Julius Altman

  • Birth Date: December 1929
  • Place of Birth: New York City
  • State of Residence: Arizona
  • Years of Service: 1953-1955
  • Branch of Military: Army
  • Rank: Private 1st Class
  • Wars Involved In: Korea

Julius Altman was born in New York City in December 1929.

At the age of 24, he was up for the draft, but as he was married at the time, he got a college deferment and went to college… he then was drafted into the Army.

At the time he was drafted, the Army was short on finance personnel. He says that was lucky because his last civilian job was as an assistant bookkeeper. He was sent to work for the Finance corps and was stationed in Baumholder, Germany. He went into the service on June 30, 1953 and left the service on June 23, 1955. After this he served six years in the Reserves. His highest rank was private first class. Though he had no direct wartime experiences, he has other unique experiences that show what life was like on the non-combat side of the military.

Mr. Altman was a bonded cashier in the Army. He had a minimum of three million dollars of value in the vault at the base, for which he was responsible. Most of the value was in Military Payment Certificates. These certificates could be used or exchanged only on base.

One night Mr. Altman received a phone call from a German man who was asking about when the Military money would be changed. This call surprised him. Unbeknownst to Mr. Altman, the army regularly changed the design and/or color of the military money to stop the black marketers. The man on the phone was a black marketer. These people on the street knew about the change before the army personnel.

Mr. Altman also related that he was required to have U.S. Currency plates in his possession so that he could print money in case of an emergency. He did not have printing paper, ink, or printing facilities. But he had first priority to get home in the event of a Russian attack! He says that stories like these were common during his time in the Army.

Mr. Altman is Jewish and a Zionist. He and his wife lived in an apartment in the town of Idar-Oberstein. He says that he had an easier time in the Army than most. His Army job was like a Civilian job. Because he spoke Yiddish, he was able to understand the dialect of German that was spoken in the town where he was stationed. On one occasion, he was called to the Volkswagen dealership to help out. Later he got another call to help translate. This continued until he ended up being the middleman for all American transactions at this dealership.

He made an interesting observation about how his perspective changed in Germany. When he was in Germany he hated Germans for what they had done in WWII. He was happy to see the bombed out areas, and had disdain for the German soldiers. However, when his wife came over and he lived in a community with Germans, he discovered that the Germans were no different from other people. He says that there were good ones and bad ones and that not all Germans were Nazis. Altman felt this observation was one of the more important things that he took away from his time in the war.

After he left the service, he took a job with a clothing company outside of Cleveland, Ohio. The company brought him back to New Jersey because in Cleveland he was not making enough money to get a decent apartment for his family. He was made an assistant manager in New Jersey, but he was let go because the nephew of the regional manager needed a job. He then went to work for Baumburgers, but due to cutbacks, he was laid off.

He decided to work for an engineering firm as a constructions estimator. He worked on the first Nuclear power plant in the United States, and he also worked on the silo for the Bomarc Missile. In 1957 he was let go because of the cutback in military spending. He then entered a summer program to go into teaching. In the fall of 1958, he became a teacher. He ended up running a program for smart and motivated high school students to spend their last semester of their senior year interning at a company in whatever field the students thought they wanted to work.

In 1991 Mr. Altman and his wife vacationed in Phoenix for the winter. They began spending more and more time and then they decided to move permanently to Phoenix in the Mid-Nineties.

His advice: It is important for each person to do… “what they think is appropriate and right, and understand the circumstances, and take the consequences of whatever that action brings.” He also says that, “You have to be true to your own values, and if you are, you may not be rich, but you’ll be successful in life”.