Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Farewell My Dead Sergeant: Sayonara / Shalom / Goodbye…by Robert M. Katzman

By Robert M. Katzman © September 12, 2015  

(Revised: Memorial Day May 31, 2021)


My Father fought the Japanese

Born before the Navahos were citizens

Born before women could vote

Before Hirohito, Yamamoto and Tojo

Before Meir, Dayan and Herzl

Before Eisenhower, Patton and FDR

Were names on anyone’s lips


Packed into trains of troop ships

Crossing the Pacific Ocean

To avenge Pearl Harbor treachery

To kill people he didn’t know

Bombed sending messages by telegraph

He died with steel shrapnel

Still in his body

Half a century later


In the Battle of Leyte Gulf

History’s greatest naval engagement

Which no one now remembers

My father saw a speck in the sky

The speck became

A Japanese Kamikaze plane

A suicide flight loaded with bombs

Aiming directly for his ship

Impossible to stop it

It missed by mere inches

My father saw the pilot’s smiling face

As the doomed plane of death

Slammed into the waves

Disappearing beneath the sea


What do you do with your life after that?

That long war was the peak of his existence

His Mt. Fuji of drama, terror and bravery

Nothing could match it

A life stretching out flat as

The American Prairies

Never finding the right work

The right girl

The right life


I have a tattered Japanese battlefield flag

He saved for an unborn son

But life turns unexpected corners

His curious son

Born on the fifth anniversary

Of Adolph Hitler’s death

Wanted to know

Everything about

The Japanese and the Jews


Who they were, who was I

Though Jews remain

Merely a sliver in numbers

Perhaps fifteen million world-wide

Compared to one hundred million Japanese


I discovered we were both Asian peoples

Where else would Israel be?

Parked near the center of Asia

The crossroads of history’s armies

Japan an island surrounded by ocean

Nearly six thousand miles

From Jerusalem to Tokyo

Yet we were both Asian


Both dark-eyed dark-haired people

Smaller in stature than many others

Both our alphabets written right to left

Both languages spoken

Exactly as written

So unlike incomprehensible



I wanted to know everything

Both so creative within their limitations

The Japanese trapped on their island

The Jews landless and roaming

Both wrote everything down

Ink more precious than gold

So similar in capturing ideas

Both sealing Time on scrolls


I learned about Jewish and Japanese

Architects and artists

Both creating imaginative buildings

In wood, stone, metal and glass

Both creating delicate watercolors

Music central to both of us

In tragic opera and magic Broadway

About matzo ball and miso soup

Brisket and teriyaki


I wanted to be a cowboy

Then saw a book about the Samurai

Warriors as works of art

War as ritual and honor

A thousand years of Japan’s Dance of Death

Their helmets, their armor, their swords

Leaving Roy Rogers and John Wayne

Their Winchesters and their Colts

In the dust




My Father watched me learning

Sending me to art school

Private school

Prizing education over anything else

Listening proudly to all I learned


I listened to his stories of war

Of his parents dangerous

Escape from Europe

About being one out of many

And the very real dangers

Even here in America

Of being just one, out of so many


He was confounded by

My alternate life

Of music and art and books

Watching me acquire understanding

Of history’s flow

And our determined place in it

Living in a way as a witness

That another life was possible

Even if not for him


He protected me and paved my way

When he died in my arms

Hirohito, Yamamoto and Tojo

Meir, Dayan and Herzl

Eisenhower, Patton and FDR

Were no longer names on anyone’s lips

Fame swiftly disappearing in the flow

But he knew I would remember

Not as a warrior like he was

But as a writer

A storyteller, like he was

Preserving History’s past


To my Father, Israel

Sergeant Israel Katzman:

Wherever and whatever you are now

Perhaps floating cosmic energy

Somewhere in the Universe

I so hope you found

The peace and tranquility

You never found

on Earth



Todah Rabah

Thank you





Note: My father’s obituary as it appeared in the Chicago Tribune, May 22, 2000, after a Reporter called me:

Irving Israel Katzman

May 22, 2000
Irving Israel Katzman, 87, of Highland Park was a lucky and resourceful World War II Army veteran who watched a kamikaze pilot narrowly miss his transport ship and once escaped being killed in a mess hall bombing because he decided not to go to lunch that day.

Mr. Katzman, a longtime salesman, died of congestive heart failure Thursday, May 18, in Highland Park Hospital. Born in Newport, Ky., Mr. Katzman was a small child when he moved to Chicago with his parents to join the city’s West Side Jewish immigrant community, said his son, Bob. He was drafted in 1942 and spent 31/2 years in the Army, much of it on a series of Pacific islands, his son said. Mr. Katzman learned Morse code and became a radio operator, teaching other servicemen along the way.

“He was considered to be a whiz,” his son said.

Once, when he and his brother were stationed on the same island, a mess hall at Mr. Katzman’s camp was bombed. His brother, frantic with worry, raced over and found him in his tent.

“His life was saved by a whim,” his son said. “He just chose not to go to lunch.”

After he left the service, Mr. Katzman became a salesman who pedaled everything from carpeting to pool tables to jewelry, his son said. He opened a kosher delicatessen with his son and later lived 10 years in California, where he sold mattresses. In 1985, he returned to the Chicago area and went to work in his son’s Morton Grove collectible magazine store.

“He was the kind of person who could keep somebody engaged,” his son said. “He was remarkable.”

Other survivors include a daughter, Bonnie Sue Chelin; two sisters, Mollie Pastor and Estelle Karabush; one brother, Milton; and six grandchildren, will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Weinstein Family Services Wilmette Chapel, 111 Skokie Blvd., Wilmette.

(Below added later)

As of March 17, 2017, my father has been joined in death by his brother Milt, sister Mollie, and his daughter–my older sister –Bonnie. Rest in peace, all of you.
Also, on this day in 1942, 75 years ago, my father along with twelve other friends from the Jewish West Side of Chicago enlisted in the US Army.  All thirteen of them came back home.

Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998  (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $29.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.


Comment by David Griesemer

September 12, 2015 @ 9:53 am

Jews have Be-power. They be here when the goy arrived, and they’ll be here when he’s gone.

Comment by Brad Dechter

September 14, 2015 @ 5:13 am

Shana tova Bob to you and your loved ones!

Comment by Bob

September 14, 2015 @ 10:35 am

Thank you, my friend, and also to you & yours. Hope we can meet again. BTW, I added another stanza.

Comment by NewMan from NewArk

September 19, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

nicely done, Amigo

Comment by Jim Payne

September 7, 2017 @ 5:10 pm

Wandering with you through your poem is a journey through the connections of peoples and people. Like a tour guide you point out things I would never see by myself. Thank you for the journey and thank you for your poem. They both are wonderful.
Jim Payne

Comment by Charlie Newman

September 7, 2017 @ 6:21 pm

as I said about 2 years ago…nicely done, Amigo…one of those things that gets better with age…

Comment by Brad Dechter

September 8, 2017 @ 5:11 am

It was well written before and it still is. Your love for your dad shines through.
Thanks for sharing!
Shana Tovah again Bob!

Comment by Don Larson

September 11, 2017 @ 12:04 pm

Hi Bob,

Somehow I missed reading this story when it was first posted. I’m sorry about that oversight.

It is a wonderful story of your father’s journey through life. I regret that I never had a chance to meet him. Much of your strength flows through you from him.

Warmest regards,


Comment by Helen Laxner

March 29, 2018 @ 10:42 pm

Hi Bob, That was a beautiful obituary for your Dad. I’m sure he left many people with fond memories of him and the stories he told. He sounds like a character young and old alike could sit and listen to for hours.

Comment by bruce

May 31, 2021 @ 8:56 am

wherever your father is, i’m sure you have made him smile! Well done!

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