Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

My Father, Sgt. Israel Katzman on Veteran’s Day, 11/11/2018, a Century After the 1st World War Ended in 1918…by Robert M. Katzman

What about my Dad?
The kid who was the son of two Jewish immigrants and was named Israel?
The kid whose teachers told him when he was about to graduate grammar school that it was his last chance to “Americanize” his name on his degree, from Israel to Irving so he would “fit in” better to American society. We all know how well that idea turned out. Imagine some teacher saying that to a kid today? “Irving” remained “Izzy” to his friends, tho’.
Israel, nearly 30 years old, joined the US Army on St Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1942, along with 12 other Jewish guys from the old neighborhood. His younger brother Milt was already in the army as an MP, and his tour was ending when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Israel became a sergeant with the Signal Corps teaching other men how to send vital messages from the battlefields with a telegraph key. He worked under General Douglas MacArthur, whom he met only once and felt was a “pompous ass”.

He fought wherever he was sent: Canary Islands, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and the almost completely forgotten major battles:The Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 26, 1944. One of the largest naval engagements in history, it broke the back of the Imperial Japanese Navy and liberated the Philippine Islands; the beginning of the end of the war with Japan.
Ironically, with their Admiral’s over-confidence about the enormous resources of the Japanese Navy, their war plan was to lure the American Navy into a trap in Leyte Gulf and destroy it completely. In fact, there were six separate engagements, not just involving the naval battles and the fight went on for weeks as the Japanese Army fought for every inch of Philippine land. No one underestimated the courage and grit of the Japanese soldier.
This immense battle cost the Japanese three battleships, four aircraft carriers, ten cruisers and nine destroyers. more than 300,000 tons of combat ships were lost, as compared to 37,000 tons for the Americans. As the leaders of the Japanese Navy became desperate, the creation of the suicide plane–the kamikaze, meaning Divine Wind–came into being.
In the end, the Japanese lost their entire garrison of 350,000 men they had stationed on the Philippine Islands. The Americans suffered 62,000 casualties, including 14,000 dead.
My father witnesses one of them aiming for his own ship, missing it by inches, he told me when I was a child in 1955, and the plane, a flying bomb, flew so close to his ship he said he could have reached out and touched it. He remembered the pilot’s face, smiling widely as his plane crashed into the sea.
My father was wounded with pieces of red hot metal shrapnel from a bomb dropped by a Japanese warplane during one battle, and after crawling over to the closest medic, was told his wounds were his ticket out of the war and he’d be sent back home. But, he was told, a telegram would have to be sent to notify his parents, first. My father told me he refused and demanded that the medic patch him up and he returned to his unit and the fight.
In his immigrant neighborhood, each day the mothers of the soldiers stationed in Europe and the Pacific waited by their windows to see if the Western Union truck would be coming to their street, as it had come to many other streets nearby.
A telegram meant one of two things:
One, your son is dead.
Or two:
Your son is wounded and coming home.
My father felt the agony of his parent’s seeing a Western Union man parking in front of their home, and walking up to their door would give them a heart-attack and he couldn’t let that happen. His brother Milt was also in the Pacific Theater.
On October 26, 1881, exactly sixty-three years earlier in Tombstone, Arizona, the gunfight at the OK Corral took place at about noon, involving a total of nine men.
That moment of Western confrontation is vastly more remembered that what happened seventy-five years ago today in the Leyte Gulf involving nearly a million men. Maybe it is extremely hard to imagine faraway Asian oceans churning with sinking ships, strafing dive bombing warplanes, and thousands of men being shot or drowning…compared to the simplicity of four men walking down a dry dusty street on a sunny day to confront five other men waiting for them in a corral in the American southwest.
Real history is complicated, hard to decipher and harder to remember. Not everyone was a hero or a monster. I’m no scholar, no celebrated historian who people look to for answers about who did what to whom, long ago. I am merely an aging son of a kind and encouraging father who told me all his stories and who devoted much of his post-war life to try to make me a success when he couldn’t find any way of doing that for himself.
When all of his friends died, one by one before him, he knew that he still had me, that I was his friend, the closest one he would ever have.
My father, Israel, died in my arms on May 18, 2000 at 87 with all of that metal shrapnel still in him. All twelve of his friends survived the War. So did Milt, who died in 2004. Their parents lived a long time after the War.
Today, almost everyone is dead: my grandparents, all of their five children except for one daughter now at 94, my parents, my sister, everyone he ever knew from the old neighborhood and even my wife who knew almost everyone in this story. I remain to remember him. I must remember him. Men like him deserve to be remembered.
A hero?
He was certainly my hero.
Dad, I miss you, love you, and have never forgotten your courage and consideration for your parents even in the worst of circumstances. You have been my role model all of my life about what it means to be a man and when to be brave.
On this day when all of America regardless of politics remembers and honors the nation’s Armed Forces from all of our many wars over 243 years, I honor you.
Your son,

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: http://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

email: robertmkatzman@gmail.com

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 can 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 Bernard White

November 12, 2018 @ 2:06 pm

thank you, Robert.

Israel Katzman
Milton Katzman

brothers in arms

brothers in G-d.

I am grateful to be part of this beautiful family.

Comment by Brad Dechter

November 12, 2018 @ 3:48 pm

Heartwarming- thanks for sharing!
It is a shame the true losses involved in the wars we have fought do not reflect the anguish of those who lost loved ones or the physical or mental pain those that lived through them suffered.
Just a single generation with peace would be nice.

Comment by Don Larson

November 12, 2018 @ 5:25 pm

Thank you, Bob.

Your Dad was a hero in many ways in the many days of his life.

Your stories keep all those of your family alive.

Stay well my friend.

Warmest regards,


Comment by bruce matteson

November 12, 2018 @ 5:39 pm

To your father!

wish it were cake at L Woods….

Comment by Charlie Newman

November 12, 2018 @ 9:09 pm

Family, Baby…can’t beat it…especially families like yours.

Beautifully done, Bob.

Comment by Jim Payne

November 13, 2018 @ 2:11 pm

Bob, you remember.

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