Two residents of La Posada, Gerard Halpern and Martin Tucker, were recently featured in an article in the Fort Meyers Florida Weekly, and Mr. Halpern’s story was also detailed in another article by the Palm Beach Post. The men served in WWII in the Army and Navy, respectively.
We’re proud that these two men call La Posada their home now, and we want to thank them for their service!
Excerpts taken from an article originally by Laura Tichy-Smith, Fort Meyers Florida Weekly
REMEMBERING THE END OF WWII
Gerard Halpern of Palm Beach Gardens, 95; originally from Frankfurt, Germany and immigrated to Brooklyn, N.Y.; infantryman — private in the Army 45th Infantry Division in Europe
Gerard Halpern was 12 years old in 1937 when his family emigrated from Germany to Brooklyn. At the age of 18, he volunteered to go back — as part of the U.S. Army.
“Being of the Jewish faith — Hitler did not exactly like Jews — so we were fortunate to leave in ‘37 because, after 1937, they shut it down,” Mr. Halpern said. “Instead of letting people out of the country, they put them in concentration camps. So, we were fortunate.”
Mr. Halpern fought in the Battle of Anzio, which required fighting from a beachhead that was surrounded by mountains. The Allied Forces eventually managed to progress the 15 miles from Anzio to take Rome.
“Now, that was June 5,” he said. “Notice carefully — June 6 was the invasion of Normandy. It overshadowed the accomplishment of the fifth. But we were sitting outside of Rome and very happy to see the pressure now being taken away. We were not pressured as much because the pressure was now on the Normandy group.”
Mr. Halpern was wounded in December 1944 and spent several months in hospitals, after which he was assigned to a reserve unit close to the time of V-E Day. V-J Day found him still in Europe because he had not yet accumulated enough points to ship home.
“I was in a German town because the Germans had surrendered, so we were doing what you might call garrison duty,” he said. “Logistically, it’s pretty hard to try to get everyone home, so it takes time.”
Martin Tucker of Palm Beach Gardens, 96; originally from Brooklyn, N.Y.; gun turret — first lieutenant aboard Navy battleship USS New Mexico in the Pacific Ocean
The USS New Mexico was one in the fleet of Allied ships in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese government signed the Instrument of Surrender in a ceremony aboard the USS Missouri. The history books record this date and place as the official end of World War II. Yet for Martin Tucker, who was a lieutenant aboard the USS New Mexico, this was not the day and place the war ended for him.
He and the rest of the crew still had a battleship to get home, and reaching port in the United States is what he remembers.
“After the war, we went through (the Panama Canal) and went all the way up to Boston,” he said, sweeping his hand in a broad arc during a Zoom conference to show the route across the water.
While he no longer had to worry about telling the crew of gun turret #1 where to point their 30-inch gun or kamikazes crashing into the ship, there was still work to be done to run the ship. That voyage home was also the last voyage for the old battleship that dated to World War I. The USS New Mexico was decommissioned in 1946 and sold for scrap.
You can read more of the articles by clicking on the links: