Bernard "Bernie" Bluestein
PFC in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : HQ & Service Co
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
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.
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.
Ten years after that Chicago Tribune interview, in November, 2020, Bernie is still creating, and in his 30th year as an "emeritus student" at Harper. He's been away from the campus during the pandemic, but hopes to return once the campus fully re-opens.
(see high school yearbook below)
Also military photos here
1942 high school yearbook
1942 draft card
1943 enlistment record
1945 World War II hospital admission file
1949 marriage record
2009 article re his one-man show "Needles"
2010 Chicago Tribune article
2019 Pritzker Military Museum Oral History Program - oral history transcript; contains biographical details and photos