DIARY ENTRY #24
By Don R. Marsh
It was early October of 1995 when I received Issue #2 of the 2nd Armored Division Association Bulletin. While briefly scanning for names of fellow veteran friends of mine, there it was on the top of page 6. Something immediately drew my attention to it, with the headline, "Can you, will you help?" It was from a letter written by a Steven L. Ossad -- a person unknown to me. I had never read his name until then, as he was not a member of our Association. Reading further, I learned that he was not only a non-member, but neither was he a veteran. I assumed it was some family member seeking information on a relative/family member lost in battle, which is common in veterans' news periodicals. But no, he was asking for help in finding information on the death of Major General Maurice Rose, a non-relative. When he incorrectly stated that Rose's death was 31 March 1945, I read that and thought this guy really needs my help! He had the story partially correct when he wrote that Rose was an "up from the ranks, a non West Point, Jewish officer." So I assumed that meant that he had done some previous homework - little did I know at that time that he had acquired far more data about the Rose family history than I knew! It was Rose's military data he was seeking. I would learn all this later.
Steve Ossad had written in his request for information, "I would be appreciative of any help you can offer." So being the "Good Samaritan" that I am and willing to offer whatever support I could give, I replied by letter on October 10, 1995, (ironically October 10th is also the birthday of General Rose's jeep driver, on that fateful night, 30 March 1945, my friend, Glenn H. Shaunce). I mentioned that I had served under General Rose's Headquarters Combat Command "A" of the Second Armored Division in the Invasion of Normandy, France, June 1944 and the Breakout at St. Lo, in Operation Cobra, July 1944.
Steve recognized my name from an article previously published in the Army's Armor Magazine, March-April 1991,The Triumph and Tragedy of Major General Maurice Rose, written by Ralph C. Greene, MD. I had exchanged correspondence with Dr. Greene regarding Rose's Combat Command "A" at the Invasion Beachhead at Carentan, France, on 13 June 1944. Steve immediately replied and pressed me for details based on the information published.
After a cautious slow start, he was still a stranger to me, the flow of letters and telephone calls rapidly became a daily occurrence and in time they soon led to our sending emails and computerized copies of documents. We were two amateur historians with the same goal - willing to exchange information about the life of Maurice Rose, both personal and military. We made visits to each other's homes and then formed a bond of friendship by means of an open exchange of information and our theories (at that time, ours remained to be proven). In a literary seminal moment, we agreed to coauthor a manuscript about the untimely death of the relatively unknown American Army General, Maurice Rose. Our arrangement was simple - Steve would handle the keyboard and enter everything into his computer. Not owning a computer at the time, as a journalist investigator, I would assist in the research, and include my own wartime memoirs. Soon I was forced to give up my typewriter and buy a complete computer set-up. This enabled me to send emails and letters to contacts in the USA, Belgium, Holland and most importantly, made it possible to locate and interview German veterans, including the German Panzer men from the unit that ambushed General Rose "that night."
Destiny stepped in to arrange this juxtaposition; in effect we were two complete strangers who might be rightly described as total "opposites." He is a younger man in his mid-fifties; today, I am 80 years old. He has not served a single day in the military and I am a retired Technical Sergeant, veteran of World War Two, having served 20 years of active duty, plus 10 more years in the reserves. He has earned three degrees, including an MBA from Harvard -- whereas I finished high school and enlisted as a volunteer in the army. He is of the Jewish faith and I am a secular humanist. We live in opposite ends of the state - he lives in San Francisco and I reside in southern California. To date, in the nearly seven years that have transpired, we have met but three times. Communication was not a problem, as I became a part of his extended family and he a part of mine. We have one great thing in common however, a strong mutual desire to tell this story of a true military legend we both admired, Major General Maurice Rose.
From the inception, obtaining the full story has taken years of time to materialize due to the seemingly impossible and difficult challenge of penetrating the layers of military bureaucracy, solely by correspondence through "proper channels", to secure the vital records and documents buried deep in the army archives for more than fifty years. I knew from past personal military experience, while serving with the IG (Inspector General), the typed Field Reports made by teams of investigators assigned to the case after interviewing any and all witnesses to determine the cause of General Rose's death were recorded and had to be still on file. These Field Reports would not have been destroyed. A photocopy or microfiche film had to be stored on file in the archives -- someplace. The Army repeatedly declined to help in finding the location of the missing crucial files. Without the conclusive proof in these two files, one domestic and the other ETO (European Theater of Operations), we didn't have a case or an authoritative story with credentials.
Finally, with our persistence and the assistance of two of our most powerful California representatives, Christopher Cox and Dianne Feinstein, we were able to pry loose the once classified essential critical files to thoroughly review the investigation reports. More importantly, we were able to research the affidavits taken from on-the-scene witnesses by Army Field IG investigators. What we learned from those two files (US & ETO) was dynamite! This enabled us to meticulously piece together the sequences and events that led to Rose's death on the night of 30 March 1945 at Hamborn, Germany. From the facts in the files available to us, we were able to make a positive confirmation whether or not it appeared to be murder of a Prisoner of War or an "unfortunate accident in the heat of battle." Friends fluent in German painstakingly translated a search of the German army records (that I received from a German veteran) of the Panzer tank unit involved in the ambush. Not surprisingly it had a different perspective from statements made by US witnesses. Then we began the arduous task of assembling a multitude of documents and file copies of records from various American and German civilian and military historian sources, including Rose family members, of the man's 45-year life span from his birth in Middletown, Connecticut on 26 November 1899 to his untimely death. We described the painful Rose family details of the days following the shooting, including his burial at the US Military Cemetery at Margraten in The Netherlands, then the aftermath and tragic family disintegration that followed.
In the end, the manuscript was crafted in a scholarly fashion and submitted to selected military book publishers to no avail. Editors would read the synopsis and write back, "Although well written, the story is about an unknown general." Unknown perhaps to the civilians without military backgrounds, but not to the veterans who fought in the bloody campaigns across Western Europe! The fact that we were also two unknown authors was not mentioned nor over-looked. As the frustration factor began to build, we were fortunate to obtain the services of a well-known, long established literary agency, Blanche C. Gregory Inc., to represent us. Our agent, Merry K. Pantano, after more than two dozen rejections by various publishers finally placed the work with Cooper Square Press who will publish our book titled, "Major General Maurice Rose: World War II's Greatest Forgotten Commander" in the spring of 2003.
The subject of creating a title for our work presented another problem. Steve first suggested using "The Extinguished Flame of MG Maurice Rose"; whereas I thought a title with a punch would be better and suggested using "In The Heat of Battle: The Murder of The Commanding General." Our mentor, Martin Blumenson sent us his suggestion, "From Rabbi's Son To a Military Legend: Major General Maurice Rose." But, once we sold the publishing rights to Cooper Square Press, they settled that with their revised choice of the title. In the end, after the book is finally available to the public, Maurice Rose will no longer be the Forgotten Commander.
In addition to meeting and exchanging correspondence with so many interesting people from all walks of life and from all parts of the world while doing research for this manuscript, I received a deep sense of gratification from two key experiences. One from the human-interest standpoint was finding and uniting General Rose's two sons (half-brothers) from the general's two marriages. These two men, now 76 and 61 years of age, had never met nor spoken to each other in their lifetimes until our research connected them and made it possible.
The other experience has been the pleasure of watching my young friend, partner and coauthor, Steven L. Ossad, launch his professional career as a military historian and successful author with this biography of Major General Maurice Rose, knowing this will undoubtedly serve as the linchpin of his future in writing military history.
Along the way through this long journey of life, now in my twilight years, I give thanks that I made a great friend and close confidant for life, Steven L. Ossad - without whom, this story could not have been possibly told.
Bershert -- to borrow a Jewish expression that means, "It was meant to be."
Publication or reproduction, in part or whole, is prohibited without written authorization from the author, Don R. Marsh. All rights remain the sole property of The Marsh Family Trust. 9/11/2002