Wednesday | October 17, 2018

Cohen, Norman

Norman Cohen was born in the east end of Toronto in 1923.  Growing up Jewish in the Beach neighbourhood, Norman dealt with the anti-Semitism of the era, as well as the economic pressures that led him to quit school at age 16.  Norman found work around the neighbourhood, and he fondly remembered working for Charlie’s Bakery on Queen Street.  But then the war came, and shortly after Pearl Harbour Norm and his friends enlisted.  Norm opted for the air force and after his in Canada training had been completed, bombardier Norman Cohen set off for England, joining his older brother in Bomber Command.  Norm was there for just under year, when rumours of the fates of Jewish airmen led him to seek a change, and he was shipped to Burma.  His journey would prove to be an odyssey:  along the way Norm ended up in Montecassino, where he joined the battle.  Then he found himself in Benghazi, Libya and Tehran, Iran among other places, as he effectively hitched rides in the direction of Burma.  Norm finally arrived in Ramree Island, and he joined the Canadians at their base, when he discovered that they had been looking for him and that a court-martial had been considered.  Norm spent a year there, where his role was to search out lost and captured soldiers.  When the Pacific War ended, Norm made his way back to Europe, and then in 1946 he finally made his way back to Canada, and his family in Toronto.

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