88-year-old Mel Freedman of Boca Raton, FL appears on the June 22, 2013 edition of Hometown Heroes. Freedman served in the 45th Infantry Division, witnessed the horrors of a concentration camp, and later befriended John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy as a Harvard football player. A native of Natick, Massachusetts, Freedman shares how he heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and how ended up in the U.S. Army.
Mel Freedman as a teenager in the U.S. Army
Freedman was training in the United States with the 69th Infantry Division, but volunteered to head overseas early as a replacement. Once in Europe, he was assigned to the 45th Infantry Division, serving in Headquarters Company as a clerk typist. One of his regular duties was typing up casualty reports. You’ll hear Freedman remember the harsh visual of burning American tanks in Nuremberg, where the 45th Infantry won a key victory on April 20, 1945. In the days that followed, he would see even more horrific scenes. Listen to the program to hear Mel relate how he ended up at a recently liberated concentration camp, and describe the awful evidence of the Holocaust that he witnessed first-hand. After the war, Mel took advantage of the G.I. Bill to attend Harvard, where he played for the football team. Freedman carries fond memories of an upset victory over a previously unbeaten Brown team that featured Joe Paterno, and also shares the story of how he became one of the first defensive players to employ a blitzing strategy. Listen to the program to find out which other legendary football coach ventured into the opposing locker room to share a few words with Mel. One of his football teammates at Harvard was Robert F. Kennedy, and Mel got to know the Kennedy family quite well. You’ll hear him share his memories of “Bobby and Jack,” as he knew them.
88-year-old Mel Freedman with his son-in-law, Terry Fox.
Thanks to Mel’s son-in-law, decorated Vietnam veteran Terry Fox, for connecting me to Mel and his story. If you run into this energetic octogenarian, ask him about his personal perspective on the JFK assassination. You’ll learn from this interview that Mel held his friend Jack Kennedy in great esteem and was extremely grieved by his death. With the 50th anniversary of that tragic day in Dallas approaching in November, declassified documents may provide additional light on what happened.