Fight to the End….

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Many Baron Byng graduates interrupted their educational and career plans to serve in World War II.  Among them, Sydney Shulemson (BBHS ‘32) seen in the photograph above (number 3 in the center) was the highest decorated Jewish Canadian Serviceman. He received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1943 for mounting an attack on a convoy of enemy merchant ships and the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), in 1944. The citation for the DFC referred to his inspiring leadership and consistent and successful sorties.

“The most brilliant exploit in the RCAF’s shipping strikes took place on June 6th, 1944. No. 404 dispatched 14 R.P. ‘Beaus’ under the command of F/O S.S. Shulemson, with 25 RAF Beaufighters and Mosquitos escorts. Southwest of Belli Ile (Bay of Biscay) they encountered three German destroyers that were evidently bent on reaching the Allied invasion area. Attacking from out of a late afternoon sun, the Canadians achieved complete surprise….all three targets were smothered with rockets and left burning.” (Larry Milberry, Sixty years: The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924-1984, CANAV Books, 1984)

The Canadian Jewish Congress captured Shulemson’s heroics in the Jewish War Heroes comic book series published in 1944.

He never rose above the rank of flight lieutenant, unusual for a pilot exhibiting such skill and leadership qualities. This is commonly attributed to Shulemson being Jewish. He was nevertheless selected to command an entire wing of around 100 fighter planes, a task normally assigned to a wing commander or captain, one or two ranks above what he held.

After the war Shulemson and some other graduates, most notably William Novick (BBHS ’40) were instrumental in the creation of the Israeli Air Force in 1948. Novick, a pilot who flew 22 missions during the war, served as a Machal transporting planes and arms to Israel and setting up an airfield in the Negev. His recollection of his service and his role in the Israeli air force can be heard in Novick’s video interview. Others who served include Harry Blank (BBHS ’42) who was injured in the war, but returned to become a lawyer and subsequently was elected to the Quebec Legislative for the District of St. Louis; Melvyn Dobrin (BBHS ‘39), a navigator  who  went on to run Steinberg’s food chain; Jack Sibalis (BBHS ’39) who was a POW in the war and George Nashen (BBHS ’39). Flying Officer Sydney A. Tafler  (BBHS ’34) who lost his life at the age of 28 on February 2, 1945  is pictured here in front of a plane.

Sibalis, an observer-navigator, parachuted over Germany on August 2, 1943, as his plane crashed due to mechanical problems.  He was captured two weeks later by the Germans and held for the duration of the war.  His fascinating recollection of that time can be heard in his video interview. After the war ended he was contacted by the German soldier who captured him and they carried on a correspondence for many years.

Serving during WWII provided opportunities for many Baron Byng students that they would not otherwise have had. Veterans took advantage of their benefits to attend university upon their return becoming professionals of note in a variety of disciplines.

The Baron Byng Museum and Hall of Honor remembers and pays tribute to the twenty-nine Baron Byng alumni who made the ultimate sacrifice in the War, and to those who were decorated for their valiant efforts.

Baron Byng alumni who lost their lives in service are:

  • Private Charles Robert Abelson
  • Flight Sergeant Herman Backler
  • Private Issie Bell
  • Sergeant Moses Charton
  • Warrant Officer Joseph Cosoff
  • Gunner Issie Elias
  • Private Sydney Garber
  • Gunner Joseph Gertel
  • Sergeant Louis Goldberg
  • Corporal Harry Goldberg
  • Flight Sergeant Mark Goldwater
  • Acting Corporal Rueben Gorodetsky
  • Private Joseph Haberman
  • Corporal Benjamin Hockenstein
  • Flying Officer Abe Ittkin
  • Pilot Officer Aaron Avron Jacobs
  • Sergeant Abraham Kirsch
  • Leading Aircraftman Jack Kugelmass
  • Sergeant Manuel Zack Lewis
  • Flight Lieutenant John Joseph Marcus
  • Warrant Officer Louis Nutik
  • Pilot Officer Mortimer Regenstrief
  • Aircraftman Hyman Revzen
  • Private Abe Rochlin
  • Leading Aircraftman Frank Schwartz
  • Flying Officer Martin Shapiro
  • Warrant Officer Joseph Shulman
  • Flying Officer Sydney A. Tafler
  • Flying Officer Daniel Titleman

The following Byngers were decorated for their valiant service:

  • Leading Aircraftsman Arthur N. Gutner (Mentioned in Dispatches, June, 1945)
  • Yeoman of Signals Irving Jack Kaplan (Mentioned in Dispatches, twice, 1944)
  • Guardsman Joseph Levitt (Military Medal, September, 1945
  • Flying Officer William H. Novick (Distinguished Flying Cross, December, 1944)
  • Flight-Lieutenant Lazar Peters (Distinguished Flying Cross, December, 1944)
  • Flight-Lieutenant Sam Shernofsky (Mentioned in Dispatches, January, 1945)
  • Flight-Lieutenant Sydney Simon Shulemson (Distinguished Service Order, February, 1943; Distinguished Flying Cross, 1944)