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Oral history interview with David Rubitsky

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  • "David Rubitsky, an Edgerton, Wisconsin native and a Milton veteran, discusses his World War II service in the Pacific Theater with Headquarters Company of the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division. Rubitsky talks about his Jewish parents' immigration from Russia, growing up in poverty, and joining the National Guard in 1930, at age fifteen, so his mother would have money for food. He mentions the Division was sent to Camp Beauregard and Camp Livingston (Louisiana) for training and talks about travelling to Australia by ship. Rubitsky discusses training in Australia, having the division reorganized into a triangle division, and getting airlifted into Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea). He comments on the first casualties from his division: Gerald Cable, for whom Camp Cable (Australia) was named, and four men he knew in New Guinea who drowned in the Goldie River. As a communications officer, Rubitsky tells of seeing three of his men flee from combat on the Kokoda Trail. Throughout the interview, he shares derogatory comments he heard directed towards him about Jews in the service. He talks about being flown to Dobodura with twenty men, including his own brother, to clear an airfield with machetes before getting orders to move down the Ango Trail. Rubitsky details having recurring problems with malaria and diarrhea, and he states that, without supplies from the New Guinea natives, he would have starved. He portrays combat in "the Triangle," an area around Buna village: being sent to lay communication wire to an abandoned American machine gun bunker and spending the night in a tree near a Japanese-controlled part of the jungle. After running across a big wounded soldier, he relates being unable to carry him and their conversation before Rubitsky had to leave him there. He characterizes Colonel Herbert "Seabiscuits" A. Smith, details several interactions with him, and reflects that Smith was afraid to promote him because he was Jewish. He offers a brief critique of Smith but states he was "the best combat officer I ever ran into." Rubitsky talks about meeting up with a reconnaissance unit, spending the night on a muddy hill, getting charged by thousands of Japanese, firing artillery point-blank into their ranks, and throwing grenades into enemy machine gun nests. He touches on being labeled a murderer by newspapers, portrays some of the soldiers he fought with who were killed, and recalls seeing thousands of Japanese corpses from the Battle of Midway washing ashore. He recalls one soldier's giving a candy bar to a native boy, who betrayed the soldier's position to the Japanese, who then killed both the boy and the soldier. Rubitsky touches on combat at Leyte. Sent to Luzon, he describes having green replacements added to his unit, travelling up a mountain called "Hill 525", and watching thousands of surrounded Japanese soldiers commit suicide by jumping off the neighboring mountain. He comments on blowing up a bridge next to a school and having to help "mop up" 20,000 Japanese soldiers. Rubitsky recalls risking his life to fetch a watermelon from a field under fire. Rubitsky portrays a cave the Japanese had refined into staterooms and tells of the Japanese men and women who were killed when he blew up mountain guns on a balcony there. He states that after the war, he never talked about his experiences, and he touches on being persecuted in the United States. He talks about being recommended for a Medal of Honor, not receiving it because of higher-ups who were anti-Semitic, and efforts years later to pursue it. Rubitsky tells of finding a chunk of gold in the jungle but having it stolen in Brisbane (Australia). He states he cried when he heard the war had ended and he wouldn't have to go to Okinawa. With enough points to go home, he tells how the company clerk held him back for weeks, and he reflects on the Manila Massacre. Rubitsky mentions turning down offers to work for the Israeli Army. He talks about his homecoming, discovering his mother had had a stroke after hearing a rumor that her sons had been killed in the war, and having difficulty dealing with his post-traumatic stress disorder. Rubitsky speaks of working for over thirty years in the Merchant Marine, using a pseudonym to avoid anti-Semitism, and blocking off memories of the war. After eventually meeting his wife, Katherine, he explains how she helped him through mental and physical health issues. He mentions not being allowed to graduate from aviation mechanic school because he was Jewish, forgiving men for their prejudice, and making life difficult for a commander who kept assigning him unpleasant tasks. Rubitsky states he is a permanent member of several veterans' organizations. At Buna, he describes finding a raped civilian girl and avenging her. He mentions seeing a few USO shows in New Guinea. Rubitsky talks about collecting affidavits from officers for the Medal of Honor, struggling to get help from Senator Feingold, and the harassment he faced after the media picked up his story."

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  • "Oral history interview with David Rubitsky"