New Georgia, which is 180 miles north of Guadalcanal. I found out the objective of the battle was to capture an airfield the Japanese had built there called Munda Field. The author said by the time it was captured, August 5th, three days after Jerry was wounded, it had been bombed so completely that it was of little use, but, it marked a turning point and signaled a rapid decline of Japanese superiority in that region which had threatened Australia up until that time.

I miss you Jerry, and I know for sure that the world, you helped save, is a better place for you having been in it.

Do you know an American hero from WWII?
Please get them to share their story with you, record it and then share it with others through:

The Veterans History Project at:

And If you know a current American hero thank him or her for their service
wether you're for or against the Iraq conflict.
And thank them for me too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nobody can replace this man! He was the best in every aspects of his life. Jerry had a love and zest for life that could not be touched and a heart of gold. He taught me to put the "Yourself," into every thing you do. He touched so many lives that he came in contact with. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of him and what he meant to me. I miss you, Papa! You are one unique and incredible individual. Your grandson, Joshua