David Rosenkrantz is one of the many unsung heroes whose lives, cut short by the horrors of war, are honored on Memorial Day. Born in 1916, Staff Sergeant Rosenkrantz joined the army in January 1942. Volunteering for the Airborne, he was part of the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) and trained at Fort Benning and Fort Bragg.
Sergeant Rosenkrantz first experienced major action in the capture of Sicily from the Italian armed forces. Actually, in what could have been a major tragedy, he became a hero. During their parachute jump onto the island, Sergeant Rosenkrantz and Corporal Lee Black were separated from their company. They landed in a remote area and came upon 200 Italian soldiers who immediately surrendered. The prisoners were brought to camp and, after Sicily was secured, the 504 PIR went on to fight in Italy. There they played such a significant role in battle near Anzio that the Germans nicknamed them “the Devils in Baggy Pants.”
After recuperating in England, the 504 PIR was assigned to “Operation Market Garden,” which sent them into Holland. Their mission was to capture bridges near the towns of Grave and Nijmegen.
On September 28, 1944, Rosenkrantz’s H Company arrived at a farmhouse called Den Heuvel. Noticing enemy troops in the distance, Sergeant Rosenkrantz stood up to fire, but he had not realized that there were enemies behind as well. He was hit by machine gun fire. Although the fatal encounter was witnessed, Sergeant Rosenkrantz was officially listed as “Missing in Action.”
While Sergeant Rosenkrantz’s body was never recovered, his dog tags were returned to his family over 50 years later, in 2011. It is interesting to note that they are marked with a “J” for Jewish, emphasizing how frightful it must have been to a young Jewish soldier to put himself in Nazi territory.
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