RM3c Bernard Fields,


RM3c Bernard Fields

Even though Bernard Fields died in the service of his country, his mother insisted on giving the U.S. government the $39 in income tax she calculated he owed on his earnings as a radioman third class on the U.S.S. Arizona. He didn’t actually owe anything because he left no estate when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. But his mother, Sylvia Feigenbaum, said her son would have wanted to pay.

A few old newspaper stories recount this Cleveland mother’s action. An editorial in the Louisville Courier-Journal ended this way: “When a man dies, he takes with him only those things which he has given away. Bernard Fields took with him not these few dollars only. He took with him an integrity held also by his mother, with which she honored him in death.”

Mr. Fields was born June 11, 1916 in Cleveland to Bernard Feingenbaum and Sylvia Hoffman Feigenbaum. His father, a merchant, died when he was about two. The family attended The Temple — Tifereth Israel. 

After his death, Rabbi A.H. Silver wrote that Mr. Fields “was a young man of sterling character, great charm, of utmost considerateness and a high sense of duty and patriotism.”

He enlisted in the Navy in September 1940.

It is not clear why Mr. Fields had a different last name from his parents, but his father was a Romanian immigrant and it was not uncommon for families to assimilate by changing to what were then considered more “American sounding” names.


Sources: The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky; The Decatur (Illinois) Daily Review; Ohio marriage record; Navy muster roll; Ohio death record; Department of Defense. Special thanks to Mary and Ken Brown for the photograph. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

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