“I said, ‘Why are they doing maneuvers on Sunday? Why are they using live bullets?’ Our guys are falling left and right.’’
Stein responded to a loud-speaker announcement calling all off-duty soldiers to the hospital.
“We were kept busy with doctors as the wounded kept coming in,’’ Stein remembers.
As night fell, he and five others were told to wait in a blacked-out office for orders to remove the dead, feeling their way in stairwells in the dark.
“We’d get a call from a nurse: ‘Fourth Floor,’ and we’d crawl up four flights of stairs. We’d get there and she’d say: ‘Fourth bed on the right.’ It was very hard to take. There was two of us to a body. One would take the head portion, and I would take the legs. One body, there were no legs. I broke down and cried...Losing all those people was very heartbreaking.’’
They took the bodies to a makeshift morgue.
A week later, he was sent to the island of Kaua’i to help set up a hospital and medical supply depot.
“A lot of troops were coming in and getting sick,’’ Stein remembered.
After a stint back in the States, Stein was sent to the English port city of Southampton, to prepare for D-Day: June 6, 1944. The war ended in Europe the following May.
After his army discharge in August 1945 as a staff sergeant, Stein worked in the Catskills then settled in Miami Beach. He married, had two children, and spent decades working at well-known hotels, including the Promenade, the Shore Club, the Raleigh, the Fairfax and the Beau Rivage in Bal Harbour, which he managed.
“For 37 years, I never looked for a job,’’ he says.
There’s something else that Stein, who still drives — a Pontiac — has never done.
“I still will not buy a Japanese or a German car.’’