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Mort Harris is in the back row, second from the left. He was a pilot in the 95th Bomb Group during WWII.
Mort Harris is in the back row, second from the left. He was a pilot in the 95th Bomb Group during WWII.

Three WWII veterans honored for their military efforts — and beyond

During a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David forgoes an opportunity to thank a young veteran for his service after he hears others offering the patriotic sentiment. In defending his behavior, the socially ungraceful David says: “Three people thanked him; why do I have to thank him?”

In honor of Veteran’s Day, allow me to make up for Larry’s ineptitude by highlighting three of our community’s treasured WWII Jewish War Veterans.

Teaching, Coaching, Sports
Bill Fagenson, 93, is a war hero and a hall of famer. While serving in the Philippines with the 96th Infantry, 381st Regiment, Bill volunteered to carry casualties under enemy fire; an act of bravery that earned him a Bronze Star.

After serving three years in the South Pacific, he returned home where, with the support of the GI Bill, he received a Bachelor of Science degree, with a major in physical education, from Wayne University in 1948, and his master’s degree five years later.

Bill’s love for teaching, coaching sports and counseling students defined his career as a beloved educator in the Detroit and Oak Park school systems. He supervised sports activities at the former Jewish Community Center on Davison Avenue, and he owned the Trailblazer Day Camp, whose mission was helping boys develop their athletic skills.

This September, he traveled from his home in California to Detroit, where his distinguished career was recognized during his induction into the Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Bill has been a proud member of Michigan’s Bale Post of the Jewish War Veterans since his return from the war.

Heroism Over France
Morton “Mort” Harris, 97, of Bloomfield Hills was a B-17 Squadron Commander during WWII. He flew more than 30 combat missions with the 8th Air Force, 95th Bomber Group; all in the European Theater of Operations.

A third of Mort’s missions involved air strikes over France — missions that provided the support to stave off German assaults and helped turn the tide of the war.

Mort is a successful businessman, philanthropist and, for the last 70-plus years, a humble war vet who never sought recognition for his service. However, because of those missions flown over France, recognition is coming his way.

On Nov. 14 at the Cranbrook Academy, the Consulate General of France for the Midwest, will award Mort the Knight of the Legion of Honor, that nation’s highest commendation. The honor is awarded to U.S. veterans who risked their lives during WWII to fight on French territory. France continues to search its archives for Americans deserving of this prestigious decoration.

Salute To 100
Instead of going into practice after graduating from Wayne State Medical School in 1942, family practitioner Dr. George Mogill, 100, of West Bloomfield enlisted in the Army. He landed in Normandy just after D-Day and served in France and England, running the 8th Field Army Hospital, rising to the rank of major.

Upon his return from the war in 1945, George began practicing in Detroit. In a 2016 interview published on Wayne State’s website, he said: “When I came home from Europe, I was told to have different office days to see white and black patients. I refused to segregate.” He was seeing patients up until his 92nd birthday.

George is the recipient of many awards over his illustrious career, including Lifetime Achievement Awards from Wayne State, the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and the Jewish War Veterans of Michigan, who also honored him on his 100th birthday.

On Veterans Day, please take a moment to reflect and give thanks to all our men and women in uniform, from our Greatest Generation to those who serve to protect our freedoms today. God bless America!

Alan Muskovitz

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