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November 08, 2002 - Image 105

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

CHAMPION

from page 70

with the two wounded Marines.
During those 13 hours, Ross fired 350
rounds from his rifle and threw 22
grenades (out of 23 — he was saving the
last. ohe for himself and his buddies).
Although he later returned to com-
bat, Ross never fully recovered from
that night. His wounds, the terror of
that night, malaria and the "extra"
medication provided by sympathetic
corpsmen all took their toll.
While on Guadalcanal, Ross became
friends with Fr. Gehring, who helped
Ross through the trying days after his
ordeal. The two made an interesting
couple, the Catholic priest and his
Jewish "altar boy."
On Christmas Eve 1942, services
were to be held in the new chapel
tent, the old one having been leveled
by Japanese artillery. With his fellow
battle-hardened Marines in atten-
dance, Barney "played" a major role.

Altar Boy

The New York Times obituary for Father
Gehring, who died in 1998, says:
"Finding someone to play Fr.
Gehring's little pump organ might not
have been a miracle, but some sort of
chuckling divine intervention does seem
to be the most logical explanation for the
fact that the only man on Guadalcanal
who knew how to play the organ was
Barney Ross, a decorated war hero [he
was awarded the Silver Star for his
actions Nov. 18-20], who surely could
not have just happened to be Jewish.
"Painstakingly learning the carols
and hymns note by note, Ross oblig-
ingly pumped out Silent Night and the
rest of the Christian canon. And as Fr.
Gehring, who accompanied him on
the violin, later recalled, when they
got to the post-service finale, My
Yiddishe Mama (Ross sang it in both
Yiddish and English), there wasn't a.
dry eye in the house."
Ross was honorably discharged with
the rank of sergeant in April 1944
("upon report of medical survey for
disability"). Physically, he was a wreck.
As usual, he had given more than his
all. Later, he even tried his hand at
gun-running and recruiting volunteers
for the new State of Israel.
But when it came to guts and
moxie, he still held all of the titles. He
spent most of his last days in a
Veteran's Administration hospital, still
showing the courage that made him a
champ in the eyes of boxing fans, and
a champ in the eyes of those who
admire the ability to be a mentsch.0

Saul Glosser and Thomas Tannis, both of Southfield, have been close friends or more than 50 years through the JWV.

Into The Fr

Two Jewish War Veterans members recall their wartime ex eriences.

PHOTOS and TEXT BY JOSHUA KRISTAL
Special to the Jewish News

Thomas Tannis

The Jewish War Veterans of the United
States of America, the oldest chartered
veterans organization in the country,
was fbunded in 1896 to fight anti-
Semitism and make sure Jewish men
who fought in the Civil War were recog-
nized for their service.
Its current mission, aside from still fight
ing anti-Semitism, is to assist veterans in
getting the benefits they deserve and to visit
and bring comfort to hospitalized veterans.
In Michigan, the JWV includes about
1,000 members, with most veterans
having served in World War II.
The experiences of these veterans are dis-
appearing rapidly. The following mini-pro-
files offer two of heir stories, but we should
remember them all this Veteran' Day.

here's no way to tell from
looking at Thomas Tannis, 85,
of Southfield that he was a
prisoner of war during The Big One
He looks like a kindly neighbor or
even a beloved zayde (grandfather).
If you sit down across from the
unassuming Tannis and listen, he's
got a heroic story to tell.
Like many members of the Jewish
War Veterans' local Bloch-Rose Post
420, Tannis is among the dwindling
number of surviving veterans of
World War II.
After immigrating from Ratzk,
Poland, in 1923, Tannis settled into
Spring Valley, Ill. The town had about
12 Jewish families, including a small
cheder teacher and a shochet (kosher
butcher). Tannis lived there until he
was drafted into the U.S. Army,
assigned to H Company, 28th
Infantry, A Division. After sufficient military training and
learning to handle a 30-caliber water-cooled machine gun,
he was shipped off to France to join the American forces
in their battle against the Nazis.
At first, it looked as if his military tour would be short,
for his company moved so quickly that he rarely had the
chance to mount his gun. On Dec. 9, 1944, Tannis' luck
changed. Stationed with about 20 other men at the bot-
TANNIS on page 74

T

s

aul Glasser of Southfield
played a role in one of the
most decisive military actions
in the history of the world.
Glosser served as a switchboard
operator in the 509th Composite
group of the Army Air Corps' 393rd
Bombardment Squadron.
Ring a bell?
Well, it has to do with the famous
military figure Brig. Gen. Paul
Tibbets.
Still not registering?
Here's the story:
Glasser, cornmander and longtime
member of the Jewish War Veterans'
local Bloch-Rose Post 420, manned
the telephone systems in the same
Army Air Corps compound that
launched the plane, the Enola Gay,
upon ts
its nfamous
i
bombing cam-
paign into Japan. Loaded with the
world's first atomic bomb, the blast killed hundreds of
thousands of people and helped end World War II.
Drafted in 1943 at age 22, Glosser received a special
training reserved for recruits with high intelligence.
After thorough background checks from the FBI,
including a visit to question his mother on 12th Street
in Detroit, Glosser was assigned to the special Army Air
Corps' 509th Composite Group.
GLossER on page 74

11/8
2002

73

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