Robert Cohen recorded his oral history on February 6th 2013 at his home in lower Manhattan. Mr. Cohen fought in World War II in the Mediterranean and European Theaters of Operation. Mr. Cohen seemed to be everywhere fighting in eight countries and six campaigns (would have been seven, but the last campaign was in violation of the Yalta Agreement) and one invasion, Normandy. Mr. Cohen served in the 1st Engineers Special Brigade, the 83rd Infantry Division, and the 1st Infantry Division (also known as The Big Red One). Mr. Cohen had three jobs while serving: a light machine gunner, a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) Man, and Military Police.
In his story Mr. Cohen recounts troop build-up prior to Operation Overlord, landing on Utah Beach at 6:30am on D-Day, and advancing to the Elbe River. Amidst a bit of audio interference from a construction crew resurfacing the exterior of Mr. Cohen's building is an anecdote about actor Marlon Brando and the pet raccoon he kept in a bathtub. Please enjoy this truly fascinating and generous narrative from a remarkable NYC veteran.
Major points in interview Part I:
- 1:06: Cohen introduces himself and how he was drafted
- 5:06: Infantry training
- 5:50: Deployed to North Africa
- 8:45: Describes end of war and respect for Eisenhower
- 11:29: Sent to Italy
- 19:20 Arriving in England and training for Normandy and D-Day
- 24:17: Germans sank E-boats and Cohen and his peers lost their bags.
- 28:26: Waiting to load landing crafts before heading across channel on D-Day
- 31:01: Colliding with another landing craft
- 32:29: Landed on Utah Beach
- 36:24: Land mine incident Cohen witnessed
- 41:46: Cohen is sent to infantry
- 44:10: When Cohen and his friends duck out of training and head for town
- 49:44: Talks about combat in the infantry as "endless horror"
Major points in interview Part II:
- 00:08: Promoted to be a BAR man
- 4:20: Tells a side story about this phrase: "All is forgiven a long time ago."
- 6:25: Returns to main story, stationed in Holland.
- 9:20: Stories when Cohen received a new second lieutenant
- 13:38: Attacking Noose, a German city
- 18:30: Cohen shows Higgins some pictures
- 19:10: Cohen shares a variety of stories about being a BAR man
- 22:55: Closest time Cohen was to death while serving
- 26:04: Cohen shows more pictures
- 27:17: More stories of Cohen's service are shared
- 32:25: The duties of being a military policeman
- 36:22: Returnign to civilian life and meeting his wife
- 40:25: Wally Cox story with guest star Marlon Brando
- 45:39: Reflections on war in general
- 45:50: Cohen gets his medals out to show Higgins
- 49:02: How Cohen and his wife celebrate D-Day each year