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Jack Appel

17th Signal Battalion, 1st US Army Signal Corps
Born September, 15, 1923, in Brooklyn, New York
WWII service: 1943-1945

Jack Appel

Jack was drafted a semester shy of graduating law school. One month into Army training, spinal meningitis nearly killed him. At age 96, Jack said he had “a charmed life” since he survived the war, too – from the Normandy landing to the Battle of the Bulge.

Experience in college working as a night telephone operator got Jack assigned to the Signal Corps. Maintaining communication headquarters was crucial for advancing U.S. forces. Jack soon discovered how difficult that was in Aachen, Germany and other locations damaged by heavy bombing.

Jack’s work could keep him miles from the frontlines, or so close he felt “raised off the ground when the bombs fell.” He was handed grenades to throw during combat around Spa, Belgium. He narrowly survived a V-1 flying bomb that destroyed the truck ahead of him in a convoy to Liege.

After the war, Jack started a Wall Street career, while making time to speak at synagogues, churches, and schools about seeing firsthand the horrors of the Holocaust. Like other Jewish U.S. soldiers, Jack did not list his faith on official documentation in case of Nazi capture. At the newly liberated Buchenwald concentration camp, Jack saw bodies “piled up like cordwood outside of the crematorium… It was the most powerful part of the war that I witnessed.”