Everette Bluestein with his fiancée Lil Solnik in 1946.Everette Bluestein
The first picture taken of "rookie" Private Everette Bluestein in 1943.Everette Bluestein
Corporal Everette Bluestein at his unit's billet in Gottingen, Germany, June, 1945. "Fancy surroundings," he remembers. "Best in three years."Everette Bluestein
Everette Bluestein at the Office of Jewish War Veterans of Canada, 2011.Everette Bluestein
Everette Bluestein at the North York Armoury in Toronto, ON, 2006.Everette Bluestein
"The Russian soldier was a hearty bunch, boy. We would complain if our eggs weren’t hot, we would complain. They were happy if they had bread and water."
Well, it was my time to go up. They had the draft [the conscription] in the [United] States. And my mother was a widow and it was my older brother and myself. And he was married and had children at the time and I was drafted and so my number came up. And I was 19 at the time.
It was the armoured infantry and therefore, in addition to the weapons that you learned to fire, which was your pistol, a rifle, a carbine, a light machine gun, heavy machine gun. You also had vehicles that you were trained on. You went from the Jeep to the scout car, to the half-track, that’s the one with the wheels at the front and the tracks in the rear. And into, because I was in headquarters company, we had three [Medium tanks, M4] Sherman tanks and we learned to drive that, which were the easiest frankly. Because we were mobile, we were head of the foot soldiers. That’s the easiest way to put it.
We landed in France [on January 5, 1945], there was no problems landing in France, because just remember, this is December and [Victory in Europe Day] V-Day was in June [May, 1945] and there was no problem there. And we settled for the night and what we did, we always used to go into a forest or the edge of a forest, so we could hide our vehicles. You never left your vehicles out in the open if you could help it. And then all of a sudden, there was a bombardment. We were bombed by German planes.
Now, we had sleeping bags. Now, these sleeping bags covered your head, all that was exposed were your eyes really. And there were zippers on the inside so that you can get out of them. Except of course when the first time you really could hear these bombs dropping near you, and the ground shaking, a little bit of fear comes into your mind and you forget about it and you thrash about and try to get out of the sleeping bag. And finally you remember that there is a zipper on the inside.
But that affected me after the war because when I came back after the war and I had my old job back in New York [City], I couldn’t’ standing riding in the subways, I couldn’t stand the crowds anymore. It’s one of the reasons I came to Canada.
We had an accident in one of the vehicles and I was hurt. We just tipped over. It wasn’t enemy fire, so I didn’t get, I didn’t get the Purple Heart [a United States military decoration awarded to those who have been killed or wounded while serving] for that one. I got hurt and I spent some time in the hospital. And I rejoined my outfit there in Germany in a town called Groningen. That’s where they made the knives, the famous knives I guess, Henckels knives.
From there, we went down through Bavaria to Czechoslovakia [May 1945]. And I went to the town of Rockichani, I remember that name, Rockichani. And what we were doing, we were a buffer against the Russians because then we went to Pilsen [Czechoslovakia], south of Pilsen and the Russians were in Prague and we were in Pilsen, which is when we were about 14 miles away from each other. And we met them and they’re a heart bunch. The Russian soldier was a hearty bunch, boy. We would complain if our eggs weren’t hot, we would complain. They were happy if they had bread and water.
We were on the south flank of the Canadian troops, because the Canadians lived right in Holland and we were in Belgium [March 1945], Bastogne was part of Belgium. And that’s how close we came to the Canadians. And when that was over, thank God, we moved up to Lobberich, Germany, which was north, crossed over into Germany and blew up a bank but the money wasn’t of any value. We were getting fire from some people in the bank, you know. Besides, it was fun. Frankly. No really, actually, while we blew it up, we just did that so.
I have a picture of me and my buddy, Larry Vickenfall, another Jewish boy, in another company and he and I went out together. We took down the swastika [the official emblem of the Nazi Party] from the [Reichswerke] Hermann Göring plant in Groningen, I have a picture of us holding it up. And that reminds you of that, boy, that’s a … And see how good you look in a uniform, when you’re not fighting.