Traveler, writer, reviewer, all-round observer. I like anything cool & fast, but occasionally sit at a cafe watching the world go by.
In part I of my home interview with WWII Veteran Martin Weinstein, we talked about his B-17 crew, the Tuskagee Airmen, and his first experience stateside after serving 47 missions in Europe. For a great many, being away for so long, things looked different. Having been so young when they first joined, coming back home as a man, they pondered what to do next with their lives, and where they might fit in. Martin shared with me his postwar experience of the 40’s and 50’s…
Aki: You told me earlier that you continued your education after the war. What led you to that decision?
Martin Weinstein: When I went into the service, I already had three years invested in college. I was released from the army on the 17th of September – some dates you never forget. On the 29th of September, I was already back enrolled at City College to get my degree.
I then looked around for something so I decided I’d go to law school. Now I didn’t know anything about law schools, but I read the sports pages and I knew that certain colleges had football teams -therefore I wrote four letters. It was Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Cornell.
I said to my wife, “If I get accepted anywhere, the first one that accepts me is where I’m going.” I got a letter almost immediately from Harrop Freeman, who was in charge of admissions at Cornell. I sent my money to them, then two days later I got an acceptance from Harvard. And four days later, from Yale. Don’t be amazed at this, because they were looking for people at the time. It wasn’t that I was particularly talented. I had a nice resume, but it wasn’t spectacular.
Judy: You know this was all on the GI bill.
Martin: Yeah. I didn’t pay. It didn’t cost me a penny to go to law school. Now Princeton sent me a letter saying they read my resume and thought it was very nice. And as soon as they build a law school, I’d be one of their first. I didn’t even know that Princeton didn’t have a law school. I think they still don’t have one to this day.
Aki: You would have been waiting for a very long time.
Martin: Yes, I would have. It was no big deal, though. In fact, they would have taken me without a degree. I wouldn’t have had to graduate from college to go to law school at that time.
Aki: Because of the losses from the war.
Martin: Two years of college would have entitled me to go to law school. But there’s something in my character that says if you start something, you should finish it.
Judy: And you promised your mother you would finish.
Martin: Well, yeah. She was – as you will find in my autobiography, she was the guiding light of my life. I went through a lot stuff, you have to understand, in a fog. The fog of ignorance. A lot of the things that I was confronted with, I had never been confronted with before, and I knew nothing about.
Aki: Well, being young at the time, and seeing only war before coming back home, you were still growing, still learning.
Martin: To say I went out of the army and into law school, it doesn’t work that way. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was guessing at things. Is law school a good idea? So, the first thing I did when I got out of the service was to apply for reserve status. I would stay in the army, and they changed my MOS from flying to lawyer.
I got my first job at a large law firm in Manhattan at 40 Wall Street -Gale, Bernays, Faulk, and Eisner was the name. In those days, there were firms that Jewish boys knew they would never get into. There was such deep prejudice. But these firms were very smart. If you wrote a letter to one of the large “white-shoe” firms – they would never say, “Don’t bother.” They’d say, “Come and we’ll talk to you”. And you go and you have a wonderful time talking to whoever interviews you. You’ll never get invited to join the firm, but they’ll do that for you.
So, I went to a couple of those and realized it wasn’t going to happen. But there was a subset of law firms which was made up primarily of Jewish lawyers. So, the two guys who were accepted at my law firm was another New Yorker and myself. He had come from Harvard and had the same background I did. A flyer. I don’t know whether he was in combat or not, but he was a flyer.
Aki: As a reservist, did you also go to Korea?
Martin: I cancelled my reserve officer-ship because there was thought of sending me there. I didn’t want to go back to flying anymore. My wife kept saying, “You have to get established. You have to get a job.” So, I did that. And I didn’t go back to flying and I left my commission with the Air Force.
But of course, when Israel’s war came around, I was sorely tempted to go back. I don’t know what I could have done, but again, my wife said to me, “You’re just in the middle of law school. And what’s the point of interrupting your education, once again? Finish up and let’s see what happens.” So, it’s been a sore point with me over the years as I’ve watched Israel grow, but I am an American first, not an Israeli.
Judy: But as far as public-service, you served on the school board when you lived in Westbury.
Martin: Yeah, well, I bought a house in Westbury – first house we could afford – for – what was it? $31,000.00? Imagine buying a house for $31,000.00?
Aki: Not at this age!
Martin: With $3,000.00 down payment. I’ll never forget it. During that time, I ran for the school board and I was elected for two terms. Serving happily, I figured I fulfilled my obligation to the community that way.
Stay tuned for part III as Martin talks about his time in WWII…