Probably because of his own modesty, the facts behind Capt.
Rabson's receiving a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart
have never been included in 3rd Armored Division annals until
now. Known to the Division as "Capt. Moses Rabinowitz, M.D."
(he changed his name legally to Rabson after the war), he had
graduated from Temple University school of Medicine in Philadelphia
in 1941 and entered the Army in 1942 at age 25.
He landed with D Co, 83rd Recon Bn in Normandy in June, 1944
and served with the Division through all five campaigns - ending
at Dessau on the Elbe River. In December, 1944, at the start
of the Battle of the Bulge, Rabson was reassigned to the 36th
Armored Infantry as a battalion surgeon.
Of his time with 83rd Recon, Rabson wrote in 1968, "We were
the ones up front. Actually, there was seldom a front. We'd just
get into a town before the Germans had left it. I was assistant
battalion surgeon. We were so much on the move that we seldom
even set up an aid station. I worked out of a half-track ...
My job as a combat surgeon was to stop the bleeding, set a fracture
with anything handy, pack up a chest wound so the fella could
breath and send him back to a hospital."
Rabson's Bronze Star was awarded for continuous "heroism
under fire" over a two-day period in early August, 1944,
in Normandy's hedgerow country. His unit came under repeated
artillery and small arms fire, during which Rabson continued
treating wounded soldiers at great risk to himself.
On September 6, in the battle for Mons, Belgium, Rabson's "gallantry
in action" would result in a Silver Star with a citation
that reads " ... While his unit was engaged with the enemy,
Capt. Rabinowitz displayed unusual courage and daring while administering
first aid to the wounded. After one of the tanks was knocked
out by a deadly barrage from an enemy anti-aircraft position,
Captain Rabinowitz, upon hearing violent screams coming from
the tank, left his covered position and transversed 100 yards
of open terrain to go to the aid of the wounded men." [Editors
note: the vehicle was tank-like in appearance but was actually
a 105mm self-propelled howitzer.]
The citation continues: "Arriving at the damaged tank, under a continuous barrage of
gun fire, he found that one of the men was wounded so seriously
that it was necessary to complete the amputation of the wounded
man's leg before removing him from the vehicle ... further first
aid was administered and resulted in the saving of his life."
From Rabson's own 1968 writing, he added further details of that
incident. There is no mention of what happened to the rest of
the howitzer crew, if some had been killed or were attended to
after the firing stopped. He described that the howitzer looked
as if it had ben hit with a German 88mm and that the seriously
wounded man was deep down inside the vehicle. Rabson pulled him
up and said of his shattered leg, "It's never going to be
of any use to you; I should cut it off," and he said "OK."
Rabson wrote that he carried the man in his arms for about 40
yards, but he was too heavy and Rabson had to put him down.
While still under fire from German vehicles, a G.I. ran forward
to help and he and Rabson and carried the patient to a covered
position where a tourniquet was applied and a clean pad taped
over his stump. That soldier who helped would receive a Bronze
Star. Rabson wrote, "I know the wounded G.I. lived, because
three years later, by remarkable coincidence, he was being fitted
for a prosthesis at the VA clinic in Manhattan [NYC] where I
was taking orthopedic training."
Rabson's Purple Heart came when he was wounded on September 20,
1944, two miles south of Stolberg, Germany. He wrote, "I
was going to help a wounded soldier, and a burst of machine-gun
fire hit my half-track and me too. The half-track had 4-foot
red crosses on both sides and the back. I was wearing a cross
on my helmet and one on each arm. At that time, I was the last
of 10 original officers in 83rd Recon who had come over from
England together, with every one of us having been casualties."
Rabson's own writings vaguely describe that he was treated, apparently
at a field hospital, which included a shot of penicillin, but
make no mention of how soon he returned to duty. Although the
Army did telegram his father that he was "slightly wounded,"
his family would eventually learn that it was a single bullet
in the side of the abdomen that went completely through his body.
As evidenced by Rabson's character, he probably considered such
a wound to be no excuse to leave his men for very long.
When the Battle of the Bulge started in December, 1944, Rabson
wrote that the Division surgeon, a colonel, promoted him to a
battalion surgeon in the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment. However
that meant that he went from the half-track, with some protection,
to an open jeep. And there's no doubt that his workload would
only increase, as the 36th A.I.R. took by far more casualties
throughout the war than any other 3rd Armored regiment. There
are no known writings by Rabson of his time with the 36th except
his living for five days during the Bulge in a foxhole with tree
trunks over the top for protection from shrapnel, from which
he would go out and treat the wounded. No doubt, that subsequent
time between the Bulge and Dessau saw even more acts of devotion
and selflessness by this remarkable doctor-soldier.
Brief bio. of Dr. Rabson: Born Philadelphia 1917. Passed
away in 2008 at age 91. Life member of the 3rd Armored Division
Association. Long-time resident of Cheltenham, Pa. Married to
wife Frances for 62 years. M.D. from Temple University in 1941.
U.S. Army service '42-46. Orthopedic training at V.A., NYC, '46-49
and residency at Hospital for Special Surgery, NYC, '49-50. Private
practice in Philadelphia area '50-87. A daughter and a son, both
physicians: Sylvia R. Karasu, M.D., Psychiatry, NYC; and Joseph
A. Rabson, M.D., Plymouth Meeting, Pa., Plastic Surgery.