When Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose, who lived in Denver, was killed in a World War II battle in Germany 78 years ago, his death and service to his country were front page news. Over the years, Rose’s stature and story dimmed from the public consciousnesses, but a newly dedicated memorial sculpture casts Rose, and his accomplishments, in a new light.
At the time of his death, on March 30, 1945, and in years that followed, Rose, who was raised the son of a rabbi, was the talk of Denver, as well as Jewish and military circles. His men loved him so dearly, they raised funds, along with local Jewish leaders, to build a hospital — The General Rose Memorial Hospital, now known as Rose Medical Center — to honor the general who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life on the battlefield. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower came to Denver twice in 1948 and 1949 to be involved in the dedication of Rose hospital.
As the years passed, however, the memory of Rose’s valor and sacrifice faded.
A portrait of Rose and an encased display of his World War II helmet, with two bullet holes in it from his shooting death, inside the lobby of the hospital were removed in 1973 during a remodel of the facility, said Marshall Fogel, 82, a retired attorney. The memorial items didn’t return when the remodel was complete.
“I always remembered the helmet and the portrait as a young boy,” said Fogel, a lifelong Denver resident who authored a book, “Major General Maurice Rose, The Most Decorated Battletank Commander In U.S. Military History” that was published in 2018. “As a young boy, I played soldier and army, like a lot of kids. I always wondered about General Rose, but never knew much about him.”
Fogel’s youthful lack of knowledge about Rose changed dramatically over the years. Fogel is among a growing number of locals who champion the memory of Rose and the general’s service to the nation.
In 2019, Paul Shamon, a Denverite and history buff, attended a lecture by Fogel. Shamon soon contacted Fogel and the two men agreed to pay renewed homage to Rose and reacquaint the public with the general and his feats.
Both of Shamon’s children, now adults, were born at Rose Medical Center.
“I thought, like many other people, that Rose Hospital was named after a flower,” Shamon said. “It was crazy, nobody knew who he was, and we should change that.”
The pair worked together to commission a 10-foot-tall bronze statue of Rose designed by sculptor George Lundeen and architect Seth Rosenman, which was dedicated at an April 16 ceremony that included members of Rose’s family in Lincoln Veterans Memorial Park west of the Colorado State Capitol. Fogel and Shamon drove the statue project from conception to completion. The sculpture is the only state monument in Colorado to honor a Jew, Shamon said.
Born on Nov. 26, 1899, in Middleton, Conn., Rose was 3 when his family moved to Denver. He attended East High School and enlisted in the Colorado National Guard. A second lieutenant at age 18, Rose was assigned overseas, to the 89th Division in World War I and was wounded in France. While in the hospital being treated for shrapnel wounds, Rose listed his religion as Protestant and maintained that record throughout his military career, according to Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America. There is no record that he formally converted.
“A lot of Jewish soldiers did that,” Shamon said. “In those days, there was so much anti-Semitism in the military, he likely wouldn’t have rose to be a general.”
Rose returned to the United States from World War I as a captain, eventually marrying Virginia Barringer and fathering a son, Maurice Roderick “Reece” Rose. He went back into battle for World War II, where he commanded the 3rd Armored Division and became the highest-ranking American officer to be killed in action in Europe. He was also the highest-ranking Jewish officer in the U.S. Army.
On the day of his death, Rose and his staff, surrounded by Nazi troops, were attempting to surrender. A German tank soldier shot Rose, killing him instantly. Rose’s personal aide, Maj. Robert Bellinger, witnessed the shooting. In news reports, Bellinger said that Rose, who habitually rode with the advance elements of his command, had his driver turn around to check on reports of some men cut off behind them. Barreling down a road they thought had been cleared, their Jeep encountered a column of German tanks, so they fled across a field, only to run into more Tiger tanks.
Rose got out and walked with arms raised toward an armed tank soldier, while Bellinger followed. The Nazi soldier shot Rose dead. Bellinger made a dash for the Jeep, yelling at the driver to take off and they escaped. American forces returned to recover Rose’s body. He was 45 when he died, leaving behind his wife and son.
Prior to his death, Rose lead many a charge with the 3rd Armor Division, which was the first division to cross the German border, the first to capture a German town, and the first to capture a major German city, according to History Colorado.
Rose’s division, during the winter of 1944-45, helped stem the German advance in the Battle of the Bulge. The 3rd captured Cologne on March 7. Less than a month later, the division made the longest one-day advance, 100 miles, through enemy territory by any Allied division during the war, according to Falk Kantor in a story published by Jewish War Veterans.
Rose was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, and Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster among other medals and awards during his life of service.
Eisenhower said of Rose, “He was not only one of our bravest and best, but was a leader who inspired his men to the speedy accomplishment of tasks that to a lesser man would have appeared impossible.”
On a cloudy May day, Gilbert and Barb Cerise, of Seattle, were visiting Denver and took in the Major General Maurice Rose Monument in Lincoln Veterans Memorial Park.
Barb, who was born in Wray, attended the University of Colorado School of Nursing in the mid-1960s. Her dormitory was close to Rose Hospital and she worked multiple rotations at Rose as part of her schooling.
“I didn’t know that,” she said of Rose being the namesake of the hospital. “I think it’s amazing, it’s a great part of the heritage of our state.”
Gilbert Cerise, 79, who was raised in Montrose and spent time in Denver, didn’t know of or recall Rose prior to seeing the monument.
“I’m proud of them,” Gilbert said of veterans, especially those who died in battle. “They did a great service for our country.”
Rose is buried in the American Military Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands, along with more than 8,000 U.S. servicemen who died in WWII.
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