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Jewish War Veterans Past Commander medal and ribbon issued to a US soldier

Object | Accession Number: 2011.447.11.6

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    Jewish War Veterans Past Commander medal and ribbon issued to a US soldier

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Past Commander Medal awarded to Sidney Cooley by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States for his postwar service as a member of the organization. On January 1, 1945, Sidney’s Division was deployed to Marseilles, France, and quickly advanced north into Germany. The 63rd Infantry crossed the Siegfried Line and fought through central Germany, arriving in Landsberg am Lech by April. Sidney was promoted and assigned to General Louis Hibb’s staff. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. Sidney was promoted to Captain, assigned to the Third Army, and placed on occupational duty in the American zone. He was selected to serve as the deputy military governor in Bayreuth. He assisted with regional rebuilding efforts and with the de-Nazification program. Sidney, a lawyer by training, served as prosecutor for the U.S. military government in Bayreuth, as well as a judge, hearing approximately 1,800 cases involving civilian violations of military government. As a Yiddish speaking, Jewish American official, Sidney’s presence in Bayreuth attracted many displaced Holocaust survivors looking for a place to settle while waiting to emigrate. Among his efforts to help the community was the establishment of an agrarian training program to train more than 300 hopeful Palestinian settlers and prepare them for life as farmers. Sidney worked very closely with the Jewish community and when he left Bayreuth, they thanked him with an eloquent citation.
    Date
    issue:  after 1946-before 2014
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center
    Markings
    medal, front center, embossed : JEWISH WAR VETERANS • OF THE UNITED STATES •
    medal, back bottom, engraved : 1/20 G.F [gold filled]
    bar, front, embossed : PAST COMMANDER
    Contributor
    Subject: Sidney M. Cooley
    Issuer: Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
    Biography
    Sidney Milton Cooley was born on December 21, 1913, in Springfield, Massachusetts, to a Jewish couple, Moses Louis and Sadie F. Cooley. Moses was born on March 24, 1873, in Kletsk, Belarus, to Jacob and Rivka Bearg Koolesh (later Cooley). He had two brothers and a sister. His family immigrated to the United States around 1900. Sadie was born on July 1, 1885, in Russia, to Itzik and Ruth Bearg Brodnitzky (later Broad). She had three sisters and three brothers. Her family immigrated to the United States around 1903. On October 27, 1908, Moses married Sadie in Springfield. Moses was a merchant and ran a dry goods store. Sidney had three older brothers. Philip (1909-1910) and Michael (1912), who both died young, and Edward (1911 -1998). On January 21, 1932, Sidney’s 58 year old father, Moses, died. Sidney graduated from high school and attended college. He worked as a manager in a tire shop, a piano player, and an orchestra conductor. In 1940, he earned a law degree from Northeastern University and was admitted to the bar. He and his brother Edward, also a lawyer, opened their own law practice, Cooley & Cooley. His mother married a family friend, Max Schreck (1883-1963.)

    Soon after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II. On June 8, 1942, Sidney was drafted into the US Army and sent to Officer Candidate School at Camp Lee in Virginia. On April 30, 1943, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and in June, he was assigned to the 63rd Infantry Division, nicknamed Blood and Fire. His Division spent more than a year training in Mississippi. On January 1, 1945, Sidney’s Division was deployed to Marseilles, France. The Division moved north to Sarreguemines and crossed the Saar River into Germany on February 17. The 63rd advanced across the Siegfried Line and through many cities, including Worms and Mannheim. By April, the Division was in Landsberg am Lech. Sidney was promoted and assigned to General Louis Hibb’s staff as a division transportation officer.

    On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. Many of Sidney’s fellow soldiers returned to the US, but because of his law degree, he was held back and reassigned to the occupational forces in the American Zone. He was promoted to Captain and transferred to the Third Army. Sidney was selected to serve as deputy military governor in Bayreuth, where he assisted with the de-Nazification program and the rebuilding of the region. In this capacity, 33 year old Sidney served as prosecutor for the U.S. military government in occupied Germany, as well as a judge, hearing approximately 1,800 cases involving civilian violations of military government. Sidney’s presence in Bayreuth attracted many Holocaust survivors, who were told about him by an itinerant rabbi. Many of these displaced persons flocked to Bayreuth in order to be under the protection of a Jewish American government official that spoke Yiddish and was sympathetic to their situation. Sidney spent much of his time finding housing for these displaced concentration camp survivors and helped them receive valuable training and much needed supplies. Sidney settled 300 displaced people into the commandeered former estate of Julius Streicher, the editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer. He helped turn the estate into a school to train the residents in agrarian work in preparation for their planned immigration to Palestine. This training program was so successful that it was repeated throughout the American zone. Sidney was present for the first post-war, Jewish wedding and the birth of the first Jewish child in Bayreuth. Before returning to the US in 1946, many of the survivors in Bayreuth presented Sidney with a citation “thanking him for all he did to give them hope and help them return to life."

    Sidney returned to the US. On June 27, 1946, he married Anne Violet “Pudsie” Sachse (1921-2012) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In September, Sidney was honorably discharged as a Major. He received many medals and awards for his service, including a Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Unit Plaque. Sidney and Pudsie settled in Springfield and had three children, 2 sons and a daughter. Sidney returned to practicing law with his brother, Edward, at their own law firm. In 1960, he was appointed special justice in Franklin District Court in Greenfield. In 1973, he was appointed presiding justice for the Hampden District Court in Westfield. On April 17, 1978, Sidney’s 92 year old mother, Sadie, died. Sidney and his wife, Pudsie, were active members of many community organizations and their temple. Sidney was also an active member of his chapter of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America. In 1983, Sidney retired from the bench and returned to his law firm. In 2013, he retired. Sidney, aged 100, died on January 7, 2014, in Springfield.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Awards
    Category
    Medals
    Physical Description
    Circular, gold colored metal medal with an attached grosgrain ribbon and enameled pin. Embossed on the red enameled center of the medal is a forward facing eagle with its head to the left, wings outspread, US on its chest, and talons clutching a bundle of arrows. It is ringed by a band of embossed English text. Beneath is a solid, 6 pointed Star of David with the short, raised rays at the center of each arm and outlined by a border of enamel paint, alternating white and light blue. The star is imposed over the open center of an embossed laurel wreath with a rectangular suspension loop at the top. Threaded through the loop is a folded ribbon with 9 vertical stripes: thick light blue center flanked by thick white, narrow red, narrow white, and blue. The top of the ribbon is attached to a rectangular bar with embossed text surrounded by blue enamel paint on the raised center with stepped decorative borders around it. On the flat back is a hinged pin with a c-clasp above a horizontal bar to support the ribbon, which has light brown stains on it.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 3.000 inches (7.62 cm) | Width: 1.625 inches (4.128 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    Materials
    overall : metal, ribbon, enamel paint, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The medal was donated to the Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center in Springfield, MA, by Judge Sidney Cooley. It was transferred to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2011, following the closure of the Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center in 2010.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-31 15:17:32
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn106408

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