Norman Jacobson
U. S. Army
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 1/8/1944 - 05/12/1946
Rifleman, 66th Infantry Division, 262 Regiment, 66th Infantry Division

Born in Philadelphia to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Norman learned Yiddish before English. He recalls milk deliveries to homes, kitchens with iceboxes, and few cars in his "lower middle class" neighborhood. He wore "hand-me-down clothes." His father delivered newspapers twice a day, while his mother worked in a knitting mill. Norman graduated from high school in June of 1943, and entered the military on June 8, 1944. He took basic at Camp Blanding near Starke, Florida, and was assigned to the Sixty-Sixth Infantry Division at Camp Rucker, Alabama, where, he says, was "the first time I ever met Southerners." He didn't know whether he would be sent to the Pacific or to the Atlantic. Most of the men, he recalls, "wanted to go to Europe, thinking it would be easier." He crossed the Atlantic in mid-November on the SS George Washington and received additional training in England. On Christmas Eve of 1944 he was crossing the English Channel on the Belgium troop ship, Leopoldville when a submarine torpedo tore into the vessel, causing approximately 1,000 casualties. New Year's Eve, he says, was his first day on the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge. He began several weeks of living in foxholes, eating K- and C-rations, and washing occasionally with a wet cloth and soap. Norman says he became known as a "scrounger," one who could trade items such as cigarettes with local farmers for eggs and other items rare for front-line soldiers. He recalls being "just devastated" when he learned of President Franklin Roosevelt's death. "He was the United States of America," Norman says of FDR. When he and his buddies heard of Adolf Hitler's death, they celebrated with locally made calvados. "Guys got a little drunk," he recalls. His unit guarded German prisoners in Arles, France, and then was stationed at Inn, Austria on the Inns River. Norman toured the nearby concentration camp of Mauthausen. "It affected me personally because most of the people who were in the ovens were of my persuasion," he says. While stationed at Inn he checked authorization of passengers on railroad cars and served as an interpreter, especially for those bound for Palestine. After the war, Norman earned a degree in accounting on the GI Bill. Hired by the U.S. Census Bureau he worked on an early computer called Univac. Later he became a bookkeeper for a women's clothing company, and then a credit manager for Philco, a manufacturer of televisions and radios. He later worked for casinos in Atlantic City, Florida, the Bahamas, and finally in Shreveport.