Ben Rosenthal; WWII veteran, husband, jazz lover


On October 15th, Ben Rosenthal passed after a brief illness in his hillside home in Studio City. Ben led a full and lusty life. He was 97.

Born in 1919 to Russian-Jewish immigrants, Ben grew up in Boston during the Great Depression.

During World War II, he served as a company clerk with the 45th Infantry Division. He served 511 days in combat as the division fought across Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. Ben was with the 45th when it liberated Dachau in 1945. It later irked him when news stories inaccurately reported the liberation had been carried out by a Nisei unit, the 552nd Field Artillery Batallion.

He never killed any of the enemy and his greatest contribution was saving the lives of various men in his unit. He later recalled, “I could tell when guys were going around the bend. I had a good relationship with the captain and I’d say to him, ‘Why don’t you send that guy home? He’s only going to get himself killed if he stays around here.’ Usually the captain would listen to me and do it.”

He hated war, and having witnessed prejudice as a child in Boston, had no use for organized religion.  After the war, Ben moved to Los Angeles where he became a manager with the L.A. Dept. of Animal Services.

His great loves were jazz, baseball, his wife Marge and the 45th Division. His favorite jazz performers were Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Buzzy Drootin, Dick Hafer and more recently, Gina Saputo—a young jazz singer whose career he actively encouraged.

Ben is survived by a house filled with cats, dogs and jazz records and by his intensely loyal filial friend, Ron Densforth. A niece, Susan Mendibles of Orange County, also survives him.

A memorial service is contemplated for later this year.

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