Art Diamond, now 89, was in the 104th Infantry Division of the Seventh Corps of the 3rd Armored Division commanded by Gen. Maurice Rose in WW II.
The one and only time he saw Rose was in February, 1945 — but Diamond had no clue about his identity.
”We were responsible for clearing a roadblock on the road to Cologne, Germany, he says. It was very bad mined and zeroed in but the tanks had to get through. We were assigned the task of clearing the road.
”And there were casualties.
“Around 3 a.m., Army tanks began making their way across the road.”
The first tank passes, Diamond says. The second tank passes. The third tank passes.
”The fourth tank, an open half track, pulls over to the side. It was Gen. Rose.”
Rose hopped out of vehicle, went directly over to the wounded and shared words of encouragement in their darkest hour.
”I’d never seen a major general do anything like that,” Diamond says. ”I asked the driver, ’who in the world is that?'”
“The driver said, ‘Oh, that’s General Rose. He’s our guy. He’s always at the front. We call him our point man our spearhead man. Whenever the tanks are rolling, he’s up front.'”
There are many details of war that vanish inside a chaotic cyclone.
Yet Art Diamond never forgot the great general who stopped his jeep and comforted the wounded.
And if Diamond has anything to say about it, all of Denver will remember Maurice Rose.
The General Maurice Rose Memorial Gallery, which opened Dec. 4, 2012, at Rose Medical Center, pays homage to a fearless military strategist and leader who was ambushed and killed on March 30, 1945, near Paderborn, Germany.
He was 45.
The gallery honoring Denvers native son and namesake of the citys hospital for Jewish physicians is subdued, contemplative and rather modest considering his status in 20th-century military history.
Set in a quiet space at the far end of the hospitals main lobby, it celebrates the man described as WW IIs greatest forgotten commander. Today, only a few are aware of his stunning achievements.
Rose, who was born on erev Chanukah, 1899, spoke Yiddish and read Hebrew, was an inspiring Bar Mitzvah and had a facility for comprehending complicated Jewish texts.
He also wanted to be a soldier more than anything in the world.
He enlisted with the Colorado National Guard at age 15, hoping to join Gen. John Black Jack Pershings expedition to Mexico. His parents found out and dragged him home.
When America entered WW I on April 6, 1917, Rose reenlisted at Lowry and was accepted into officers training school. Sent overseas, he fought in the Vosges, Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns. By age 17, he was promoted to second lieutenant.
He was elevated to captain after the war and remained a captain for 16 years. Despite his proven record, his career stalled. No explanation was officially forthcoming, or necessary.
Rose understood perfectly. He was Jewish.
At some point Rose changed his religion from Hebrew to Protestant on his military records, presumably to advance to a higher rank. No documentation of conversion exists. Both his first and second wives were Christian.
In WW II, Rose acquired a reputation for leading his men from a forward position, as opposed to the back. He commanded Armored Divisions in North Africa, Sicily and the 3rd armored division in Europe. He was promoted to major general in August, 1944.
He is buried beneath a white cross in the Margratan Military Cemetery in the Netherlands.
For some Jews, Rose remains a highly controversial figure. But there is no hint of controversy in this peaceful sanctuary of praise and love.
Next to the portrait of the leather-jacketed, handsome general commissioned by artist Phil Levine is a poem written by Maurice’s father Rabbi (Rev.) Samuel Rose, a lay leader at the old Beth Joseph on 24th and Curtis Streets.
And so I make known to the world at large
That man can reach heights, accept the charge
To duty divine; ready to serve with hand and heart
In brotherhood dedicated to the healing art.
Shortly after Rose’s death, members of the proposed Jewish hospitals lay board and representatives of the Intermountain Jewish News and the Denver Post suggested the new hospital be named for General Rose.
In the memorial gallery, a who’s who of Jewish communal leaders pose solemnly for the camera: Max Grimes, David H. Stein, I.J. Shore, Joe Alpert, Phillip Miller, Lewis K. Sigman, Isidor Hilb, Lou Cohan, Ben M. Blumberg, J. L. Ambrose.
Missing are Joseph J. Amter, Henry C. Frankel, Hyman Friedman, Ira L. Quiat and Harry Rosenbaum. Maurice Shwayder, first chair of the board of trustees, has his own portrait.
Max Goldberg, former IJN publisher who was instrumental in fundraising and publicity for the hospital — including getting Eddie Cantor to headline the first gala fundraiser — smiles next to Cantor, Gen. Roses mother Katy and surviving son Arnold Rose in another photo.
Cantor’s appearance alone raised $95,000 for the hospital. Afterward, Goldberg attracted a royal influx of celebrities to Denver to endorse the campaign: Jack Benny, Steve Allen, Danny Kaye, Sophie Tucker, Errol Flynn, Jimmy Durante, Harry Belafonte and others.
People near and far gave what they could afford, including the soldiers of the 3rd Armored Division who donated $30,000 to commemorate their fallen leader.
The shovel Katy Rose used for the Aug. 31, 1948, groundbreaking of General Rose Memorial Hospital is on display, as is the simple corner stone.
The words of Gen. Eisenhower, who dedicated the hospital in memory of his colleague and good friend that day, leap from the white wall to extoll the significance of both man and institution:
”Here then, we have not only a building, not only a place where suffering will be relieved we have the perpetuation of a spirit that will endure longer than these walls and this glass and the equipment that will go into this hospital . . . because each of us is saying, I stand ready to do my part in [solving] those problems that are given to a citizen of the greatest, most powerful country upon the earth.”
An elderly patient literally bumps into the gallery and walks silently past the photographs, memorabilia and inscriptions. Then he stops in front of the large mural of entertainers who raised funds for Rose Hospital in the mid- to late 1940s.
’Jack Benny!’ he mutters under his breath. ’Wow!’
“We are using General Rose as a vehicle to make people aware of Jewish War Veterans Post 344 in Denver,” Art Diamond tells the IJN.
”Why? Because hes a very popular figure. When he died, he was the highest ranking officer killed in combat of all the American troops, and the highest ranking Jewish soldier in the US Army.”
On this bitterly cold day, Diamond is joined by Dr. Ervin Moss, 86, a Navy veteran of WW II; and Jim Barnard, 70, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era and is commander of JWV Post 344.
“Rose came through the ranks,” Barnard says. ”He was a silver mustang. He didn’t go to West Point or even to college. He rose from a private to a two star general.”
Diamond holds out a list of Roses accumulated decorations: Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with two oak leaf clusters, Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters; the French Legion of Honor, French Croix De Guerre.
Asked whether the soldiers in the field speculated that Rose was Jewish despite listing himself as a Protestant and having an Episcopal wife, a brief silence ensues.
“I believe he maintained his Jewish identity for a while,” Diamond says. ”My impression is that someone got to him and said, ‘you’re not going anywhere in the military because youre a Jew. Change the form to read Christian.’
“Listen, America was not kind to Jews trying to get ahead in the 1920s and 1930s. We had the Ku Klux Klan, all those people who hated us.”
After Rose changed the form to read Protestant, he was sent to army service schools. He began moving ahead, quickly. Then WW II started. He met Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley. Soon he was a commander of army divisions.
Barnard brings up Admiral Rickover, who was silenced the whole time he was at Annapolis because he was a Jew. The other cadets wouldnt speak to him.
Although Rickover converted to the Episcopal faith, Barnard maintains that Rickover’s only religion was Rickover.
Dr. Moss recalls his experiences as a Jewish doctor the 1950s in Schenectady, New York.
”The doctors would meet at the Mohawk Country Club for our dinners. In order to get malpractice insurance, you had to belong to the medical society. It was a gorgeous place, with wood paneling and moose heads protruding from the wall.
“When they served us a steak dinner, a man escorted me, four other Jews and one Italian out of the country club. You don’t belong here, he said.
“Not long after that, I was up for promotion as chief of the hospital,” Dr. Moss says. “I was the senior man and quite well known, but I didn’t get it. I went to the administrator and asked why I didn’t get the promotion. Why did they give it to someone who flunked his boards?
”He just looked at me and said, ’We never give the chief spot to Jews.’
“You have to know what it was like for us back then,” Moss says. ”Jews did not have equal rights.”
If Gen. Rose personally disowned his Judaism, which these gentlemen strongly contest, should it cast a pall over his symbolic contribution to the very existence of Rose Hospital?
Three voices answer as one.
Moss repeats that no records indicate that Rose officially converted to the Christian faith.
“I seriously doubt that Rose practiced much of anything,” Barnard adds. ”As he advanced in his career and went up the line, he was what we call a hard charger. That type of man had very little time for religion of any kind.
“His religion was the US Army and his armored divisions.”
Diamond says that Rose was known in the Army as a Jewish general. “It’s true there was a big controversy in the middle of the Rose Hospital campaign about the cross over his grave, which is still there.
“The organizers toned it down. They choose not to push it. The driving impetus was that Gen. Rose was a Jew and that Rose Hospital would be open to people of all creeds and color.
”My take?” Diamond offers. ”Rose had to change his records to get ahead in the Army. And nothing was more important to him. No matter how you look at it, General Rose was a Jew.”
Denver’s JWV Post 344 has about 50 members and at least 40 are over 80 years old. Attracting new members has proved particularly difficult because the age difference seems to alienate the younger veterans.
Still, age does not prevent the post from taking an active role in increasing its presence in the community or pursuing important projects.
For example, Moss has embarked on a one-man mission to retrieve the helmet that Gen. Rose was wearing the day he was killed in 1945 and return it to Denver.
Moss says that a soldier in the 3rd Army Division accidentally discovered the helmet in the basement of Denvers recently completed hospital.
Apparently, Roses helmet flew into the air as he fell to the ground in the massacre. The helmet has several bullet holes, but no bullets hit the generals head.
The soldier sent the helmet to the 3rd Army Museum at Fort Knox, Ky., where Patton has a museum. Moss called Fort Knox for information. A man said they were in the process of closing the museum and had forwarded the helmet to the infantry museum at Fort Benning, Ga.
Moss finally got in touch with the right person at Washington, DC’s Fort McNair, current home of the helmet, to see about transferring the artifact to Denver. Someone sent me an application, Moss says stoically. That’s where it stands now.
Post members say they were instrumental in establishing the General Maurice Rose Memorial Gallery.
Diamond, who informally queried staff and residents about the origin of the institutions name, was surprised that so many Denverites thought Rose Medical Center was named for a flower. They never heard of Gen. Rose.
The post, which meets regularly at Temple Sinai, is also in the process of interesting the History Colorado museum in establishing a Maurice Rose exhibit.
Diamond, Moss and Barnard are hopeful that Gen. Rose will shepherd them out of obscurity and into a forward position.
Our guys are 85 and 90 years old now, Diamond says of Post 344s band of brothers.
”The real problem we’re facing is that the community doesn’t even know we exist.
”We believe the story of Gen. Rose is entwined with our story.
”In life and in death, he’s still leading the troops.
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News