Jerry Goldstein

By Ethan Bauer

Jerry Goldstein is a close friend of my grandmother’s. I have known Jerry for most of my life and he feels like my Grandfather. Jerry never enjoyed describing his experiences during World War Two due to the horrific memories, but for his favorite almost-Grandson, Jerry agreed to participate in an interview, for which I am grateful.
Before the War
Born in 1921, Jerry Goldstein lived most of his life in Cleveland, Ohio. After his schooling, Jerry was married in Cleveland at twenty years old. A lover of baseball, he played catcher for the Meridian Browns, a minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Browns major league club. Like Ted Williams, another baseball great, the United States’ entrance to World War Two interrupted Jerry’s baseball career. A year or so after Congress chose to renew the military draft in 1941, Jerry signed up at his local recruitment center “knowing I’d be drafted anyway”. Almost all of his friends joined the military for the war; they were the ideal combat age in the opinion of the government.
Upon Signing Up
Jerry was immediately sent to “Camp Forest” in Tullahoma, Tennessee for his training. He was assigned to the 81st Army but did not stay in the infantry for long. Up until 1944 married men had not been allowed to join the Air Force due to the high casualty rate, but one day, Jerry saw a poster in the camp lounge recruiting married men to join the Air Force. Jerry was drawn to the Air Force because fighting in the air is “different” from fighting on the ground. “You didn’t have to look someone in the eyes [while you were fighting them]”. Jerry applied for the Air Force, took some tests in Nashville, Tennessee and soon after was transferred to the 9th Air Force, 386th Group, 584th Bomb Squadron as a navigator.
After completing his navigator training, which Jerry described as “not very hard”, he was sent to a replacement depot in Stone, England, in the spring of 1944. Jerry flew few missions from England, but remembered seeing “the flares shoot up, and then we would be off”. The navigators were briefed for the missions in a different location from the pilots and co-pilots of the B-26 Marauders. These planes held over 5,000 pounds of bombs and had a medium bombing range.
On June 6, 1944, American General Dwight Eisenhower’s Operation Overlord finally commenced as D-Day. Allied Forces massed on the English Channel and stormed the German occupied French beaches of Normandy. Jerry flew in two missions on D-Day, bombing German forces on the beaches. Jerry described the invasion as seen from overhead, “I never saw so many ships in my life; you could almost walk across the English Channel”. Over 7000 allied ships were utilized during the invasion, with over 133,000 troops (Eisenhower Library). Bombers such as Jerry were used to take down German tank and bombardment strongholds.

European Combat
Several months after D-Day, Jerry was transferred to the French city of Cambrai. Unlike many airfields during the war, the Cambrai airfield was built by the Germans with a full paved runway and taxi area. A paved runway was a relative “luxury” in Jerry’s opinion. Coincidently, Jerry’s division had wiped out half of Cambrai with bombs while it was occupied by Germany. At a meeting for all personnel, Jerry was told not to reveal that fact to the French citizens of Cambrai. According to Jerry, “they never found out”. During his time in Cambrai, Jerry and the other officers stayed in an old chateau. The rest of the men slept out in tents. Jerry shared his room with fourteen other men, and called it the “bullpen”. Jerry remembers playing a couple of pick up baseball games in Cambrai, but much of the time was dedicated to combat.

The 9th Air Force shelled directly over the bomb line, or just into enemy territory beyond the front line of the infantry. According to Jerry, a majority of his missions were called back due to the rapid advancement of the land troops. Jerry estimates that he would only carry through with one out of six of his missions. Among other major offensives, Jerry participated in the Battle of the Bulge, a terrible December battle which lasted weeks in harsh conditions.

Flirt with Death
During one of Jerry’s missions, he was shot down by German anti aircraft fire. Jerry and his pilot parachuted out of the plane safely and were rescued by members of the French resistance. While Jerry did not fully elaborate on his near visit with death, a fellow U.S. Air Force bomber reflected on being shot down in an interview with the Sarasota Herald Tribune, “You'd sit there and start saying, 'Our Father, who art in Heaven ...”, in other words, begin to pray for life. Jerry and his pilot hid in a home of the French Resistance as they had fallen behind enemy lines. After several weeks of hiding out, Jerry recalls seeing “a long line of German tanks and troops” march down the road right by the house. Several days later the Americans arrived in a similar line of troops. Jerry had a “hell of a time” trying to convince the army that he and the pilot were Americans, but eventually everything was settled. Jerry later received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery in combat.Distinguished Flying Cross.
War Winds Down
In 1945, as Allied forces crossed the Rhine and advanced into Belgium and Germany, Jerry was relocated to a base in the city of Venlow in Holland. Venlow had been the site of a large battle between the Allies and the Germans, but Jerry did not bomb out this city as he did Cambrai; “someone else did that for us this time”. Jerry did not stay in Venlow long because as it became increasingly apparent that the Allies were going to win the war in Europe, some armies began to be recalled. Jerry and his group were brought back to Santa Ana, California in early spring of 1945 where he was dismissed from the service. Jerry “got out as quickly as [he] could” and took a train back to Cleveland to try to resume his life.
Jerry, like many veterans, looks back on his time in World War Two as a period of his life when everyday was a fight for survival. Jerry was does not consider his acts to be heroic, only another part of daily war. Following the war, Jerry completely disconnected himself from the military, never even considering keeping in touch with those he met and fought with. That part of his life was finished and is hard even now to resurrect it by even answering questions.
Jerry was a war hero but Jerry does not agree with war. I have learned through Jerry’s experiences and insight that no matter how romantic war can look to an outsider, war is a terrible thing and is not the answer to our world’s conflicts. President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower famously lamented, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” Despite the common sentiments against war, it is important to remember our history in war because we can learn from our past and hope to improve in the future.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. "World War Two: D Day and the Invasion of Normandy." Dwight D Eisenhower Presidential Library. National Archives and Records Administration. 2 Jan 2007 <>.

Goldstein, Jerry. Telephone interview. 18 Dec. 2006.

"Warbirds on tour; Worl War II bombers spark veterans' memories.(A SECTION)." Sarasota Herald Tribune (Jan 29, 2005): A1. Business and Company ASAO. Thomson Gale. Needham High School. 2 Jan. 2007. <>.

"Flying Fortresses." The Air and Sea War. Ed. Tim Cooke and Sarah Halliwell. New Grolier Encyclopedia of World War Two. Danbury, Connecticut: Marshall Cavendish, 1995. 68-82.

"Martin B-26 Marauder." Warbird Alley. 2006. 2 Jan. 2007 <>.

"Normandy 1944." Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2007. 12 Dec. 2006 <>.

B26s Bomb on D-Day. U.S. Office of War Information. Enclopaedia Britannica. 2007. 22 Jan. 2007 <>.

D Day Omaha Beach Landing. Photograph. 1944. 2007. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 21Jan. 2007 <>.

Distinguished Flying Cross. Photograph. Distinguished Flying Cross Society. 2005. 17 Jan. 2007 <>.

Physical Map of Europe. Map. Ed. Photius Coutsoukis. 1999. 26 Jan. 2007 <>.