My World War II hero is my grandfather, Technical Sergeant Rubin Simanoff of the 353rd Army Corps of Engineers.
I never met Rubin, but I imagine he was a lot like me: Loud, social, and clever. He loved to chat and entertain. He was proud to be an American, yet also proud to be a Jew whose family hailed from a little town in Ukraine.
I know what Rubin was like during World War II from the letters of Roman F. Klick, the corporal (later sergeant) who oversaw the 343rd. Some of Klick’s letters home were archived, and a few of them mention Rubin. Here are some of my favorite anecdotes.
“Another fellow who plays the piano well is Simanoff of H&S [Headquarters & Service] Company and today. Just as back in the Service Club at Camp White, you will chance upon him every so often sitting at the piano pounding out semi-classical and swing music by the hour.”July 6, 1943
“Nyalka wanted me to sing a song and I surprised the office by bursting out with ‘Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?’ I kept it up for a line or two when Simanoff, who had been passing by, stepped in, gave me a candy bar and told me to eat it instead of singing. I did.”September 14, 1943
“It seems that most of the Jewish fellows in the regiment are Russian Jews. Simanoff was surprised to hear in today’s news broadcast the mention of the recapture of the town Priluki, the birthplace of his father thirty miles east of Kiev.”July 13, 1943
Thank you for your service, Rubin.