Remembering George S. Eisenberg, February 16, 1921 – August 5, 2014

Remembering George S. Eisenberg, February 16, 1921 - August 5, 2014

 Remembering George S. Eisenberg  –  February 16, 1921 – August 5, 2014

For those of you who do not know me, I am Joe Janson, George’s son-in-law.

I ‘ve always felt fortunate to have known the man who has meant so much to so many. Over 2Remembering George3 years ago when we first met, George’s appearance was that of a running back;   tall, cut and hands like bear paws. It was not what I expected of a man of 70 years.  he smiled, reached out and shook my hand, and it dwarfed mine. I was amazed those same hands were capable of such extraordinary precision with a paintbrush and pencil.

Over the years, I came to realize that George was the personification of gentleness, kindness and strength.

He seemed most happy just sitting and admiring the activities around him, as long as he had his pencil set and could draw his favorite subject: FAMILY….people.

I will miss watching George transform a blank piece of paper into a cherished memory. His genius capturing the moment both on canvas, and conveyed in his verbal observations, were uncanny.

I will miss our discussions on politics, science, religion, and our common bond of shipboard life. George was well versed on just about everything, and I always gained new perspectives from him.

I will miss his jokes, albeit not necessarily funny to the rest of the family, he always made me laugh.

Remembering George S. Eisenberg, February 14, 1921 - August 5, 2014

Joe Janson and George S. Eisenberg

Example: George are you comfortable? I said when he was seated in the cockpit of our sailboat.

George Responded: I make a living!

I can’t tell you how many times I heard that one liner, and to this day it still makes me think of him.

I always watched in amazement the collection of diverse friends that would gather during a holiday or family event. I could just feel the bond and love between them. It’s an energy that was, and still is, awe inspiring.

Whether the topic was science, politics, religion or just daily life, George’s perspective made us re-consider our prior wedded convictions.

George was always the optimist. He sought the GOOD in people and never dwelled on their mistakes in life. He had a calming power about him, another gift I will always admire.

Remembering George

George, the always loving grandfather.

Those of you who knew George also knew that he was not a religious man in the formal sense, but extremely proud of his Jewish heritage. His faith came from his loyalty to his family, friends, and the human race.

His abundant love for his family was a constant. He always had time for his grandchildren and their friends. He would spend hours with Eric and Margot either on his lap at any given time, or sitting side by side conveying the basic principles of drawing.

His extraordinary and radiant admiration for his beloved Gabrielle was an example to me, and to any husband, of what true love looks like.

Remembering George S. Eisneberg

Gabrielle and George Eisenberg

I knew I had been accepted by George when I appeared in a drawing, now transferred to a metal plaque on display in the USS Cassin Young DD793, a floating Naval museum in Boston. George depicted me bandaging a wounded WWII sailor. He made me look fitter and much younger than I was. I really appreciated that George!

George S. Eisenberg’s drawing of what the wardroom during battle would have looked like on the USS Cassin Young DD793; a floating museum at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.

I then came to find out from my wife Julie, that George did that with many of his portraits, always seeing beauty in everyone.

Bottom line…He would just make his subjects better.

George and I had a common bond, both being in a sea going service and sharing stories of shipboard life. Though I was in the Coast Guard, McHale’s Navy to George, he still considered me a part of the bretheren. Thank you George.

I think George would agree with these words, so I would like to close with a quote from Carl Sagan:

The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together. Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective… is precious. If a human disagrees, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another!

George enjoy the Cosmos!   Love you more.   Joe

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Taking of Corregidor, February 14, 1945

February 14,1945 Battle of the Recapture of Corregidor, Philippines "We are going in now...all the way...one YMS was sunk here a little while ago. Fletcher made rescue through smoke screen. Hopewell hit on torpedo tubes here. Fletcher on bow. We are right in cross fire...that is between 16" 14" 6"...batteries on Corregidor Bataan. Cruisers firing on beach.

Valentine’s Day holds earnest memories for George S. Eisenberg and the crew of World War ll Destroyer, the USS LaVallette DD448.  On February 14, 1945 , the LaVallette  was hit by a mine at Mariveles Bay, Bataan, Philippines in the historic battle, The Taking of Corregidor. Seven crew members were killed and 24 were wounded.

George’s annotated cryptic sketches were rendered under fire, recording the sinking of minesweeper YMS-48 and coastal gunfire damaging the USS Fletcher and USS Hopewell.  The USS Radford and USS LaVallette were also disabled by mines in this landmark conflict.

February 14, 1945 Corregidor, Philippines "Going in very close to Corregidor. Japs shooting from caves all morning....mines sweeping this area. Still more...Montpelier + us..may fire now."

 

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Portrait of Noah Smith

Noah Smith April 22, 1945, USS La Vallette crew member.

WWII shipmate, “Snuffy” Smith, introduced George S. Eisenberg to chewing tobacco while sitting on the fantail of the USS LaVallette.  George claims he didn’t particularly like the dizzy feeling, choosing paper and pencil over tobacco. This portrait of his friend Noah was done while they were stationed in Subic Bay, Luzon Philippines in 1945.

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Reflecting on World War 2 on Memorial Day Weekend

"Darken Ship." The USS LaVallette in enemy territory off Guadalcanal. March 30, 1944

In large and small communities across America, we remember and honor lost veterans in Memorial Day parades. Bands play, children wave flags and we all cheer with ice cream and hot dogs in hand. The festivities provide a sharp contrast to George’s illustration of his WW2 shipmates stilled below deck of the USS LaVallette in enemy territory enroute New Guinea off Guadalcanal in 1944.  To avoid enemy detection the command was to “darken ship.” Topside lights were turned off.  No smoking. No matches. Waiting and praying.

 

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Eisloeffel and Ennico Enjoying Liberty on Fiji Island

Eisloeffel and Ennico on Liberty in Fiji, WW2 1943

 

At a 1982 USS La Vallette reunion, George and his shipmates attended A Sailor’s Diary exhibit at the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston National Historic Park. Looking at the drawings from forty years prior brought back many colorful memories.

George shared narratives about trading his Navy issued cotton underwear for local carvings and shell necklaces. One lively shipmate claimed the native women cut accommodating holes in the front of the sailors’ tee shirts.  Found no evidence of this in George’s sketches, although it may be true.

 

 

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Red, A Member of The Greatest Generation

 

Red, a USS LaVallette WWII sailor, January 27, 1945

 

“Red”, a member of the Greatest Generation, appears to be an innocent young boy in George’s gouache on paper portrait, painted while they were stationed 500 miles from China in the South Pacific. Serving on the USS LaVallette during WWII, Red was most likely a seasoned sailor so late in the conflict on January 27, 1945.

 

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Taking On Ammunition

USS LaVallette sailors taking on ammunition, 1944.

Illustration of World War II USS LaVallette crew members, taking on ammunition in the South Pacific in 1944.

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Tom Elms CIC

Tom Elms on the USS LaVallette in 1944.

Shipmate Tom Elms from Maryland, at ease, in the Combat Information Center on WWII Destroyer USS LaVallette DD448 in the South Pacific, 1944.

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Not a Repeated Dream, Just a Repeated Happening

1942-1945  South Pacific Ocean

I often wonder just what the hell I am doing out here in the middle of this crazy war, deep in the South Pacific, shooting at an enemy equally as puzzled. There is no glory in killing anything.

A sudden, sobering moment of reality is the piercing shock of sound, beeping the ship to General Quarters. Our bodies explode in a frenzied rush to our battle stations. There is a strange clarity during this unconscious traverse. It’s as though one were a passenger in someone else’s body with total concentration on the one thought … Kill the enemy! Kill! Kill! It’s self-preservation. It’s them or us! There are no idealistic thoughts of saving the free world. It’s save your ass because this is no moving picture and it’s not a dress rehearsal.

Check fast! Got your life belt? Helmet? Knife? Rope? Rawhide? Once at my battle station, amidst the excited voices and waiting, micro-fraction blitzes of thought flash through my head. “Do I buy it today? Shit! Not yetl Not yet!” My mind turns off. Not me. Not me! Then an imaginary explosion rips through my mind. I’m in the water – it’s warm, black, endless. Oh my gawd, I’m floating – it’s pitch black except for the light from the burning ship. The water is thick with diesel oil and the stench is choking. Thoughts of sharks, fire and the bottomless sea are frightening ! My mind shuts off–off again!  “No, no, no, no more !” I now find great comfort in the fact that I’m still at my battle station.

“Range and bearing on the nearest target!”

“zero three zero degrees at five thousand yards!”

“Give me another!”

“zero four five degrees at thirty five hundred yards! The course is one-eighty at three hundred miles per hour.”

The action continues fast. This is reality. The flashes of gloom are gone. The bogies are coming in on us! Our guns are on target blasting away! It’s exciting, exhilarating, and now there is a feeling of power-a sense of invincibility. There is no fear. I keep cranking out information to gun control. They’ve locked onto my targets! The heavy five-inch cannons and forty-mm guns trace criss-cross pattems across a smoke-pocked sky.

“We got him! We got him!”

Down, down, down came a Japanese bomber in a trail of brown smoke, hitting the water and exploding into a huge ball of fire. The whole ship cheered like it were a touchdown at a football game. The game was far from over! Another bogie bearing at one-eighty-five at twenty-five hundred yards coming in fast. Victory was only momentary.

Somehow these events repeated themselves over and over with near misses, hits, and dispersal … then fatigue. And despite our fatigue we clean up the mess of shells, cork, and dirt only to prepare ourselves for a repeat of the same. Somehow we manage to maintain our strength to get through the ordeal and then sleep.That wonderful escape through sleep.

This had to be a bad dream-but it wasn’t!

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Resting During Ship Repairs

Shipmates resting during repairs of the USS LaVallette in the South Pacific, c1942-1945.

Sailors resting on a life raft, take a well deserved break during repairs on the World War II  Destroyer, the USS LaVallette DD448.

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