Abe Stein, Veteran of Pearl Harbor and the Allied Invasion
e-Toile: Mr. Stein, 73 years ago, you took the decision to participate in the World War II. Why did you decide to enrol in the US army?
- Abe Stein: In the thirties, I was living in Wilkes Barre, Penn., but my sister and my brother-in-law where living in West Palm Beach, Florida.
When they asked me if I would like to come with them, I packed before they even said Florida!
Everybody up North dreamed about Florida, even if it was back then a very different state, one of the least populated at the time.
Money and jobs were very scarce in those days and I had no means to go to College.
I got a job in a fruit and a vegetable market but with a war going on in Europe and Hitler taking over country after country, I decided to join the US Army in November 1940, rather than waiting to be drafted.
In Miami, I told the Sergeant that I was interested in Medicine. He asked me where I would like to go and I pointed on the map: Hawaii. It was on Nov. 2, 1940.
I was assigned to the Army Medical Department.
e-Toile: You were at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and also on Omaha Beach on June 8, 1944, two major events shifting our world. During these key periods, what has struck you the most?
- Abe Stein: In January 1941, I was shipped out on a old troop ship to Honolulu. I still remember my seasickness…
I was assigned to the US Army’s Schofield Barracks on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Back there, I had 11 months of peace.
On Sundays, we would go to the Navy Base in Pearl Harbor, have lunch and play baseball.
This went on for 11 months until one morning of Dec. 1941: the seventh.
That day, the Japanese took at least 2,400 American lives.
The attack was a big shock: after China and other countries around, they attacked the U.S by destroying our ships. I still remember the sounds of this terrible day, it still haunts my memory.
Having survived Pearl Harbor, in June 1943, I was sent in New York. Some time later, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean along with 25 000 comrades!
We arrived at Southampton in England where they were preparing actively the D-day. We were working on a 24 hours basis. I was so tired that when we crossed the Channel, I was sleeping. I do not remember the crossing at all!
D-Day was June 6, 1944, I landed 2 days after in Normandy of course.
We helped local cities and hospitals; we distributed flax oil and medical supplies. What I remember the most is the reaction of the people. French people were so happy to see us!
e-Toile: On December 19, 2012, along with other comrades you are going to be awarded the French Legion of Honor. For someone like you who been honored by his own country, what does that mean to be recognized by a foreign country?
- Abe Stein: It is such an honor to be recognized by France. My son who lives in Tampa will certainly be there!
Mr. Abe Stein is going to receive the Legion of Honor Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 at Bal Harbour, 9540 Collins Avenue, Surfside, Florida 33154 along with 13 other comrades.
Mr. Stein is a frequent speaker of his military experiences.
Article published Dec. 13, 2012.