Major General Maurice Rose, One of World War II’s Greatest Combat Generals

By Falk Kantor
During JWV’s 27th Annual Mission to Israel, I participated in a tour of the Armor Corps Museum at Latrun. Our tour guide, retired Brig. Gen. Zvi Kan-Tor asked if anyone knew Maurice Rose. No one raised their hand. That’s when I vowed to learn all I could about Rose.
U.S. Army Major General Maurice Rose died during World War II while leading the 3rd Armored Division into Germany. At the time of his death, Rose was the highest ranking Jewish officer in the U.S. Army and the highest ranking American killed by enemy fire in the European Theater.
Maurice Rose’s grandfather, a Rabbi, lead one of Poland’s premier centers of Jewish learning. Rose’s father Samuel, served as the Rabbi for a congregation in Denver, Colorado for more than 40 years.

After graduating high school in 1916, Rose lied about his age in order to enlist in the Colorado National Guard. When superiors found out about his real age six weeks later, they discharged him. Once the United States entered World War I, Rose re-enlisted, and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 89th Infantry Division.

The 89th Division fought at St. Mihiel where Lt Rose was wounded by shrapnel and hospitalized. After three weeks, he left the hospital without authorization to rejoin his unit. However, while in the hospital, Rose listed his religion as Protestant, and maintained that affiliation throughout his Army career. There is no record he formally converted.

In the first American offensive of World War II, Rose served as chief of staff for the 2nd Armored Division in North Africa where he received his first Silver Star. Rose received a promotion to Brigadier General and took command of the 2nd Armored Division. Rose led his troops in combat across Sicily and then into France shortly after D-Day.

General Rose became the commander of the 3rd Armored Division during combat in France in August 1944. Shortly thereafter, Rose received a promotion to Major General. Under Rose’s leadership, the 3rd Armored Division led an advance across northern France and Belgium. On September 12, Rose’s division became the first armored unit to enter Germany and the first to breech the Siegfried Line.

During the winter of 1944-45, Rose’s division helped stem the German advance in the Battle of the Bulge. They captured Cologne on March 7. On March 29, the Division made the longest one-day advance through enemy territory by any Allied division during the war, more than 100 miles, stopping just south of the German city of Paderborn.

When the 3rd Division started advancing towards Paderborn the next day, Rose took his usual place up front with his forward echelon. During the fighting a German tank got in the way of the jeep. The tank’s hatch opened and a German with a machine pistol began shouting at the jeep’s three occupants as they stood with raised hands in front of the tank in the fading daylight. As General Rose reached for his holster to surrender his pistol, several bursts of machine gun fire struck the General. The General’s aide and driver fled the area and made it back to the U.S. lines.

When 45-year-old Rose was buried in Margraten in the Netherlands, the military placed a Star of David above his grave. After a review of his records, the Army replaced the star with a cross after finding that he had listed Protestant as his religious affiliation.

While there may be questions about Rose’s religion and the symbol marking his grave, he remains the son and grandson of rabbis.

Volume 74. Number 2. 2020