WWII paratrooper, missing for decades, buried with honors
By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: July 23, 2018
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Nearly 74 years after he was killed on a battlefield in Holland, Staff Sgt. David Rosenkrantz was finally welcomed home Friday.
The 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, whose remains were missing for decades after the war, was laid to rest at Riverside National Cemetery in California.
Officials from the 82nd Airborne traveled to California from Fort Bragg for the event and presented the Rosenkrantz family with the medals that Staff Sgt. Rosenkrantz earned in the war.
Phillip Rosenkrantz, the soldier’s nephew, said it was an honor for the 82nd Airborne Division to have a role in the ceremony.
“It means a great deal to us to have his unit represented, presenting his awards,” he said. “My family and I would like to thank all of the people who helped locate our uncle and bring him home to be buried with his four brothers who were also part of World War II.”
Phillip Rosenkrantz learned of his uncle’s service from hand-written letters that he sent home from Fort Bragg, Italy and England and from several newspaper accounts of his service.
Staff Sgt. Rosenkrantz was one of the nation’s first paratroopers. He fought with H Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, made combat jumps into Sicily and Holland and participated in the historic Waal River crossing during Operation Market Garden.
In Italy, Staff Sgt. Rosenkrantz was captured by Italian forces, but along with another American soldier, was able to convince the approximately 200 foreign troops to surrender.
He was wounded in Sicily but recovered in time to fight with his unit at Salerno, Anzio — where the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment earned its nickname “Devils in Baggy Pants” — and the Chunzi pass.
The unit, and Staff Sgt. Rosenkrantz, would later take part in the largest airborne operation in history, Operation Market Garden, in an attempt to push Nazi troops back into Germany.
But his story seemingly came to an end a week into that operation when, on Sept. 28, 1944, Staff Sgt. Rosenkrantz was killed after German tanks and infantry launched a major attack on his platoon as they were occupying a farm near the town of Groesbeek.
According to reports, Staff Sgt. Rosenkrantz, then 27-years-old, was shot from behind by a German machine gunner.
His squad took cover and retreated, unable to retrieve his body in the process. Later, the soldiers were unable to find his remains and he was listed as missing.
In March, more than 73 years after Staff Sgt. Rosenkrantz was killed, the Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency announced his remains had been identified by DNA testing with the help of several Dutch citizens, the Royal Netherlands Army’s Recovery and Identification Unit and the American Battle Monuments Commission.
The find ended a nearly two-decade-long search for his uncle by Phillip Rosenkrantz, a professor emeritus in the industrial and manufacturing engineering department at California Polytechnic University in Pomona.
Phillip Rosenkrantz was born in 1949, five years after his uncle went missing in Europe. And he said the family never forgot about Staff Sgt. Rosenkrantz, who was one of five brothers who served in the war.
“David was extremely close to everyone in the family and everyone who knew him loved him. His letters home while in the Army reflected how connected he was to everyone,” Phillip Rosenkrantz said. “He was very gregarious and a central figure in keeping the family close together. His loss was devastating to the family, especially to his mother. She never gave up hope that her son might still be alive.”
In honor of Staff Sgt. Rosenkrantz’s return, flags in California were flown at half-staff on Friday.
Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, the 82nd Airborne Division spokesman who spoke during the ceremony, said today’s paratroopers follow the example set by Staff Sgt. Rosenkrantz and other soldiers who fought and died for their country.
“We always say that when you serve in the 82nd Airborne Division, you walk in the footsteps of legends,” he said. “Today, one of those legends has returned home.”
More than 100 82nd Airborne Division soldiers remain missing from World War II battlefields.
Buccino said those soldiers have not been forgotten and that officials still hold out hope that they will one day be brought home.
"As a nation, we celebrate our war dead and we cherish the accomplishments of our World War II veterans, but we sometimes lose sight of the fact that they have not all been found," he said. "They have not all been given the service and ceremony that we owe them. As a Nation, we must commit to finding all of them."
Officials presented the Rosenkrantz family with a Bronze Star Medal, earned during Operation Market Garden in September 1944 and a Purple Heart for wounds received on the day of his death.
They also presented the family with a European Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, the Netherlands Orange Lanyard for soldiers who participated in the liberation of Holland, a Combat Parachutist Badge with two stars to note parachute assaults into Sicily and the Netherlands and coins from the 50th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the 82nd Airborne Division command sergeant major and the 82nd Airborne Division commanding general.
©2018 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
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