Morty Pear, Commander of the Middletown Major General Maurice Rose Jewish War Veterans Post 51, speaks about honoring Rose with a dedication of the bridge and praised all veterans present, calling all of them heroes. Photo: Dortha Cool Willetts.
Route 9 Bridge Dedicated to General
MIDDLETOWN - If you drive either south or north on Route 9 in Middletown, you may spot a sign that reads: “Major General Maurice Rose Memorial Bridge.” The bridge spans Union Street, which leads to Harbor Park. The signs memorialize Rose, the commander of the legendary Third Armored Division, and the highest-ranking Jew in the United States Army during World War II. This Middletown native was regarded by his biographers as “World War II’s Greatest Forgotten Commander.”

       A ceremony to rename and dedicate the bridge was held in the City Council Chambers Jan. 5 at 11 a.m. The Connecticut General Assembly approved the dedication this past summer. State Rep. Matt Lesser worked with local Jewish war Veterans Major General Maurice Rose Post 51 Commander Morty Pear and the former commander Roger “Sonny” Rubinow, who died in 2014, to prepare for the dedication.

       Lesser acknowledged the presence of Commissioner of the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs Sean Connolly, state Sen. Paul Doyle, state Rep. Joseph Serra and other distinguished persons. Lesser also recognized the presence of Jewish war veterans at the local, state and national levels, as well as veterans from Middletown’s Post 75, with their commander Larry Riley.

       Mayor Dan Drew thanked all the veterans present for their service and sacrifice.

       “To be here today to honor Maurice Rose is truly a great honor for us,” said Drew. “World War II, as a seminal event in our nation’s history, made this country what it is.”

       Rep. Serra told of how Rose lied about his age to enlist in the National Guard after graduating from high school, hoping to join General John Pershing’s Pancho Villa Expedition in 1916.

       “Some people compare him to Patton for being a leader right up front,” said Serra.

       Sen. Doyle spoke about the sacrifice people made during World War II, both soldiers in the war and the public at home supporting them. He said that Americans have made little sacrifice at home during the past 13 years of war and have ignored the cost of those wars.

       Lesser introduced Morty Pear, Commander of the Middletown Jewish War Veterans Post 51. Pear preceded his remarks by asking all veterans in the room to stand.

       “Today we honor a World War II hero who gave his life so that we could enjoy the freedom we have today,” he said. “I’d like to point out, though, that all of you are heroes.”

       Lesser told the audience that although Rose was born in Middletown, his parents were both Polish immigrants and his father a Rabbi.

       “His story embodies the stories of many of us who have been immigrants to this city and enriched our country in many ways over many years,” said Lesser.

       Phil Cacciola, a member of American Legion Post 75, and a World War II veteran, pointed out that Rose was born in 1899, the same year the city firehouse was built; Rose’s birthplace was across the street from the firehouse. Cacciola displayed a recently published book, Major General Maurice Rose, by Steven L. Ossad and Dan R.Marsh. Cacciola related the general’s wartime experiences as he had read them from the book and other sources.Cacciola’s address is summarized below.


       Major General Maurice Rose: “One of Our Bravest”

       Rose’s family moved to Denver, Colo., in 1905, and in1916 Rose spent six weeks in the Colorado National Guard before his commander was informed that he was underage. Reenlisting in the Army, he graduated from Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was wounded while serving in the 89th Infantry Division in France.

       During World War II, chief of staff for the 1st Armored Division, Colonel Rose negotiated and accepted the surrender of the German Army in Tunisia, the first large-scale surrender to an American Force during the war. Promoted to brigadier general, he commanded the 2nd Armored Division, then, in 1944, he was promoted to major general and assigned to command the 3rd Armored Division, which he commanded from the front lines.

       According to authors Ossad and Marsh, “Rose saved the 506th Parachute Infantry (of ‘Band of Brothers’ fame) at the Battle of Caretan in June 1944, and might very well have saved the entire Normandy beachhead from a catastrophic German counterattack. His brilliant, daring, and aggressive defensive tactics during the Battle of the Bulge prevented an enemy breakthrough to the Meuse River and beyond, thereby frustrating the German advance.”

       Cacciola recounted that Rose commanded the 3rd Armored Division, known as the “Spearhead” division, on the longest armored one-day drive in history--100 miles--through Germany, a record that still stands. On April 1, 1945, he led the greatest encirclement battle in history, capturing 350,000 enemy troops, in the Ruhr pocket, renamed the Rose pocket. This battle remains the only World War II battle to be named for an American officer.

       Rose’s division was the lead unit in the U.S.1st Army’s drive across Normandy and across northern France. His unit was the first to fire artillery into German soil and the first to penetrate the Siegfried Line. The 3rd Armored Division was the first allied unit to capture a German city, Cologne.

       On March 30, 1945, near the city of Paderborn while Rose’s column was trying to escape encirclement by German Tiger tanks, one of the Tigers cut them off and wedged Rose’s jeep against a tree. Rose and his aide dismounted, and raised their hands to surrender. The tank commander pointed his weapon at General Rose, and gave them an order in German. As Rose dropped his hands to unfasten his pistol belt, the tank commander fired and hit Rose three times.

       Rose is buried in American Battle Monuments Commission American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands. His troops both respected and loved him and General Eisenhower wrote a letter to Rose’s widow, Virginia Rose:

       “My dear Mrs. Rose...My admiration for your late husband was so profound that I am compelled to send you some word of sympathy in your tragic loss. He was not only one of our bravest and best, but was a leader who inspired his men to speedy accomplishment of tasks that to a lesser man would have appeared almost impossible. He was out in front of his division, leading it in one of its many famous actions when he met his death. I hope your realization of his extraordinary worth of his services to his country will help you in some small way to bear your burden of grief.”

       The U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Center on Smith Street in Middletown is named after Rose as is the Rose Medical Center in Denver. An army transport, an army airfield in Germany and a barracks in Germany are also named after Rose.