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Interview with Norman J. Feitelson, WWII veteran. CCSU Veterans History Project

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Uploaded on Jan 27, 2011

Interview conducted by Eileen Hurst. Norman Feitelson tried to enlist in the U.S. Air Force in 1942, but failed the entrance exam due to an eye test. He then decided to wait to enter the service until he was drafted. He was drafted into the U.S. Army with 18 others from Waterbury, Ct in June of 1943. He went to basic training at Camp Edwards, which was in Cape Cod, Ma. He attended basic training for eleven months, where he learned how to be a range setter for an anti-aircraft unit. He describes the training as very difficult because of the weather and terrain of Massachusetts in the summertime. Although his unit (836th Anti-aircraft Battalion), was supposed to ship overseas in anticipation of D-Day, instead the unit was disassembled and the soldiers were broken into different divisions. Feitelson was placed in an infantry unit, and shipped to Fort Dix for infantry and artillery training. He was then sent to Louisiana and Fort Bragg before going overseas. Feitelson sailed to Scotland with 30, 000 other soldiers and was assigned to the 5th infantry division, 11th infantry regiment as a replacement just after the Battle of the Bulge. His job in this unit was to operate an automatic rifle which weighed 17 ½ pounds, and had to be carried everywhere. Just two days after landing in France to join his unit, he experienced combat during the Battle of Bitburg. On his very first patrol he saw men killed. Feitelson describes what the men ate and the conditions of living in a combat situation. In March of 1945, his unit was part of the crossing of the Rhine, where they heard the famous speech given by General Patton before the battle that ensued. Feitelson describes knowing that the war would be over soon in April of 1945, because of the number of German soldiers surrendering to the 5th Division. When the surrender was officially announced, his unit moved into Austria and Czechoslovakia, where it was their duty to "clean up" units that were not aware that they had surrendered. They also liberated one of the satellite concentration camps in Czechoslovakia, where Feitelson's knowledge of Yiddish came in handy for interpretation purposes. In June of 1945, the soldiers were sent back to the United States, and given a 30 day leave to go home. While Feitelson was back in Connecticut the end of the war was announced, so instead of reporting for infantry duty, he was sent to Fort Campbell where he began playing and refereeing basketball for the army team. During the interview Feitelson also describes some memorable experiences, and what daily life for the soldiers in the infantry was comprised of. He was discharged from the U.S. Army in February of 1946, and used the GI Bill to obtain his degree in elementary education from the Teacher's College of Connecticut in New Britain, Ct. He worked in elementary education until 1983, in addition to other occupations that he held simultaneously.

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