Dr. Guy Stern stepped off a PT boat 68 years ago onto the Normandy coastline on the third day of the D-Day invasion. He was "squeamish."
On that beach he saw more carnage and mangled bodies than one should in a lifetime. But that "cured" him of the fear he felt.
"Once you're with it, you are surprised what inner resources you find," Stern said.
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Stern shared this and other stories last night with a full audience at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, part of the museum's Ritchie Boys exhibit. The Ritchie Boys is a nickname that was given to a group of approximately 9,000 mostly Jewish soldiers. They were trained at Camp Ritchie in Maryland. The Army used these soldiers to gather information for the Allied Forces because the men knew the German language and could identify with the enemy's psyche and culture.
One of the tactics employed by the Ritchie Boys during interrogations was to play on the fears of captures German soldiers. One of these fears, Stern said, was being turned over to the Russians. Stern would dress up in a Russian officer's uniform and call himself Commissar Krukov, and Fred Howard, a fellow Ritchie Boy, would lead the prisoners into a tent decorated with Russian posters and even an "autographed" photo of Joseph Stalin specifically addressed to Krukov.
The 90-year-old Stern is working on his autobiography titled "Chance Encounters." In it he tells stories of chance encounters that led to the shaping of his life -- including meeting a man from the organization that brought Stern, then 15 years old, to the U.S. and reuniting with a schoolmate from Hildesheim, Germany more than 60 years after the two left the school.
The Ritchie Boys exhibit, which Stern himself curates, features the stories of 10 Ritchie Boys, WWII uniforms and stories of the Ritchie Boys' experiences during their service overseas. The exhibit will be on display until Aug. 27.