Gazette Article by: Sarah Peck and Shale Harper
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall/Winter 2002
Mr. Hershkowitz walked into the room with confidence. As he sat down, we noticed that he looked very comfortable talking about the war. He started right in with what rank and section he was. As he explained to us a short story about himself and his crew, he shifted around in his chair. His confidence was fading as he went deeper into his war experience. By the end, we could tell that he was ready to leave. Telling his story was obviously not as easy as he had expected. He helped us to understand that war is not how it seems in the movies. He could not mention one that was close to his experience, except for 12 0’ Clock High. War is real, and we shouldn’t take the thousands of men who fought and died for granted.This is his story: By the end of the war, Arthur Hershkowitz had been to more then 10 places in the world. In each place, he explained what he did there and why. At the age of 18 he enlisted in the 20th Air Force. After enlisting, he left his home in Brooklyn, New York and headed to training in Ft. Dix, New Jersey.
After finishing hard and long training, he went to radio school for six months. He explained that he did not go to pilot school because he did not want to be a pilot. He ended up as a gunner with his crew of eleven, and they were the “Purple Heartless.” You may wonder how they got this name; they were debating what name to give their B-29. One day, when they walked out onto the landing platform, they saw that another crew had already painted a name on the plane. It said the “Purple Heartless” and war superstitions came over his crew. They were scared that it would be a jinx because when you get a Purple Heart, it means that you were wounded. Their superstitions were unfounded, however, for they left the name and successfully flew 30 missions without being wounded or killed. They kept on changing the amount of missions needed to get home, so they had to wait until the war was over to go home. He said that there were many close calls, but nothing serious.
Mr. Hershkowitz also talked about keeping in touch with his friends from the war. We were curious if any of them had passed, or had died in the war. He assured us that none of his crew had died through all 30 of the missions. Every two years they would get together for a reunion. He mentioned that every year, one man would show up with a wife or another child. As the years passed, they started to have fewer and fewer get-togethers. His friends were becoming older and sicker. He did not say this with his voice. We could tell by his motions and fidgets that he was uncomfortable. He mentioned that he was the youngest of the whole crew. He said that now there were only three left from his crew. We quickly moved from this subject so not to bring up more bad memories.
His phone rang and we knew he had to leave. He had shared his amazing story of his experiences in the war. As he went out the door, he walked with a little less confidence. We knew that sharing his story with us had made him go back to when he was in that B-29. We made him go back to what he didn’t want to return to.
Sharing his story with us changed him and us in a good way, we hope. As he went out the door, we sympathized with all of those people. Now, every time we see a veteran of WWII, we will not take them for granted for they may have much wisdom to offer.
Sarah Peck and Shale Harper wrote this article as students at Carleton Washburne School.