Veteran Survived the Battle of the Bulge - Veterans Health Administration
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Veteran Survived the Battle of the Bulge

Old photo of a man in uniform next to the same man, now elderly

WW II Veteran Arthur Berkowitz in 1944 and today

By Claudie Benjamin
Monday, December 15, 2014

Sherry Berkowitz has the utmost admiration for Arthur Berkowitz, her dad, who celebrated his 91st birthday last week. She is his daily caregiver, advocate, and morale booster and takes every occasion to let others know, “He is a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient who fought in the bloody Battle of the Bulge and was badly injured in the weeks that followed.”

The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive fought in the late winter of 1944, through the densely forested Western Front of Europe. The surprise attack toward the end of World War II took many Allied casualties, particularly among U.S. troops.

The historic Battle of the Bulge happened 70 years ago and helped turn the tide of war in the European Theater by weakening German military resources. But the Battle of the Bulge remains very much present in the minds of World War ll Veterans like Berkowitz who, time after time, relives his combat experience and the moment he was permanently disabled.

Drafted as an Army infantryman, Berkowitz describes the daily life he and others endured during the winter of 1944-45. “It was very, very cold. I slept on ice in a fox hole, wrapped in a coat I took off a dead German,” he said. “Yes, I have PTSD.”

“I wasn’t assigned to tanks, but I knew how to reload the gun. I asked another soldier to move over so I could reload, and he and the two other soldiers with me were killed by a mortar shell explosion,” said Berkowitz, recalling one traumatic incident among many. “That’s what you call luck,” he says.

Weeks later, Berkowitz’s knee was shattered by a sniper’s bullet. Treated on the field and airlifted to England, Berkowitz was then transported by ship to the United States. He sustained 14 operations on his knee and spent over two years in hospitals, basically battling infection.

Finally, he volunteered to try streptomycin. Now a familiar antibiotic, the drug was then in its experimental stages. He was told it might cause loss of hearing and sterility, but, happily for Berkowitz, the drug stopped the infection and had no negative side effects.

His combat injury, however, was treated by fusing the bones of his knee and Berkowitz knew then he would proceed through life with chronic pain and a knee that would not bend.

Veteran Marries Veteran

After recovery, Berkowitz met Navy Veteran Tabby Berkowitz on a blind date. Within a month’s time, he asked her to be his wife, and the couple married two months later. They lived in an apartment and then moved to a home they purchased for $16,000 in Fresh Meadows, Queens where they raised two daughters. After Berkowitz’s wife died, he continued to live in the same home with his daughter Sherry.

Berkowitz and his daughter are frequent visitors to VA’s Manhattan campus, where he receives care in cardiology, PTSD, physical medicine and rehab. Berkowitz cannot give enough praise for his daughter’s devoted care. “She gets up very early every day and drives me here, three, four times a week for all my appointments. I couldn’t do this without her.”

For her part, Sherry, a trained speech therapist, takes the full-time job as caregiver in stride. “I began being a caregiver when my mother was ill. Now, I take care of my father,” she said.

Sherry said she was very grateful to have access to VA’s toll-free Caregiver Support line, 855-260-3274. “It’s wonderful,” she said. Sherry just completed a six-week Building Better Caregivers training program, offered through VA’s national Caregiver Support Program.

For more about services VA provides caregivers of Veterans, visit VA’s Caregiver Support page.