Honoring Jewish Veterans of Iowa

Led by the Iowa Jewish Historical Society, the Honoring Iowa’s Jewish Veterans project is an ongoing effort to identify and recognize Jewish men and women of Iowa who have served in all branches of the U.S. military and Iowa’s National Guard. This project is an award-winner—having earned a Certificate of Recognition from the State Historical Society of Iowa for Outstanding Contribution to Community History through Research or Publication.

Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day:  An Iowa Jewish Veteran’s Story

In honor of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, listen to Manuel “Manny” Soodhalter, a Jewish veteran and the Quad Cities business owner of Debs Drive In who was born in Des Moines, recount his experiences in taking part in D-Day, not only by being in the 2nd wave landing on Omaha Beach but also with the pre-planning for the invasion.  Soodhalter was assigned to Gen. Eisenhower’s company.

In 1943 Manny trained with the Intelligence Division to interpret aerial photos and create terrain maps used during Operations Waddam and Overlord.  Operation Waddam was meant to deceive the Germans about the real invasion, Operation Overlord.  Soodhalter’s maps were used every day to update the large 4’ x 6’ model of Omaha Beach used at the command center.

The excerpt details his actual D-Day experience.  It begins with details about the end of May 1944 when he and two officers got special clearance so they could distribute maps to all the units.  Then he talks about the process of getting to the landing on Omaha Beach and how he was involved that day.  It ends as he recalls not making that day’s objectives and going to sleep wondering if they’d be captured or moving further into France.  Soodhalter received numerous battlefield promotions to Captain and he was awarded the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service.

There are many WWII events that Soodhalter talks about in his audio tape.  He was involved in the Battle of the Bulge.  He also shares a story about the first German Jewish Synagogue to be liberated and re-opened in Eschweiler, Germany on March 24, 1945.  To hear all his recording, contact the Iowa Jewish Historical Society at ijhs@dmjfed.org or 515-987-0899 ext. 216.

Part 1 of the clip:

Part 2:

Our Work to Celebrate Jewish Veterans

Branstad and Lekowsky at Veterans Event

From a humble list originally containing the names of only 25 veterans, the list is now a searchable spreadsheet and a printed “Book of Honor,” both of which contain the names, dates, and military assignments of more than 1,350 Jewish veterans who served in all branches of the United States military from the Civil War to the present day.

Information about these service men and women has been given to us by the veterans themselves, by their families and friends or taken from cemetery records, reference books, and ongoing research in the IJHS archives.

New names and updated information continue to be added to the spreadsheet, and the IJHS continues to accession artifacts and archival materials associated with Iowa’s Jewish veterans throughout the year.

How to Access the Information

To access our database, please contact the IJHS staff at ijhs@jewishdesmoines.org or by calling 515-987-0899 ext. 216. The Book of Honor is on display in the museum.

Contact Us

For questions about the Honoring Iowa’s Jewish Veterans project, please reach out by calling 515-987-0899 ext. 216 or emailing ijhs@jewishdesmoines.org.