Sixty-five years and 3,500 miles away from the French battlefields of World War II, Lewis Bloom was officially recognized for his quiet and decisive contribution to the Allied victory against the Nazis.
His mission “was the most central of all intelligence operations,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) as he awarded the 92-year-old war veteran the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal and United States Army Bronze Star. “Lieutenant Bloom received intelligence reports and enabled his commanders to determine what the opposing forces were going to do.
“The accuracy of Lt. Bloom’s work was essential to the operational effectiveness of the division…with a much lower casualty rate than was thought possible,” the senator read from a proclamation.
The Feb. 5 ceremony at Menendez’s Newark office marked the culmination of efforts by Bloom’s wife, Adaline, to see that Bloom was given the long overdue recognition for his wartime contributions.
“I didn’t know what to give him as a gift,” said Adaline, who was determined to unravel the murky history in time for his 90th birthday in 2007. “What do you give your 90-year-old husband? So I thought, I’m going to try to reactivate all his files. He did not know about it.”
Somehow, Bloom’s achievements were lost in the confusion of victory.
“When the war ended, it was as if someone dropped a hand grenade in our division headquarters. Everybody scattered,” he told NJ Jewish News.
“Administrative matters were set aside,” said the Plainsboro resident. “It is my conjecture that a lot of documents were lost. I just went my way. The years went by. There were two or three inquiries on my part, and they came back with form letters that for all intents and purposes said, ‘No, we don’t have any such records.’”
Without her husband’s knowledge, Adaline contacted Paul Reineke, her husband’s commanding officer. Reineke wrote to the Pentagon, reminding officials that he had recommended Bloom for a Bronze Star when the war ended.
David Parano, who handles veterans’ affairs for Menendez, and Neil Granowitz, the man in charge of the senator’s constituent services, spent a year researching the matter. Finally, they unearthed enough records to support awarding the medals to Bloom.
“They found necessary regulations under which this sort of thing could happen, and it happened,” said Bloom, a retired textile company executive who retired from the Army Reserves as a lieutenant colonel.
“It is a very difficult emotion,” he said, as he posed for photographs with his friends, two sons, and three grandchildren. “It happened so long ago.”
“I think he is more excited than he shows,” said his wife. “He is very proud.”
Said Menendez: “His dedication, leadership, ability to analyze and put his conclusions in clear and concise language as well as his initiatives made him an outstanding officer and well deserving of the Bronze Star medal.”
“Suddenly it’s alive and has come forth,” said Bloom as he accepted the two citations. “This is a great recognition.”