2nd Lt. Raymond Zussman
THE NAVY GOT IT WRONG
The football coach at Central High School laughed when Raymond Zussman showed up to try out for the team. The Navy rejected Zussman for being too short. They both got it wrong.
The small statured Zussman wore the attitude “I kin take care of myself.” He did and more. He protected the innocent of WWII and took care of a large number of Nazi soldiers as well. His personal, undaunted courage and can-do attitude made him a WWII fighting powerhouse earning him the Medal of Honor.
Ray Zussman was raised in Hamtramck. He sang in his synagogue’s choir. After high school, he became a shop steward with local union #337. When WWII broke out, he turned to US Army who recognized his spirit. He became an instructor in street fighting at Fort Knox and a tank commander with the 756th Tank Battalion.
FEEL THE ADRENALINE RUSH
Zussman saw action and was wounded in the battle of Cassino, Italy. After recovery, he was reassigned to active duty crossing from France into Germany. Zussman’s tank became disabled in battle at the Village of Noroy-le-Bourg, France. Here’s what his military citation reads:
On 12 September 1944, 2d Lt. Zussman was in command of two tanks operating with an infantry company in the attack on enemy forces occupying the town of Noroy-le-bourg, France.
At 7:00 P.M., his command tank bogged down. Throughout the ensuing action, armed only with a carbine, he reconnoitered alone on foot far in advance of his remaining tank and the infantry. Returning only from time to time to designate targets, he directed the action of the tank and turned over to the infantry the numerous German soldiers he had caused to surrender.
He located a road block and directed his tanks to destroy it. Fully exposed to fire from enemy positions only 50 yards distant, he stood by his tank directing its fire. Three Germans were killed and eight surrendered.
Again he walked before his tank, leading it against an enemy-held group of houses, machine-gun and small-arms fire kicking up dust at his feet. The tank fire broke the resistance and 20 enemy surrendered. Going forward again alone he passed an enemy-occupied house from which Germans fired on him and threw grenades in his path.
After a brief firefight, he signaled his tank to come up and fire on the house. Eleven German soldiers were killed and 15 surrendered. Going on alone, he disappeared around a street corner. The fire of his carbine could be heard and in a few minutes he reappeared driving 30 prisoners before him. Under 2d Lt. Zussman’s heroic and inspiring leadership, 18 enemy soldiers were killed and 92 captured.
Think about that.. who does that? He was a major badass. I can only imagine the adrenaline running through his veins.
Unfortunately, Ray met death a few days after these heroics; killed in action in another battle on September 21, 1944.
Ray’s namesakes were many: A US military ship, a veteran’s post, a private library, and two parks were named in his honor. His Detroit Park at Dexter and Davison was dedicated on July 17, 1951. Today, this tidy park serves the neighborhood well with newer playground equipment, basketball court, and picnic shelter. A few summer’s back, I noticed a rolling popcorn machine/cart in the park mid-day.
Zussman is also honored with a Hamtramck park bordered by Evaline, Winfield, and Yemans Streets.
The Jewish War Veterans Raymond Zussman Post #510 continues to be active in the remembrance of veterans through visits to Battle Creek Vets Hospital on Christmas Day; fundraising and commemorative activities. The Zussman family [still in metro Detroit] take personal pride in the remembrance of this courageous hero.
Copyright 2013 Andrea Gallucci. All rights reserved.
Raymond Zussman photo courtesy of the Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archive – Jewish War Veterans Collection.