World War II helped shape many lives and families here in America. One such life was that Maspeth’s own Abe Kleiner.
Abe arrived at Ft. Dix for basic training in January of 1942, following which he was chosen for combat medic training at Ft. McClellan in Alabama.
His group was assigned to the 232 Infantry Regiment, 42nd Rainbow Division, which sailed for Marseille, France, as part of Task Force Linden.
The hard driving 42nd Division would march through France, crush the Siegfried Line, cross the Rhine into Germany, and close the campaign in Austria at war’s end.
The bloody route was littered with dead soldiers on both sides and casualties beyond description. A combat medic such as Kleiner was constantly on the move on the front lines caring for and saving his fellow soldiers.
At the Battle of Ansisle Lorraine, Kleiner’s battle-worn, grizzled first sergeant approached the rifle platoon and asked for a volunteer to retrieve a wounded officer from the field, which was under heavy machine gun fire.
Kleiner, who had been with the unit since its inception, volunteered for the mission. Upon reaching the wounded officer and treating him for serious leg wounds, he began moving him toward friendly lines amid continuous enemy fire. An 88-caliber shell exploded on the original position soon after they began to move.
With his wounded casualty safely at the aid station, Kleiner’s staff sergeant recommended the coveted Bronze Star for his heroism. Eventually, Kleiner would also be awarded Two European Theatre Battle Stars, Good Conduct Medal, and the Combat Infantry Badge
The storied 42nd Division liberated the Dachau concentration camp, which made a lasting impression on Corporal Kleiner. Elements of the division crossed the German-Austrian border before war’s end and visited Berchtesgaden (Eagle’s Nest) shortly after Adolf Hitler fled.
With the war over, memories made, history written, comrades buried, casualties sent home, and flags furled, the men who accomplished so much slowly made their way back across the sea to their beloved United States.
In June of 1946, Kleiner was introduced to the vivacious Ann Dumas (who coincidentally lost her mother and father’s family to the invading Nazi Army in a small village in Russia).
Love was in the air, and Dumas and Kleiner married in April of 1947, settling in Maspeth and raising two children, Robin and Kenneth, both of whom became medical doctors. The Kleiner’s have two grandchildren, Jonathan and Kerri, who aspire to be lawyers.
Education runs deep in the Kleiner family, as Kleiner pursued a career in physical education and his wife worked as a chemistry teacher, both in the New York City public school system.
Kleiner has been commander of his beloved Levitan Maspeth Jewish Veteran Post #673 twelve times, and has organized trips to visit wounded warriors continually over the years.
He and his good friend Paul Wildfogel were grand marshals in the Maspeth Memorial Day Parade in 1996.
When asked recently about a quote for this story, Kleiner simply said, “I tried to do my best, war is hell.”