Rabbi Samuel Rose and his wife, Katherin, were born in Poland and immigrated to the United States. After their arrival, they had 2 sons, Arnold and Maurice. His parents may have wanted him to go on to become a Rabbi, but he always knew he was going to be a soldier.
Maurice Rose dropped out of high school at the age of 15 to volunteer for General Pershing’s Mexican expedition. He lied about his age and became a private until the lie was discovered. After a few weeks, he was sent home.
During that short period of time, he had shown a natural leadership ability. So much so, that 2 years later, with the support of his parents, he rejoined the Army and sent to Officer Training School in 1916. Rose never hid his Jewishness from anyone and was accepted despite the anti-Semitism that had become prevalent throughout the government via eugenicists, which included then President Wilson.
1st Lieutenant Rose was assigned to the 89th Infantry Division. He fought in the battles of Argonne and St. Mihiel. The latter of which severely wounded the young officer; he was 17 at the time. Before the end of the war he was awarded several medals and achieved the rank of Captain.
Towards the end of 1920, he reenlisted and received the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. By 1930, Rose had reached the rank of Major and joined the Cavalry where he served in the Canal Zone and Pennsylvania. In 1941, he was one of the instructors to train reserve officers.
It was not until 1942 that he received his next promotion due to anti-Semitic interference. Had he not been born Jewish, or been more willing to hide his Judaism, the promotion would have come much sooner. Regardless of the delay, his next promotion was more than just becoming a Lieutenant-Colonel, but also became Chief of Staff of the 2nd Armored Division.
He took part in the North Africa campaign in 1943, which awarded him the Silver Star and a promotion to Colonel. He was given the 1st Armored Division during the Tunisian campaign and was the one to accept the first major surrender by the NAZIs. There is a sense of justice that the Bizerte naval base was surrendered to a Jewish officer.
Later that same year, he was promoted to Brigadier General and received a 2nd Silver Star. He was sent to England to train for the invasion of France. Like so many other officers and soldiers, he trained and waited as one false start followed another.
Shortly after Operation Overlord had begun, General Rose took the 2nd Armored Division to bring aid to the 101st Airborne Division, who was caught up in Carentan. The 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division was causing significant problems for the 101st. It was the 2nd Armored Division who drove them back, which enabled Carentan to be taken. Without Carentan, there could be no consolidation of forces from Utah and Omaha beaches. Operation Overlord would have failed.
General Rose was given command of the famed 3rd Armor Division. His division was the one to capture Mons, on the Belgium border, and took 10,000 German prisoners. 10 days after taking Mons, his division had gone through Belgium.
When the city of Roetgen fell, it was at the hands of his troops. Despite the disaster that had come from Operation Market Garden, he had never let the morale of his troops suffer. Roetgen was the first German city to be taken.
Following the fall of Roetgen, came the fall of Cologne early the following year. He arrived in France in June of 1944. In March of 1945 he was in Cologne. General Rose led from the front the entire time and put himself at great risk. If a bridge needed to be crossed and mines were suspected, he would be in the first tank to cross.
There would be no April for General Rose. He died on March 30th, which marked the highest-ranking Jewish officer serving the United States to ever be killed in combat. For most battlefield deaths, there are no questions as to what happened. General Rose was the only individual casualty to start a War Crimes investigation.
General Rose was in a jeep accompanying Task Force Welborn heading for Paderborn on a dirt road. The column was attacked by small arms, tank and anti-tank fire from both sides of the road. It was a legitimate ambush and lawful during a time of war. Rose took a fully automatic rifle with him as jumped from the jeep and used a roadside ditch for cover.
Division officers, including Colonel John Smith, Jr., attempted to contact General Rose to find out why the vehicles had stopped moving. It took time for General Rose to get to a radio and gave his final order. Colonel Smith knew the situation was problematic, but as events revealed themselves, it turned from problematic to grave. Colonel Smith was ordered to move in and close the gap, which was a final order that saved lives.
General Rose and those with him were cut off and a German tanker lifted the hatch of a Tiger tank with either an automatic rifle or pistol in hand. He motioned to General Rose towards where his sidearm was to ensure he did not reach for it. General Rose never pulled his pistol and had no other weapons on him by this time.
The German tanker opened fire on General Rose with at least one round striking his head and ending his life. Those who were close dove under a nearby tank and crawled to safety. It has never been determined who the German tanker was, despite a lengthy investigation. General Rose’s body was discovered with pistol in holster the following day.
The German Army was throwing boys into combat with very little training to replace those who had been killed or captured. There are times when someone surrendering gets shot by a soldier without realizing a surrender is happening. Confusion and inexperience alone cause this more often than any other time, but confusion and fatigue can create a circumstance for a mistake to be made by even the most highly trained soldiers. It is possible the circumstances surrounding General Rose’s death were not indicative of anything other than an accidental shooting.
Every German soldier was trained in what the National Socialists referred to as having a racial awareness. They were all aware that Jewish General was in the area. It is possible that the unknown tanker knew who General Rose was and murdered him.
The only thing that is certain surrounding the circumstances was the maps and codes remained in General Rose’s jeep. The German forces who had ambushed the Task Force had no idea there was a Division commander in their midst. Had they been aware, the jeep would have been the target of the ambush above all other vehicles.
Despite a lengthy investigation into possible war crimes surrounding the death of General Rose, the tanker who fired the shots has never discovered. No one will ever know if it was murder or an accidental shooting. Not one person has ever come forward with any information to give some hint of the tanker’s identity. It is possible the unknown tanker was killed in combat between March 30 of 1945 and the end of the war, or he could have made it through and never spoken about what happened.
Rather than focus on the circumstances surrounding his death, it was what he did with his life that General Rose should be remembered for. In the Army, the awards and ribbons are not given, but earned. The following makes him the highest ranking tanker of WWII.
Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Legion of Merit with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Bronze Star Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Purple Heart with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
World War I Victory Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 4 Bronze Stars World War II Victory Medal
Croix de Guerre with Palm (Belgium)
Legion of Honor (France)
Croix de Guerre with Palm (France)
Perhaps more than the awards are the words used by others to honor General Rose. He was praised by many, but I believe Andy Rooney best summed up General Rose in his book, My War.
Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose, who had been with the Second Armored Division at Saint-Lô, was now the commander of the Third Armored and he may have been the best tank commander of the war. He was a leader down where they fight. Not all great generals were recognized. Maurice Rose was a great one and had a good reputation among the people who knew what was going on, but his name was not in the headlines as Patton’s so often was. Rose led from the front of his armored division.