Former Davis resident and history buff David Israel has published a book nearly 20 years in the works – “The Day the Thunderbird Cried: Untold Stories of World War II.”
Ruth and David Israel lived in Davis for 18 years. She was the language laboratory supervisor for University Extension and he was a stockbroker in Sacramento.
It was while they lived in Davis that David became concerned about history – specifically, worried that history was being warped. Lies were being told on some college campuses – including UC Davis, he said – claiming the Holocaust never happened. He knew it happened because he was there. Israel, now 78, was an American GI during WWII who was sent to Germany and the Dachau concentration camp.
“One of my hobbies is tracking and exposing deniers and revisionists who say what we lived through never happened,” said Israel. “What I saw happening at UC Davis got me started documenting facts and writing my book. I am most interested in getting my book into the hands of young people,” he added.
“Deniers look to influence youngsters who don't have the background of knowledge to combat the bastards,” said Israel.
The Israels left Davis and moved to Rogue Valley Manor in Medford, Ore., nine years ago. (RVM is managed by the same company that takes care of the University Retirement Community in Davis. Israel says there are about 15 former Davis residents at the RVM.)
It was there that David really settled down to work on his book, which called on his personal memories and years of research and interviews of veterans and concentration camp survivors.
“I spent most of my time in Germany (during WWII) as part of an intelligence team in Dachau. I was the only American-born in the outfit. The others, known as ‘Ritchie Boys,’ were German-born Jews who came to the States as teen-agers. When drafted, they were classified as enemy aliens until some smart individual in intelligence realized they could be valuable assets.
“Given clearance, they were sent to Camp Ritchie, Md., for intelligence training. These guys were our eyes and ears in Europe since they spoke French and German fluently, but more importantly, they thought in German,” he said. Israel devotes a chapter in his book to the Ritchie Boys. “We were in Dachau (Hitler’s first concentration camp) for a long time searching for war criminals who were trying to hide among the POWs being held there. Fifty years later I went back to Dachau,” he said.
An incident that took place in Dachau on the day of liberation, April 29, 1945, became a major focus of his writing.
The 45th Infantry Division called themselves the Thunderbirds. The name and emblem came from a Native American symbol.
That spring, the Thunderbirds were ordered to detour from their march to Munich to take control of a place called Dachau.
“On that day these battle-hardened GIs walked into hell,” said Israel. “The sights, sounds and smells they encountered left them shattered. That was the day the Thunderbird cried.”
Israel sent a copy of his book to Norm. D. Fellman, a Jewish GI who was taken out of a POW camp and sent to Berga concentration camp. Fellman and others had to sign a statement saying the atrocities they experienced never happened. Who made them sign? Not the Germans, the Pentagon.
“Once started (reading ‘Thunderbird’) I could not put it down. So many things I thought I had put to rest came flooding back,” said Fellman. “It was not a pleasure to read but once started there was no stopping. This has to be a reference for Holocaust historians and an effective answer to the nay-sayers.”
The $25 book is available by mail from: Emek Press, 1200 Miramar, Suite 1001, Medford, OR 97504. Email: emek18 @ charter.net
-- Reach Elisabeth Sherwin at email@example.com and watch for more local writers to be featured biweekly at this web site. Return for our next installment and be prepared to find out about Elizabeth Block’s “A Gesture Through Time.”
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