It hardly feels like it was a year ago, that Mark and Harry made the trip across the pond.
Our Harry, a Cape May area Veteran, is more than a hero, he is an icon. Harry is part of the “Greatest Generation,” that fought and survived the D-Day battles of Normandy and Utah Beach. Harry, is one of the local faces of the greatest generation, which the newest generation should be taught about. He is a face on the fading memory of the “great wars.”
Last year, at the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, Harry Kulkowitz was singled out and mentioned in the prepared remarks of President Barack Obama.
As the President recounted the details of the Invasion of Normandy in 1944, he spoke about the personal sacrifices of the soldiers involved. The President remarked: “Think of Harry Kulkowitz, the Jewish son of Russian immigrants, who fudged his age at enlistment so he could join his friends in the fight.”
The President assured Harry: “Don’t worry, Harry, the statute of limitations has expired.” President Obama went on to recount: “Harry came ashore at Utah Beach on D-Day. And now that he’s come back, we said he could have anything he wants for lunch today — he helped liberate this coast, after all. But this humble hero said a hamburger would do fine. And what’s more American than that?”
Harry Kulkowitz the son of Russian Immigrants, who were Jewish, was born in New York 1924. His father was a tailor in New York City. His mother Sophia died while Harry was fighting in Europe. To join up in 1941, when the Americans came into the war, Harry had to lie on his enlistment papers, he was not yet 18, to fight alongside his friends. Harry originally signed up to be a photographer and then became radio intercept operator. As a radio operator, he was trained to listen to Nazi codes and messages.
Harry landed on Utah Beach, Normandy on June 6, 1944 as a 20-year-old with the 114th Signal Company, sea sick and frightened and as he says not knowing what the hell was going on! After landing on Utah Beach June 6, 1944 Harry went on through the whole European campaign eventually finishing in 1945 in Germany.
Sixty years later, Kulkowitz was welcomed with opened arms in the small villages of France. The mayor of Houseville honored him with a special medal and accolades at a public ceremony. Women who remembered the invasion came up to him and kissed him. Women who weren’t even born in 1944 came up to him and kissed him. Harry’s picture appeared on the front page of the local paper the next day.
In 1944, when Kulkowitz landed on Utah Beach and approached the village of Houseville, he had only one thought in mind – to rid the world of Adolph Hitler. He felt it was his duty as an American and as a Jew to enlist. Kulkowitz’s generation performed selfless acts of sacrifice and heroism, yet somehow, despite overwhelming accomplishments, they remain humble.
Long after the war, in 1978, our Harry started the Mad Batter restaurant and the Carroll Villa Hotel on historic Jackson Street in Cape May New Jersey. The opening of the business helped to facilitate the renaissance of great restaurants in Cape May. The rest is HIS-story.
Indeed has been a huge pleasure for us to accommodate Harry, Mark & many others of the Kulkowitz family plus their friends in our home over the past 11 years for all the various anniversaries..the whole village here in Houesville, loved the parties & parades they put on in his honour, the fact that Michel here in the village also got Harry his Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest award, actually presented here in front of all the local folk was a particularly big deal.
No one in Normandy forgets the 6th June and no one forgets the part the allies played in gaining France her liberty – we still have veterans come back, this year the 71st anniversary it is hoped 10 from 101st will make it back for a ceremony on 4th June…each year sadly the numbers decrease but each year the passion for remembrance is stronger.
Over the past 15 years we have lived here in Normandy running our vacation rentals, we have the honour and pleasure to welcome and get to know many veterans and/or their families, our lives are always turned upside down when we have a veteran come to stay – Harry, (I hope you see this), many a time has been sat there watching everyone rush around making a party or a presentation happen… he’d ask what’s going on? Harry, we’d shout over …it’s for you – it’s all your fault and he’d laugh…over the years it became that if he saw a fuss starting he’d say…it’s all my fault!!
Harry, yes, but, the point is, if you and all the other young men hadn’t put their lives on the line to come to fight for our liberty none of us would be able to hold or organize the parties, the parades, the ceremonies, our lives turned upside down once a year for 6th June week! As the 500+ parachutists jump on the nearest Sunday to 6th June every year we all collectively hold our breath and reflect on what it must have been like all those years ago…