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David "Rose" Rosenkrantz: War Letters

  • Members of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment patrol Sicily after capturing the island from Germany in early July, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)
    Members of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment patrol Sicily after capturing the island from Germany in early July, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)
  • The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Holland during Operation Market Garden, September 1944. (U.S. Army photo)
    The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Holland during Operation Market Garden, September 1944. (U.S. Army photo)
  • S/Sgt David Rosenkrantz standing top left with his company in England in 1944. (Courtesy photo)
    S/Sgt David Rosenkrantz standing top left with his company in England in 1944. (Courtesy photo)

Bio:

Born: Los Angeles, California, 1916 MIA: Holland, September 28, 1944

David Rosenkrantz was one of the early members of the 504 PIR. After training at Ft. Benning and Ft. Bragg, the group saw its first action during the invasion of Sicily. The 3rd Battalion was in the first wave to drop into the heavily defended island. David apparently landed in a remote area and, along with a Corporal Lee Black of Tennessee, captured 200 Italian soldiers.

After recovering from wounds received in Sicily, David rejoined the regiment in time for the invasion of Italy. Troopers from H Company, with a group of Rangers, made the initial landing on 9 September on the Italian coast at Maiori. They quickly advanced inland to seize the Chiunzi Pass and a vital railroad tunnel. They continued on until they captured Naples.

At Anzio, the 3rd Battalion was committed with the British First (Guards) Division in the heaviest fighting. By the time they were relieved, the paratrooper companies were reduced in strength to between 20 and 30 men. For its outstanding performance from 8 to 12 February 1944, the battalion was presented one of the first Presidential Unit Citations awarded in the European Theater of Operations. Conditions were brutal, but the 504 was stellar, and at Anzio received a nickname from the Germans — "The Devils in Baggy Pants."

Because the 504 was in England recuperating from heavy battle losses in Italy, they missed the Normandy invasion. They left England in September 1944 to participate in "Operation Market Garden" in Holland. The 82nd was assigned to capture the bridges at the towns of Grave and Nijmegen. David was killed during a deadly counter attack by an SS Panzer Division during the night of September 28th. His body was never recovered.

Fort Bragg, December 1942

Well, I have had my fling of being an actor before a camera. The army took some pictures of our blitz course to make a training bulletin. I happened to be in the right place at the start so they took pictures of me going all the way through the course. I would walk along with a loaded rifle and when I came to a target I would fire as fast as I could from a kneeling position. They would place the camera behind the target, then I would use blanks. One of the targets was supposed to be a sniper up in a tree. There was a rifle tied there that was fired by a string, but to make it more interesting for the film an officer and cameraman got up in the tree and put a tracer bullet a couple of feet over my head and I shot back with a blank. It should look pretty good.

At onetime I had to go over some barbed wire and as soon as I got over a shot would go off on my left and a target spring up. This took more retakes than any other and one time I got caught by the wire and fell down. I cut my leg a little and just missed one of the steel stakes, which hold the wire down. The stake is pointed and sticks up about four inches. It is pretty mean. I hope to see the picture when it is finished in a couple of months. They also took pictures of a group of us with machine gun tracers passing about four feet over our heads. We hit the dirt, then one of the men throws a dummy grinade, and dynamite is set off. It should look pretty good too.

We were supposed to jump yesterday, but it was foggy. We'll jump tomorrow if it isn't foggy or too windy. Either way it'll be plenty cold.

Well, I guess I'll close. Tell Bonnie & Donnie hello. Be careful.

Dave

P.S. Can you get a hold of a couple more gum jackets? The fellows get quite a kick out of them.


Fort Bragg, March 17, 1943

Dear Jule.

Life goes on as usual around here. We keep training, and although it gets monotonous sometimes, we always learn something new.

I can't remember if I told you about one of our companies making a jump in Florida, anyhow they had a sham battle against American Rangers, and beat them all to hell, so I guess the rangers aren't as hot as they're supposed to be. Last week our battalion made a mass jump. Over 500 men on the ground in less than a minute. It really was a beautiful sight. It was the first time I got air-sick; it's really a terrible feeling. And I had my chute harness adjusted wrong so that I nearly choked on the way down, and my helmet was down over my eyes so that I could only see my feet. It was by far my worst jump.

We are supposed to make a jump Sat in S.C. about 100 miles from here. It will be a regiment jumping and capturing an airport. The men will jump on three different rides at once and each company will have its own objective. Ours will be an ordnance plant near the airport. We are to land on a beach so the landing should be plenty soft in the sand.

We have been experimenting jumping with our equipment on us instead of in equipment chutes so that we can fight within a few min. after we land instead of running all over the place trying to find stuff that the enemy might be covering with fire. We would carry only enough to hold us till equipment chutes could be dropped right next to us, with extra ammo and guns and rations.

We intend to do a lot better than the men who dropped in Africa. We know that they didn't do so hot. They jumped all right so far from their objective that ground forces took it first or it surrendered with only little fighting. They were plenty lucky then, I don't know how they're doing now.

Before I forget, I'll brag a little bit. The non-coms in our co. were the first ones to jump with equipment in the paratroopers in the U.S. Now our regiment and others have adapted it as standard procedure. Our jump Sat (if it comes off) will be the first regimental jump, and the jump in Florida was the longest ever made in the U.S. The longest was the one in Africa. The boys brought a mascot back from Florida, a small wild pig. Maybe someday you'll see a picture of it in a magazine.

I've been saying we are going to leave soon for the past 3 mo. Well. The officers have orders to be all packed and ready to move at a minute's notice after Apr. 1. So I guess we will go along with them. Will probably get the same order in about a week. Africa, here we come. We are almost positive that's where we'll go. No japs for us.

I did get a letter from Lonnie but as usual he didn't say much. You have told me most of what I know happened to him. Maybe he'll open up in his next letter. I hope so.

I guess I've covered just about all that's new and of interest. The papers might mention something of our last jump. We hope they do. We're publicity hounds.

When you answer notice the new way to write my address. Regulations, you know.

Take it easy and answer soon. Let me know what's going on in Sunny Calif. Wish I was there.

Good luck Dave

P.S. Say hello to the family for me.


Fort Bragg, April 18, 1943

Dear Folks,

This is the last letter I'll be writing from Fort Bragg. It won't leave here until after I do which won't be later than Tues. so that when this letter finally reaches you I will be on my way to some port of embarkation, on the east coast here somewhere. You understand that the reason the letter is held is so that no information will leak out to the wrong people.

I don't know how long we'll stay in the port of embarkation, but while we're there we'll have inspections of all kind and check ups, and when we leave we'll have everything we need to fight except ammunition and that won't be very far away.

I got a letter from Goldie & Mare today and a few days ago I got letters from Ben, Julie & Jack but I haven't answered any of them because the mail isn't going out, so you let them know why I haven't written. You will get cards with my new address as soon as we leave so you will probably know what it is as soon as I do,

I lost a carbine somewhere so that I might have to pay for it. They cost around 60 bucks so don't like the idea much. My Lieut. said he would pay for it but don't want him to. It really wasn't my fault for losing the thing but don't want anyone to pay the bills for me, especially when he didn't have anything to do with losing it.

I have bought a lot of V-mail so that it will get home quicker after I get across. You ought to do the same thing because you have lots of letters to send out too.

I'm glad to see that Jack got into the air corps. He will probably work into a nice soft job like I ought to have but haven't

Gee why, I forgot to mention it but now I got my other stripe. It's sergeant now. It took a long time but finally got here. It's better late than never.

You should see us when we leave here. We will be dressed just like rookies. We will have to cover up the insignia on our arms and take the patches off our caps so that when we leave no one will know we're special troops. Last Tues. nite when I was coming back from Florida I saw guards along the railroad tracks for over a hundred miles so you can see we are getting quite a lot of protection when we leave here. No one from the airborne section of the camp has been allowed to go to town and tell any secrets about when or where we're going, which we don't know ourselves.

I wish you could se me all ready to fight. I have my Tommy gun and a carbine and a machete. The machete is a heavy knife about a foot and a half long that I will use to clean brush out of the way so that I can fire my mortar, and it can be used for other things too. I also have a jump knife with a blade that jumps out when you press a button and the knife is kept in a secret pocket on the jump suit. We will also have a trench knife. It is a wicked weapon and can do a lot of damage. I can either use the blade or the knuckles and they're all bad. That's enough stuff for anyone to fight with, so you see we're a pretty rough outfit. Besides that our Co. carries other weapons like a rocket launcher that shoots rockets at tanks and which cause a lot of damage and we also have rifles that shoot grenades which are also plenty wicked. We also carry twice as many machine guns as any other outfit.

Don't think we use all the guns at once though. Being parachutist means that we might fight anywhere or anytime so that one time we might use only one kind of gun or another times some other kind. In any case we are prepared for anything and afraid of nothing. Maybe one of these days you'll get a letter from me from Berlin or Tokyo and I hope it isn't too long away but I'm afraid it is.

There, now I've given you a lot of military information that you didn't know before but I want you to be sure that we will be able to take care of ourselves when the time comes which I don't expect to be for a couple of months yet.

So I will close with love to ma and pa and the rest of you. Don't think about my future too much because this baby is taking no chances if he can help it. By the way, how do you like my picture? It was taken some time ago but I didn't send it home,

Well, be careful and don't catch any colds.

Dave


Naples, Italy, December 1943

Dear Folks

Well. Today is starting out real nice. Just like at home. A little frost in the morning, then a bright clear sun, the rest of the day. At least we hope so. It rained about 26 days out of the last month. Not continual, but during some part of the day. This is sunny Italy all right, but the sun comes in such small bunches and everytime it rains the snow gets a little lower on the mountains. Might have a white Christmas yet.

We have been resting and eating pretty well. We have fried chicken promised us from some people in town here. We trade some stuff we would ordinarily throw away. These people really are poor. They even put patches on patches. They won't take money because there is nothing to buy. The best stores in Naples wouldn't even be a close second in Watts. It is a nice looking country though, but looks don't count here.

As for me, I'm still OK and feeling pretty good now. Hope you are all the same. So long and good luck. Love to Ma & Pa & all the rest.

Dave


England, August 3, 1944

Dear Folks

Well, I guess you are all anxious to hear about where I went on my furluogh. I went to a city in the northwest part of England that is known as the "Coney Island" of England. It is a regular beach resort and has just about everything that a beach should have except good weather and Americans to give it the right atmosphere. It is funny as hell to see all the people leaving the beach at the same time to go home and eat lunch, exactly at twelve. Coming back all at the same time, then all leaving to go home to tea at the same time. You can just about tell what time it is by the way the people are going to or from the beach. The weather is no good for swimming, too cold and foggy. Get about a couple of hours of sunshine in the afternoon about nine o'clock. I had a pretty good time though. Took life easy and really relaxed like I intended to. I want to thank Harry for sending money to me. It didn't get here in time as I expected, but I managed to borrow fifty bucks in the meantime so it didn't really matter too much but we would have been in a pretty bad way if the army hadn't arranged things so that the boys could write checks in a bank in town on the accounts that they had at home. Probably be a lot of rubber checks bouncing around here soon but I don't think anyone is really worried about them, least of all the guys that wrote them. I forgot to tell you name of the beach — it's "Blackpool" not what you'd expect the name of a beach to be, huh?

Received a letter from Goldie yesterday of June 22. Says she is takin a rest under doctors orders. Well, I hope that she is better now. She better take a nice long rest for me now. Last night we were out on one of those nasty problems again. This time we were out on one of those English moors that I have always read about but never saw. It is part of the country that a heavy fog always hangs over so that the grass is always wet and the ground swampy. In a little while our feet and legs were soaking wet and cold. Go out of sight of everyone in the fog and you're lost and I mean lost. If we didn't have compasses we'd walk around in circles. One fellow came back to the same place twice in ten minutes and each time he thought he was going in a straight line. Really a fog!

That's about all for now. All my love to Ma and Pa and all the rest. Goldie still like the Scotchman? So long now—be good.

Dave

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