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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Thank You Robert Rosenthal

Another hero of the Greatest Generation has passed away. Robert Rosenthal was shot down - twice - over Nazi Germany during daylight raids over Hitler's industrial heartland. He also helped to prosecute those "strutting conquerers" after at Nuremberg.
With 16 decorations including the Distingushed Service Cross, the nation's second-highest award for heroism, Rosenthal was a quintessential example of the young Army pilots, some barely out of their teens, who defied seemingly hopeless odds to carry out daylight strategic bombing raids against Germany's industrial war machine from 1942 to 1945.

Despite being able to absorb punishment, the B-17 Flying Fortresses, carrying 10 crew members, took staggering losses over Germany, especially when flying raids beyond the range of their England-based fighter escort.

Rosenthal's 52 missions included one, on Oct. 10, 1943, in which his aircraft was the only one of 13 to return from a raid on Munster, the rest having been downed by anti-aircraft fire and waves of Luftwaffe fighters. Rosenthal's B-17 reached England with two of its four engines gone, severe wing damage and two wounded crew members.

His bomber was dubbed "Rosie's Riveter," a play on both his name and the sobriquet given to women working in U.S. defense factories. He also flew other B-17s, including "Royal Flush," when "Rosie's Riveter" was being repaired, Steven Rosenthal said in a telephone interview.

Rosenthal's plane was disabled by flak over France in September 1944 and he suffered a broken arm and other injuries in a forced landing, but was helped to safety by French resistance fighters. Five months later, he was shot down again during a raid over Berlin, and got home with the aid of Russian troops, via Poland, Russia, Iran, Egypt, Greece and Italy.

Born in Brooklyn on June 11, 1917, Rosenthal was football and baseball team captain at Brooklyn College, a summa cum laude graduate of Brooklyn Law School and was working at a Manhttan law firm when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He enlisted the next day and insisted on being trained for combat.
What a debt we owe. Neither we nor our children or our children's children could even come close to paying it. Remembering and honoring the heroes who literally saved the United States and the whole world from a new dark ages is the least we can do.

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