Mr. Morris on the right, Rome, Italy, 1944.Morris Lazarus
Mr. Lazarus (in the middle) during the Arlington Ceremony.Morris Lazarus
A photogrpah of the patch of the First Special Service Force.Morris Lazarus
Morris Lazarus's medals.Morris Lazarus
French Expeditionary Corps medal (1943-1944).Morris Lazarus
"And I say to myself, now this is where I talk to myself, very carefully, if I say to them now, if I say Morris Lazaurus, this guy’s going to open up on me and he’s got at gun pointed right at my gut."
The most unusual thing that ever happened in my lifetime, we were on a patrol on Anzio [Italy]. And we had finished the patrol and were on our way back to our lines, and we were given orders to stop. So we were sitting down in this area and my officer in charge says to me, go over and ask the commanding officer what we should do. So, of course, given an order, I went over and he says, just tell the truth, to sit down and wait until further orders. And remember to tell him to spread out.
So I go back, I tell him: give the order and spread out and wait for further orders. The only one who spreads out is me. I follow orders. [laughs] And so I move away from the platoon. I’m about 10 feet away. And they all sit down along this tree line; and I look toward our lines and I see a group of guys coming toward me. And I say to myself, I talk to myself a lot when I’m on patrol, I said now, let me see, they’re coming from our lines, they’re wearing great coats like we are, must be our platoon. And they’re coming closer and closer. And they’re about five feet away from me or 10 feet away and it’s a German patrol.
Now, now is when you find out what do you do? So I’m thinking to myself, Jesus, I’m going to get caught by this patrol. So they come right up to me and, of course, now I see it’s a German patrol. And he says to me, Wer bist du? You understand that? Wer bist du? Who are you? He speaks to me in German. And I say to myself, now this is where I talk to myself, very carefully, if I say to them now, if I say Morris Lazaurus, this guy’s going to open up on me and he’s got at gun pointed right at my gut. He has what is called a [Maschinenpistole 40] Schmeisser [submachine gun] pistol. It’s pointed, when it fires, it fires more than 500 rounds per minute. So it’s a rapid fire. And he’s got it pointed right at me.
We were all covered with camouflage, we’re camouflaged and my face is blackened and different colours. This how close he is. He looks into my face and he says to me, now remember, he’s asked this other question, Wer bist du, and I says, Ich bin Hans [I am Hans], I said. I don’t know that you’re aware, but Hans is a German name. So I told him, Ich bin Hans, you know. What’s he going to do? And he looks at my face and he says, Du bist Amerikaner, you’re an American. Now, this is the craziest part of the whole thing now. I’m a Canadian. [laughs] But this I’m saying to myself. We were American and Canadian combined operations and he called me an American. [laughs] So I have no answer then. Oh, and I say to myself, why didn’t he ask me a question? If he asks me a question, I can answer him, but he made a statement. So he says to me in German, Stellen sie ihre Hände in der Luft, which means put your hands in the air.
And I’m thinking all the time now, here’s were, I didn’t have a problem, I was disturbed because I’m Jewish. And they’re going to take me prisoner. And mind you, with us, they used to beat our guys up because of who we were. Because we had pretty good tactics against them when we caught them. And my guys are behind me. I’ve got a whole platoon behind me, okay? They can’t fire, I’m in between them and the enemy. So I’m slowly raising my hands because he said, put your hands in the air. Gee, I wonder how he knew I didn’t speak German? [laughs]
And I think, God, I’d hate to be taken prisoner. I’m not scared, although you should be. I got to keep my senses, I know that and I figure it out, how do I get away? And then all hell broke loose. They heard my platoon moving deeper into the bushes and everybody opened fire. The guy in front of me, now remember, he’s got a gun pointed at me, but he must have got awful nervous. He opened up, he started firing and I could feel the bullets coming to my left side and I don’t know if they’re going into me or by me. All I know is the impact of the, he must have been awfully nervous because he shouldn’t have missed me because his gun was pointed at my stomach initially. But he caught me on the side; and I could feel the bullets. The impact of the bullets coming through my belt spun me around. And I know exactly how many times I, I spun around three times, that’s how fast those bullets. And I fall to the ground, face down and then the firing ensued. This only takes about a minute. All the German patrol was killed. Half of our men were killed. The other half were wounded, except one guy. The guy who shares the foxhole with myself, we’re the only two not wounded that night, or killed.