During World War II, while an anti-Semitic dictator brought death and destruction to millions of innocent people, over 550,000 Jewish-American men and women enlisted for military service and bravely stood up to the threat, with another one-million serving in allied forces. For them, more than anyone else, this war was personal.
Among the Jewish residents of Johnston were two men who signed up to fight back against the evil taking place overseas. Twenty-one year old Francis Harold Josephson, who resided on Killingly Street, became a soldier on Dec. 5, 1941. An em-ployee of the Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Company in Providence, he served as a ser-geant in the Army Air Corps and was sent to the Asiatic Pacific Theatre.
Born in Arlington, Rhode Is-land to Gustus and Judith (Ol-sen) Josephson, he went on to be awarded the Asiatic Pacific Theatre Ribbon, three Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. Following his death at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol, in 2008, he was laid to rest in Acotes Hill Cemetery in Gloucester.
Robert Walter Judisch, of Johnston, was 29 years old when he enlisted in the Army Air Forces on May 8, 1942. Standing at 5’10 and weighing 139 pounds, he was the son of Carl and Annie Judisch. His parents had come to America from Germany and his father worked as a house carpenter to support the family.
Judisch resided with his wife Justine on Borden Avenue in Johnston. At the time he joined the military, he was employed as a solicitor for Max Silverstein & Son, a publishing company in Providence which produced maps, postcards and magazines.
As part of the 8th Tactical Air Communications Squadron, Judisch was awarded a Purple Heart. He died on Sept. 5, 1944 and was buried in Ardennes American Cemetery, 12 miles south of Belgium. There, the graves of heroes are aligned in rows to form a massive Greek cross, with 65% of those buried there having been airmen of the United States Army Air Forces.
Among America’s casualties of World War II were over 38,000 of Jewish faith. Of those, 11,000 lost their lives. Over 26,000 received citations for valor and merit, including over 14,000 Purple Hearts.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.
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