Cape May Veteran in National News

Cape May Veteran in National News-Presidential Honors

Picture courtesy of Carroll Villa Website.

Harry Kulkowitz salutes the flag.


Cape May area Veteran, Harry Kulkowitz is more than a hero, he is an icon. Harry is part of the “Greatest Generation,” that fought and survived the D-Day battles of Normandy and Utah Beach. Harry, in this writer’s opinion is one of the local faces of the greatest generation, which the newest generation must be taught about. He is a face on the fading memory of the “great wars.”

At the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day this past weekend, Harry Kulkowitz was singled out and mentioned in the prepared remarks of President Barack Obama.

As the President recounted the details of the Invasion of Normandy in 1944, he spoke about the personal sacrifices of the soldiers involved. The President remarked: “Think of Harry Kulkowitz, the Jewish son of Russian immigrants, who fudged his age at enlistment so he could join his friends in the fight.”

The President assured Harry: “Don’t worry, Harry, the statute of limitations has expired.” President Obama went on to recount: “Harry came ashore at Utah Beach on D-Day. And now that he’s come back, we said he could have anything he wants for lunch today — he helped liberate this coast, after all. But this humble hero said a hamburger would do fine. And what’s more American than that?”

Harry Kulkowitz the son of Russian Immigrants, who were Jewish, was born in New York 1924. His father was a tailor in New York City. His mother Sophia died while Harry was fighting in Europe. To join up in 1941, when the Americans came into the war, Harry had to lie on his enlistment papers, he was not yet 18, to fight alongside his friends. Harry originally signed up to be a photographer and then became radio intercept operator. As a radio operator, he was trained to listen to Nazi codes and messages.

Harry landed on Utah Beach, Normandy on June 6, 1944 as a 20-year-old with the 114th Signal Company, sea sick and frightened and as he says not knowing what the hell was going on! After landing on Utah Beach June 6, 1944 Harry went on through the whole European campaign eventually finishing in 1945 in Germany.

Sixty years later, Kulkowitz was welcomed with opened arms in the small villages of France. The mayor of Houseville honored him with a special medal and accolades at a public ceremony. Women who remembered the invasion came up to him and kissed him. Women who weren’t even born in 1944 came up to him and kissed him. Harry’s picture appeared on the front page of the local paper the next day.

Long after the war, in 1978, Harry started the Mad Batter restaurant and the Carroll Villa Hotel on historic Jackson Street in Cape May New Jersey. The opening of the business helped to facilitate the renaissance of great restaurants in Cape May.

According to the Carroll Vila Hotel website, in 1944, when Kulkowitz landed on Utah Beach and approached the village of Houseville, he had only one thought in mind – to rid the world of Adolph Hitler. He felt it was his duty as an American and as a Jew to enlist. Kulkowitz’s generation performed selfless acts of sacrifice and heroism, yet somehow, despite overwhelming accomplishments, they remain humble.

The history of these humble individuals like Harry Kulkowitz of the Greatest generation, should be, must be,  told to future generations. Tell your children and their children to “Google” Harry Kulkowitz, an icon and a hero. It’s His-Story.

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  1. Gary O'Connor
    August 23, 2017 / 6:40 pm

    I met Harry shortly after he opened the batter. My parents were married in Cape May in 1941 and took me there when we would go on vacation, sometimes just a day trip. They eventually bought a small house in West Cape May and as years went by my brother and sister both bought summer homes in Cape May. Now all are sold and I don’t have a free place to go but I still go frequently and love Cape May. I enjoy your commentaries about the city.

    To get back to Harry, when he and Vicki first opened, dining was confined to the porch. Harry did everything. He hosted, cooked and spoke with everyone, assisted in opening your wine, and later, when I introduced a married couple to his restaurant, picked up their crying baby and walked around, so we could enjoy our dinner. I was very impressed with the food and friendliness.

    At that time I was a police officer in suburban Philadelphia. The winter after my first meal at the Batter I was working night shift and observed a beat up Toyota with one headlight approaching me. I turned around and stopped it, approached the driver and it was Harry. He gave me his license and registration. I explained to him that he needed to get his light fixed. (I would never give a ticket for a light violation). I then told him that I had eaten in his restaurant and really enjoyed it. He went crazy, asking me my name, how often I came to Cape May, etc. I told him I was getting cold and I would see him next summer.

    The following summer I went to his restaurant and had dinner, as usual it was excellent. At the end of dinner I asked if Harry could stop at our table. He had been all over the place as usual. He stopped over and I told him that I was the cop who stopped him last winter. He went nuts–called his entire staff, (which wasn’t many then) to our table, introduced me to them as “Gary the cop” and proceeded to tell them that when you do a good job people remember you so you should always treat people well.

    When we asked for the check we were told Harry had taken care of it and wanted us to have dessert as well. The Batter was not yet the success it became but it was typical of his generosity. As the years went by he would always remember me. When he bought his house on Jackson Street he took me on a tour of his kitchen, which was fabulous. He introduced me to Mark when he came to work with Harry and Mark still remembers me to this day–as “Gary the Cop.”

    • August 23, 2017 / 7:59 pm

      Gary the Cop, I will make sure Mark sees your remarks. Thank you for posting

      • Gary O'Connor
        August 24, 2017 / 6:58 am

        Thank you John. I enjoy your posts. I’m coming to Cape May the weekend of 9/9-9/11, will try to stop by your Hotel and say Hi. Please say Hi to Mark for me. He’s a good guy like his Dad.

  2. Tansy Forster
    August 25, 2017 / 5:23 am

    I feel the need to tell the back story of the photo you’ve used taken by my husband Mike Forster who was formerly Fleet Street photographer in London. With Harry’s interest in photography, he and Mike struck up a great friendship.

    We got to know Harry as he was billeted with us by our local Mayor for the 60th Anniversary 2004 of D Day here in Normandy…there was a request sent from Paris that all local Mayors in the area of the Invasion Beaches find folk prepared to take any veteran as their guest into their home plus how many you could accommodate. With us being English/Irish we were natural ‘targets’! We said we’d be delighted…it was confirmed that we would be getting a veteran from 3rd June for at least a week with 1 family member, so made all the preparations to include planning a special dinner for the 5th June, the flags went up, the bunting was all around the courtyards, beds made, on the 5th laid the table, wine opened…still no veteran! So we went ahead & had a party!

    Next morning the 6th June 2004 whole area went into lock down, from Cherbourg right round to Caen with the N13 motorway closed & a 17 mile radius as no go area all the small roads closed, (we are 4 miles from Ste Mere Eglise in one direction & 4 miles from Carentan the other 10 minutes from Utah Beach)…16 Heads of State in the area including President of United States, The Queen and for 1st time Chancellor of Germany. So if you weren’t in place by a certain time and you didn’t have the correct pass you weren’t going anywhere!

    We’re nursing hangovers and disappointment so I clear up the night before & have loads of bread over so sack it up and wearily trudge round to our Mayor’s house to give it for his chickens & sheep…I get there and there’s these 2 men…one with a goatee beard and quite animated the other one a big guy with a folder of letters & photos…ahhh Tansy, Raymond The Mayor says to me and starts machine gunning French – the older guy then says ‘do you speak English? No one understands us here – gotta get to the beach’ head thumping not understanding what is going on – ‘what do you mean – I am English darling’ I say…with that I get a huge bear hug…Harry Kulkowitz is in my life!!

    I take him and now know it’s Mark home…call out to Mike & our other English friends that had come over for the 60th anniversary & meet a veteran…’hey guys I’ve got a veteran’…’oh yeah, yeah’ they say – ‘but I have, meet Harry’…all Harry wanted to do was go to the beach & explaining to him that we were in lock down you have to watch it on the TV was not an easy task…fortunately jet lag kicked in and he had a little sleep until the evening and we could then get him to the beach!

    How he & Mark got through the barriers is a lesson to us all – never take no as your answer!! He was waving the letter from our Mayor under all these security men with machine guns…’I’ve got a letter from the Mayor’, the funny part of it is every single village in France has a Mayor – there are 345 people in this village but we have a Mayor…Harry & Mark didn’t know that – they thought of the Mayor like a New York Mayor! Power to them, the Gendarmes & the machine gun carrying Army let them through – hilarious!

    The photo here of Harry at Taps at The American Cemetery is 2010 – 6 years on from our 1st meeting…(they then took to arriving by the 2nd June to combat jet lag etc. & be on form for his audience!).

    The young soldier in combat fatigues was to help Harry fold the flag at taps…he came up to Harry saluted and went to shake his hand saying all the usual things about what an honour it was to meet him…”Beat it son, you’re embarrassing me”…typical Harry, it was very funny.

    But that sums up Harry – every morning when we were going out for a ceremony in his honour he would not have his medals on, every morning I would pin his medals on his shirt, every morning he would look over to Mike and ask for help and Mike would say” it’s all your fault Harry! ” At the end of a long and emotional day where he was welcomed back as a conquering hero he’s say ‘jeez, what was that all about – I didn’t do anything’… ‘it’s all your fault Harry’ the stock reply – after 10 years of this he then started to say with a twinkle in his eye ‘it’s all my fault!’

    June 6th weeks are huge here in Normandy and they seem to be getting bigger every year even though the veterans are less…we get very few American boys now – The British still come, last year 150 Black Cabs from London bought over Normandy Veterans, it’s not so far and no real time difference, just an hour.

    Our 6th June weeks are just not the same without Harry…we will treasure our weeks we had with him, it was a privilege.

    • August 25, 2017 / 6:45 am

      What an absolutely delightful tale. I think everyone in Cape May associated with Harry should read this story. When I first wrote this for the local paper and interviewed Mark and Pam, they provided me with photos to go along with story. No doubt Mark has related this in his own way over a dram, but not so eloquently. Do you mind if I make it into a guest blog?