Things are a lot quieter for Herman Solof these days.
The World War II veteran had a role in one of the most well-known battles in human history. Now, the 96-year-old South Jersey native is retired and enjoying the freedoms he fought for more than 75 years ago.
Solof, originally from Camden, graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. When he was 19, he was drafted into the Army during World War II. At the time, he was a purchasing agent for a commercial refrigeration company that built mortuary boxes for the Army. He says his experience with the company led to him getting drafted.
“After a while, they realized that I was really young, and I could be so important because I was a purchasing agent for the corporation,” Solof said. “So they drafted me.”
He was initially afraid of the unknown after suddenly being selected to fight in the war.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Solof said. “After I got in (the Army), then I started to get to see what was happening, that it was easy to get killed, then I started to worry.”
In his four years with the army, he served as a private with the 293rd Joint Assault Signal Company. The regiment was responsible for invasion work in preparation for larger entries of troops.
One such entry was on the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, which led to the successful Allied invasion of France that would be known as D-Day.
Thousands of Allied solders gave their lives on the beaches that day.
“I remember all the action, all the excitement, all the bombing (and) all the explosions,” Solof said. “(We were) just trying to stay alive.”
The men of the 293rd didn’t have time to celebrate, however. Shortly after helping to take the beach, they were sent to the other side of the world to New Guinea and then the Philippines for more invasion work.
According to Solof, they were one of the few outfits to see action in both the European and Pacific theaters in the war.
“(After the Philippines), we were ready to board a ship to go to Japan,” Solof said. “Then the bomb was dropped (on Hiroshima).”
After the war, Solof ran a liquor store in Atlantic City called King’s Liquor. The store was open for years before it had to be demolished to make room for a street-widening project for Resorts Casino Hotel.
Locals still remember him for it.
“(Herman) was known as Mr. King,” said Zelda Solof, Herman’s daughter. “He’s still known as Mr. King.”
Now a resident of Ventnor, Herman spends his days enjoying retirement. Though he put his life on the line for his country and made an impact on one of the biggest Allied achievements in the war, he simply looks at it as something he just had to do.
“I had to do it, and I did it,” Herman said. “That was the story. It’s what you had to do.”