Jerome M. Grollman, 87, served in National Guard

August 05, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Retired Sgt. Maj. Jerome Maynard Grollman, whose career in the Maryland National Guard spanned the Great Depression, World War II and Vietnam, died Saturday of pneumonia at Union Memorial Hospital. He was 87 and lived in Guilford.

Sergeant Grollman, who had a National Guard armory named in his honor, was command sergeant major of the 2nd Battalion, 175th Infantry when he retired from active duty in 1970.

"He looked like a first sergeant, with his finely trimmed mustache and his military bearing," said Philip Sherman, a retired National Guard brigadier general and Baltimore attorney.

"When one hears the name of Sergeant Grollman, several things come to mind: dedication, devotion to duty and loyalty," Mr. Sherman said.

"To the young recruit, he was not only a sergeant who trained and led them through the basics of soldiering, he was a true father figure, who took care of them and looked after their needs and well-being," he said.

Gen. Bernard Feingold, who retired from the Maryland National Guard in 1978 and was a friend for 50 years, said Sergeant Grollman "wouldn't take a direct commission as a captain. He turned them down because he knew that the two best positions in the military were being a first sergeant or a company commander."

General Feingold stressed that Sergeant Grollman didn't "want to lose touch with the troops. He liked the down-to-earth connection and wanted to be with the men."

He described the sergeant as a "quiet, religious individual whom everyone liked -- from generals on down to officers and noncoms. No one ever had any bad words for Jerry."

Sergeant Grollman was 18 in 1929 when he enlisted in the Howitzer Company, 5th Infantry, Maryland National Guard after graduating from City College.

He quickly rose through the ranks and by 1939 was first sergeant. In 1941, during World War II, his unit was redesignated the 2nd Battalion, 175th Infantry, an anti-tank unit, and later became part of the fabled 29th Infantry Division.

Shipped to England in 1942, the unit endured 10 months of rigorous training in Cornwall, Devon and Slapton Sands in preparation for the D-Day invasion.

Early on June 7, 1944, the unit landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, and within two days captured the town of Isigny, a key German position. It also participated in the historic battle for St. Lo.

Because of the important role the unit had in the capture of the French port of Brest in August 1944, which cost the 29th Division 3,000 casualties, Sergeant Grollman's unit was presented with the French Croix de Guerre.

His decorations included the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Legion of Merit.

"You damn near had to get killed in World War II to get the Bronze Star," Mr. Feingold said. "Very few combat veterans will tell you what they did to earn such a decoration. He was like that. He never said why he was awarded the Bronze Star."

Sergeant Grollman was discharged from active military service with the rank of first sergeant in 1945 and his unit was deactivated. In 1946, the unit was reactivated, with headquarters at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore, and he re-enlisted.

Despite being placed on the retired list after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60, Sergeant Grollman continued to participate in his unit's drills and attend summer camp.

In many ways a historical yet charming anachronism, he was embraced by the younger recruits, who were enthralled by his stories of life in the National Guard.

"The members of the battalion wholeheartedly approve of his appearance on these occasions, and seek his expertise in military matters with a high degree of enthusiasm. There is little TC doubt that he continues to instill a high level of esprit de corps in the enlisted ranks of the battalion," said a Maryland National Guard publication.

"He was a trusted and worthy comrade-in-arms and, to his superior officers, Sergeant Grollman was a man who could get the job down. He could accomplish the mission, whatever it was, with little or no supervision and little or no griping," Mr. Sherman said.

In 1983, in recognition of Sergeant Grollman's service, the National Guard Armory in Dundalk was named in honor of the Hagerstown native.

Until 1995, the lifelong bachelor was a cattle dealer on the side, traveling through the Middle Atlantic region buying and selling cattle.

He was a member of Shaarei Tfiloh Congregation.

Services were held Sunday.

Sergeant Grollman is survived by two brothers, Dr. Sigmund Grollman and Borah Grollman, and a sister, Sylvia Grollman. All are of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 8/05/98

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