MIDDLETOWN – Major General Maurice Rose was the highest-ranking Jew to serve in the U.S. military. Commander of the Third Armored “Spearhead” Division, Rose was fatally shot by a German tank gunner on Mar. 30, 1945, just five weeks before the end of World War II. He was the highest-ranking American killed by enemy fire in the European Theater of Operations during the war.
Rose was buried beside the men he commanded, in a German cemetery, without the public tribute and recognition that were his due.
Now Rose, called by biographers Steven L. Ossad and Martin Blumenson “World War II’s greatest forgotten commander,” will posthumously be acknowledged in the town of his birth. On Dec. 10, the newly constructed military facility in Middletown is designated as the Major General Maurice Rose Armed Forces Reserve Center.
Rose was born in Middletown in 1899, the son of Rabbi Sam Rauss (the name was changed at Ellis Island), who had immigrated to the U.S. in 1893. After a second son was born in the early 1900s, the family relocated to Denver in search of better economic opportunity.
Rose’s military career began when he enlisted in the U.S. army in 1917, after a failed attempt to join the Colorado National Guard at age 16. As a first lieutenant during World War I, he fought in France, where he was wounded and received the Purple Heart medal for bravery. After the war, he worked for a short time as a traveling salesman, re-enlisting as a captain and attaining the rank of major general by the time the U.S. entered World War II.
Rose kept his Jewish identity hidden, and was initially buried in the Ittenbach Cemetery in Germany, under a cross. “From 1920 to 1945, during his enlistment in the U.S. Army, Rose was admitted to six different hospitals and never once said he was a Jew, but rather identified as either Episcopalian, Methodist, or Lutheran,” says Norman Hanenbaum, commander of the Department of Connecticut Jewish War Veterans of the USA. “During the ‘20s and ‘30s, there was an awful lot of antisemitism in the military, and he knew he would never move up the ranks, so he kept his Jewishness from everyone, even his two wives.”
Upon learning of his death, Rose’s parents held a memorial service at the Conservative synagogue in Denver where he had celebrated his bar mitzvah. Army chaplain Rabbi Abraham Elefant lobbied the U.S. army to replace Rose’s grave marker with a Star of David; the grave was moved to the Netherlands American Cemetery for World War II soldiers in the town of Margraten in August 1945, but the cross remained.
A new hospital in Denver, opened in 1948, was named the General Rose Memorial Hospital. Middletown held a dedication ceremony and erected a plaque at Rose’s birthplace in 2002. Two years later, the Jewish War Veterans’ Post 51 in Middletown was created to honor his memory.
At the groundbreaking ceremony of the Middletown reserve center in June 2010, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said, “A son and grandson of rabbis who grew up to become the highest ranking Jew in the United States Army, General Rose served a distinguished and highly-decorated career until he was killed in action in Germany in 1945. It is only fitting we honor this Middletown hero here at the Middletown Reserve Center.”
The language naming the facility after Rose was included in the defense authorization bill passed by the House in May 2010, and signed into law by Pres. Obama in January 2011. In an ironic twist, the public dedication ceremony was initially planned for Saturday afternoon, Dec. 10. With the urging of Hanenbaum, the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, and a Jewish military chaplain, DeLauro had the ceremony moved to 6 p.m. so that the ceremony was not held on Shabbat.
The armed forces reserve center is located in Cucia Park, Smith Road at Industrial Road, in Middletown. For more information about the dedication ceremony call (860) 344-1159.