Raymond Kooman enlisted at the age of 19. During World War II, he served in the United States Army, 28th Infantry “Keystone Division”, Motto: “Fire and Movement”. The Red Keystone, which is the official emblem of the State of Pennsylvania, is the official shoulder sleeve insignia of the 28th Division. The Germans called it the “Bloody Bucket” because of the blood-red keystone insignia and vicious fighting tactics employed by the Division during the Normandy Campaign.
Kooman entered the Army in 1942 and went overseas in October 1943. He first saw action on D-Day as an infantry rifleman. On September 14, 1944, Raymond was wounded by a German sniper. He quickly recovered from his injuries and 3 weeks later he was sent back into action. At that time, the 28th, with five months of fighting in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany already behind it, was deployed along a 25-mile stretch of the Our River, from northeastern Luxembourg to Wallenstein, Germany.
On December 18, 1944, just three months after being injured, he was taken prisoner in Luxembourg during the Battle of the Bulge. Eventually, he was held as a POW in Stalag IV B.
Kooman, of Little Ferry, weighed 155 when he enlisted, but was a mere 80 pounds by the time he was liberated by British solders. As stated by Kooman during an interview, “there was nothing to eat — 35 men to one loaf of bread. Everybody slept on the floor in this prison. There were no beds and no toilets.” After his liberation, Kooman was transferred to a hospital in England and then subsequently to another one in Brussels, Belgium before being sent back stateside.
Kooman survived the war and throughout his life he carried the prisoner identification tag he was forced to wear. “I was in Germany (prison camp). I came out of prison camp in 1945 weighing 80 pounds. I never took my socks off. We had one slice of bread a day. I walked 800 miles in 35 days – the death march. I buried a lot of people, a lot of soldiers. Every day, I buried them. We had 3,007 prisoners in our camp,” said Kooman.
Raymond Kooman, a lifelong resident of Little Ferry, passed away on January 4, 2018 at the age of 94. He was a World War II POW, survivor of the Battle of Bulge, and a Bronze Star recipient. He was honored at the 2015 Bergen County POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony at 1 Bergen County Plaza. Throughout his life, Raymond was a member of the American Legion Post 310 in Little Ferry. He owned and worked at the Riverside House in Little Ferry for 12 years. He was a beloved husband to Gloria Nooman, a devoted father to Evon Numan and her husband Robert, Barbara Marvin and her husband Michael, Teresa McNulty and her husband Seaton, and the late Raymond.
Thank you for being part of the Greatest Generation and thank you for your service!
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