From Plock to Yonkers: The Story of an Immigrant Doughboy

Published: 28 December 2023

By Neil Bass
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site

Phillip (Phil) Nordenberg

My grandfather Phillip (Phil) Nordenberg fought valiantly and helped the United States achieve victory in Europe during World War One.

An immigrant from Plock, Poland, a Jewish enclave near Warsaw, Phil was one of seven children, and was born Fiszel Gershon Nordenberg in 1895. It was common for Jewish people to have arranged marriages back in the day. Phil’s parents Daniel and Hinda, made a “Shidduch” with Henry and Rose Gold, to have their young children marry each other when they became of age.

The Golds, along with their daughter Sadie (3) and Phil (9) left Poland together and set sail for New York City in 1904. Phil would settle in with the Golds and make a life for himself working as a painter. Soon after the United States entered The Great War in April 1917, Phil (21) received his draft card. Recruited to be a founding member of the 82nd Infantry Division, Phil trained at Camp Gordon, Georgia.

Philip Nordenberg during training at Camp Gordon, Georgia in 1917 with the 82nd Infantry Division.

Members of the 82nd Infantry Division wore a red and white arm patch with double As, which stood for “All-American,” the name given to the 82nd. One of the most well-known soldiers at the time, Sergeant Alvin C. York, was part of the 82nd Division. Still in operation today, the division became known as the 82nd Airborne Division in 1942. The patch now reflects the word “Airborne” above the double As.

The All-American was made up of many non-English speaking immigrants who received naturalization for their heroism. Phil served in Company D of the 328th Infantry Regiment of the 164th Infantry Brigade (part of the 82nd Division). He was inducted in New York City on October 9, 1917.

The 328th Regiment served in France and participated in two of the most crucial battles of the war: St. Mihiel, near Norroy, France in September 1918; and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (September 29-November 2, 1918).  On October 6, 1918, the 328th were ordered to take Hill 223 from the Germans. A decisive victory at Meuse-Argonne brought an end to the war.

Phillip and Sadie (left) at their wedding in America in 1919. Their birthplace of Plock, Poland (right) was captured by Nazi Germany in 1939.

Phil and Sadie married one year after The Great War. They considered themselves lucky to be living in America, unlike the family members they left behind in Poland. In September 1939, among the first casualties of World War Two, Plock was invaded and captured by the Nazis. Four of Phil’s siblings were there at the time, all of whom perished.

Sadie, Sally, and Philip Nordenberg soon after Sally’s adoption in 1947 (left); Nordenberg family when Sally was 11 years old (center); Sally and Philip in 1949 (right).

Phil and Sadie made a nice life for themselves, and settled in Yonkers, New York. Unable to produce a biological child, their dreams of becoming adoptive parents finally became realized in 1947, when they were introduced to a 10-year-old orphan from Poland named Sally. A survivor of the Holocaust, Sally became the child that Phil and Sadie always wanted. After losing both of her parents and three siblings, Sally’s adoptive parents treated her as if she were their own.

Thank you for your kindness, bravery, and heroism, Doughboy Phil!

Neil Bass honored his grandfather Philip Nordenberg with a generous donation to The Doughboy Foundation. Support for the Doughboy Foundation helps fund our mission in perpetuity, inspiring future generations of visitors, and forever honoring our World War I veterans and all U.S. servicemen and women. Help protect our future by remembering our past.

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