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Bernard "Bernie" Bluestein

PFC in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : HQ & Service Co

Military occupational specialty: 144 (painter, general)


Born 1923 in OH


County of residence at enlistment: Cuyahoga County, OH
Other residence(s): Cleveland, OH; Chesterton, IN; Des Plaines, IL; Schaumburg, IL
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
College education before the war: Cleveland Institute of Art 1 year
College education after the war: Cleveland Institute of Art; Harper College in Pantine, IL
Notes: "Blue"
Source: Rick Beyer; 603rd roster in Seymour Nussenbaum's scrapbook, June 1943; Unit Shipment 10143-B, 23d HQ, from le Havre 23 June 1945; HQ & Service Company List of Men and Jobs;

Bernie Bluestein was born on August 13, 1923 in Cleveland, OH, the younger of two children. His father was a Russian/Polish-born tailor; his mother a seamstress.

He graduated in January 1942 from East Technical High School in Cleveland, a school that had given him the opportunity to start honing his artistic skills at an early age. (Bernie's signature in the high school yearbook featured a drawn artist's palette next to his name.)

He won a competitive scholarship to study at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where he pursued his long-time dream of becoming an industrial designer. While there, he saw a bulletin board notice that the US Army was looking for students to take a camouflage class that might earn them a position in a special unit that would involve no infantry fighting. This was appealing to Bernie, so he took the course. He had filled out his draft registration on June 27, 1942, and then enlisted on March 19, 1943, requesting that special unit.

In the Ghost Army, he was part of a team that made fake patches, signs, and vehicle stencils. Once out of the Army, he returned to the Cleveland Institute of Art, and graduated in 1947.

He faced some anti-Semitism in hiring, working briefly in a design office in New York, and as a sign painter in Chesterton, IN. He eventually headed to Chicago where he found a job and met Marcella Boim, his future wife. They would marry on January 15, 1949, and would go on to have two children: Aleyce and Keith, raising their family in Des Plaines, IL.

Bernie was an industrial designer throughout his career, designing products for leading electronics companies such as Zenith and Sunbeam. He worked as a freelancer towards the end of his career, but found the full expression of his creative impulses in retirement.

Sculpture by Bernie Bluestein; photo courtesy Chicago Tribune 2010

Courtesy Chicago Tribune 2010

It was then that he started taking courses at Harper College in Palatine, IL, not far from his residence in Schaumburg. He claims (and who's going to refute him!) that he's taken every art course at Harper. For years he's gone to the campus almost every day, working in many media including ceramics, jewelry-making, printmaking, lithography, etching, engraving, silk screening, and painting. But his true love appears to be sculpture. Remembering the pins and needles that were always scattered around his house when he was growing up (given his parents' work!) he created a series of sculptures entitled "Needles." Some were as big as 6 feet tall, made of beautiful polished wood. Other pins and needles were made from aluminum, bronze, cloth, or ceramics. The pieces were displayed in a one-man show at Harper in 2009—only the second time the college has held such an exhibit for a current student.

An interview in the Chicago Tribune in 2010 quoted Bernie: "I don't know how long God is going to give me. I'm going to be as creative as I can."

Bernie was one of three veterans to attend the events surrounding the opening of the Ghost Army Exhibit at the World War Two Museum in New Orleans in March of 2020.

In 2022, Harper hosted a ceremony to honor Bernie’s service and his many contributions to Harper. As of 2024, Bernie, as a 35-year emeritus student, still goes to Harper most Tuesdays to work in the sculpture studio, which is now named for him. “Oh, it’s kept me alive,” he says. “I listen to the discussions. I’m always learning something.”

Bernie was one of three veterans to attend the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in Washington, DC on March 21, 2024.


(see high school yearbook below)

Also military photos here


1940 census

1942 high school yearbook

1942 draft card

1943 enlistment record

1945 World War II hospital admission file

1949 marriage record

2010 Chicago Tribune article

2019 Pritzker Military Museum Oral History Program - oral history transcript; contains biographical details and photos

2024 Harper College story

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