Meet Herman

Herman Markowitz

Meet Herman:
Broadcast Engineer
in War & Peace

 

Donning a red and blue brocade yarmulke and smiling broadly, Herman, 86, is happy to discuss the feats of his past, from applying engineering know-how as a young WWII Marine to sophisticated radio communications projects to designing complex communication systems for government agencies, private industry, and his local business community.

A Philadelphia native, Herman enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 and ultimately became a participant in the April 1945 amphibious invasion of Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.

Four days after the Japanese surrendered to Allied Forces, Herman was assigned to a special military team organized to care for released American POWs near Yokohama. His task was to conduct interviews with these rescued men, offering each one the opportunity to compose a
3-minute recording which was then broadcast by radio back to their hometowns in the States, thereby enabling their families to hear with their own ears the voices of their boys belting out "Hi Mom, Hi Dad, Hi Sweetheart, I'm alive, safe, and on my way home."

Building upon that experience, Herman served as broadcast engineer for a December 7, 1945 production from the Okinawa command post that marked the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The 30-minute show, which detailed America's entry into the war and the major battles in the Pacific Theater, was one of numerous simultaneous broadcasts emanating from command posts around the world. This production was selected by the NBC Network to be played throughout the U.S., and upon the program's conclusion, Herman was identified as the production engineer. Who should be listening at that moment? His mother! Her surprise and excitement upon hearing her son’s name erased all plans for the rest of the day. “I was so pleased she heard my name on National Radio,” recalls Herman.

For several years after the war, Herman continued to work in radio communications in different capacities until, through serendipitous events, he launched his own business, Custom Electronics, in El Paso, Texas. Over the next 35 years, what began as a service and repair shop for TV receivers operating in hospitals, bars, and private homes grew to become a major innovator of complex communications systems for public and private sector clients. A sampling of some remarkable devices Herman developed in his lab includes a destructible instrument to provide accurate measurement of all aspects of a radioactive explosion; a remote-control robot to vacuum up atomic debris from city streets following a nuclear explosion; and the first solid-state TV camera system used by aircraft pilots to monitor the exterior of their planes while airborne.

Today, Herman enjoys a range of activities at the Hebrew Home. He attends a daily minyan (“it’s a tremendous resource for me”), a stimulating Torah study group with Rabbi James Michaels, a weekly “Schmooze Group,” which provides a lively arena for discussion of current events, history, and politics, a popular monthly Yiddish music program led by Rabbi Michaels, and last but not least, the musical entertainment on Sundays in the Wasserman Social Hall. In addition to all this, Herman values quiet moments to reflect back on a long, productive, and decidedly interesting lifetime.  

 

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