IWO JIMA VETERAN MANNY GOLDBERG, 86,
GRADUATES FROM QUEENS COLLEGE WITH BA IN MUSIC
-- Goldberg, Who Holds a Bronze Star for Bravery, Is a Jazz Pianist and Composer --
FLUSHING, NY, June 1, 2004 -- Manny Goldberg is used to standing out. At the age of 86, the Bayside resident was the oldest full-time student in the Aaron Copland School of Music and is the oldest graduate of Queens College’s class of 2004. During World War II Goldberg stood out even more as he was, by the government’s estimate, one of only 170 Americans who could speak Japanese. Because of this, he had one of the more unusual jobs in the army: Saving the enemy.
Goldberg began to learn Japanese in 1932 when, at the age of 14, he moved with his parents to Japan, where his father ran a branch office in Osaka for a company that exported sewing machines. The family stayed only two years as Manny’s father felt that war between Japan and America was inevitable. Goldberg joined the army in 1942 and was recruited for Officers Candidate School at the University of Ann Arbor.
Upon completing his training, 1st Lieutenant Goldberg, now in charge of a translation team of ten nisei (Japanese Americans), was sent to the island of Saipan, where Japanese civilians were hiding in caves, often held against their will by Japanese soldiers. Goldberg’s job was to convince the soldiers to let the civilians go so they could be safely placed in internment camps.
Recalls Goldberg: “The soldiers would see us approaching their caves and think “These Americans must be crazy, they don’t wear a helmet, they don’t carry a rifle . . . let’s hear what they have to say.” Goldberg’s unit eventually resettled 1,500 civilians on Saipan.
On the second day after his unit was transferred to Iwo Jima, Goldberg approached a soldier in a cave who was holding two live grenades: “I told him Japan was on the brink of defeat and now needed men like him to come back and help reconstruct the country.” The soldier surrendered. For his bravery, Manny was awarded a Bronze Star. In 2003, Goldberg received the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross and Conspicuous Service Star in a ceremony at the house of Congressman Gary Ackerman (Queens College, 1965).
On his return to civilian life, Goldberg worked in the sewing machine industry, including six years in Japan. In 1992 he decided to earn a BA degree in music and enrolled in Queens College’s Adult Collegiate Education Program for students over age 25.
“It was so much fun studying with younger students,” he says. “To them I’m just Manny.” His favorite music class was a theory course with Professor William Rothstein. “He would play for us to illustrate the theory he taught, so it was like having a private concert every day,” he says.
An accomplished jazz pianist, Manny has written numerous pieces, including Seder in A-Flat, a musical presented at Colden Center several years ago. He is now working on an opera, The Octopus Trap, based on his World War II experiences. His composition for saxophone quartet will be performed at Queens College next fall.