By Michael Hill
A first infantry uniform, the German forerunner to the Russian A-K 47, a Newark Evening News reporter embedded with the New Jersey 102nd Cavalry. These images and artifacts pay tribute to the 102nd’s vital contributions to the Allie’s historic efforts on D-Day. It’s all now on display at the New Jersey National Guard and Militia Museum in Sea Girt.
“It was certainly an amazing undertaking,” said Vincent Solomeno.
Museum curator Captain Solomeno says South Jerseyans learned of the June 6, 1944 invasion of German-occupied France from this original Philadelphia Inquirer.
“It did come as a surprise to American public and I imagined people at home where rooting for what Eisenhower said. Their objective was the elimination of Nazi tyranny over Europe,” said Solomeno
On shore, New Jersey’s 102nd made a huge impact. U.S. tanks rolled over hedgerows and German artillery would destroy them. Cranford’s Curtis Cullin took German barbed wire and metal to equip tanks with what they called the Rhino Plow.
“Gen. Eisenhower called it an example of Yankee ingenuity at its best and critical to the Allied breakout at Normandy,” said Solomeno.
The 102nd unit was the first Allied force to reach Nazi-occupied Paris.
“As they came in on their tanks, they were rushed by hundreds and thousands of people and they had American flags that they gave out and it was like a scene from a movie. One of the troopers in his diary called wrote it the finest and most memorable day of my life,” said Solomeno.
At Brookdale Community College, the state gave distinguished medals to four D-Day soldiers at this Lest We Forget ceremony.
“It’s a massacre. It’s not describable,” said Bernard Friedenberg.
92-year-old Staff Sergeant Friedenberg of Atlantic City was a medic on D-Day. He recalls Nazi resistance was heavy and lethal.
“I was a medic on the beach. I landed with the first troops to hit the beach. I just went from one wounded guy to another to another to another,” said Friedenberg.
He even crawled in to a minefield.
“I just kept on going it was mechanical. I knew what I had to do and I did it,” said Friendenberg.
Paul Zigo founded Brookdale’s Center for World War II Studies and Conflict Resolution.
“They saved the world. They did so not for glory or honor. Not for lasting tributes on a printed page but simply because it had to be done,” said Zigo.
Zigo says no generation can match World War II vets achievement and prays none will ever have to.