By CSM Sam Yudin, CA ARNG, JewishMilitary.com
NAME: 2LT Raymond Zussman, USA
TIMEFRAME: World War II
Raymond Zussman was born in July 1917 in Hamtramck, Michigan to Nathan and Rebecca Leah Zussman, the youngest of eight children. A natural athlete, he played basketball, tennis, and ran track in high school. He even convinced the football coach to let him join the team, despite his short size. When World War II broke out, Zussman was working as a shipping clerk in a retail store, while taking night classes at Wayne University and studying metallurgy at the Detroit Institute of Technology. He entered the US Army in September 1941 at age 23, convinced that the war would soon be over. Zussman completed basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before joining Armored Officers School at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He graduated as a Second Lieutenant and served as a tank instructor until June 1943, when he was sent overseas to participate in the Allied invasion of North Africa. Shortly thereafter, he fought in Operation Avalanche, the invasion of Italy, and was wounded in the Battle of Monte Cassino. Upon recovering, he was offered a Headquarters assignment, which he turned down as he wanted to serve on the front lines. Zussman was then attached to the 756th tank battalion, operating in France.
On September 12, 1944 he participated in a fierce battle over the village of Noroy-le-Bourg, in which his personal exploits became the stuff of legend. During the battle, Zussman’s personal tank became immobile in a field, but that didn’t stop him. Zussman grabbed a carbine and left the safety of the tank to scout enemy positions, exposing himself to their fire multiple times while directing his troops. When he spotted a booby-trapped roadblock, he sent in a tank and followed with six infantry soldiers. Brazenly climbing on top of the tank, he showed the gunner exactly where the enemy’s machine gun nest was located. After two rounds, three Germans were dead and eight had surrendered. Next, Zussman’s troops aimed their fire at a German troop transport, killing another three Nazis and taking eight prisoner. By now, Zussman’s carbine was empty, and he grabbed a Tommy gun to replace it. He ran ahead of his troops until he began receiving direct fire from a house. Quickly taking cover next to a tank, he directed the gunner to fire at another strongpoint, capturing another 20 German soldiers in the process, and then ran toward the house while firing, evading hand grenades being thrown at him, until 11 more Germans surrendered. But the day wasn’t over: continuing his one-man operation, Zussman took a path from the house to the street while shooting his weapon expeditiously; capturing another 15 Nazis. Finally his tank caught up with him and took the prisoners down the village’s main thoroughfare. As they rolled down the street, they killed three more enemy soldiers in another house. Another eight to ten Nazis were killed when a fleeing wagon exploded. Worried there might be a trap waiting at an intersection around the corner, Zuss- man went ahead on his own yet again. This foray resulted in the capture of 30 Nazi soldiers, as well as their truck and two antitank guns. His final action of the day was to go into a field, again by himself, where he threw a grenade and returned with another German truck and its driver. Within an hour, Zussman had led the capture of at least 92 soldiers and killed 18 Nazis. Zussman and his troops had also confiscated two German antitank guns, a flak gun, two machine guns, and two trucks.
Tragically, the 27-year-old Zussman was killed just nine days later by a mortar explosion. In his final letter home he wrote, “Not much to tell except we are doing quite a lot of fighting and very little resting. I’ve been pretty tired and so have my men. We’re going to try to end this war soon because we’d like to get back to our people.”
Originally printed in the Pesach 5782 issue of the Jewish-American Warrior.