History of Hillsdale Part IV

Hillsdale During Years Of The 2nd World War

HILLSDALE – During the period of American involvement in World War II, between the years 1941 and 1945, nearly 500 men and women from Hillsdale saw service in the armed forces of their country. Eleven men lost their lives in the four-year struggle. The men with gold stars affixed after their names on Hillsdale’s World War II Honor Roll are: C. Clark, R. Greve, L. Gritman, E. Hills, R. Holensworth, W. Irvine, T. Lyons Jr., C. MacMillan, L. Meyer, H. Springer and R. Swenson. On the home front, the entire community took an active part in supporting the war effort, providing home guard protection and in entertaining servicemen at nearby Army camps.

On May 23, 1941, Mayor Frank E. Hafemann appointed a Hillsdale Defense Council. Its principal leaders were: former Mayor John G. Hansen, chairman; H. Clyde Day, vice chairman; and Garrett A. Storms, secretary. Police Chief Henry P. Koelsch was later added, along with Fire Chief Martin Shaefer and succeeding fire chiefs, as they took office. Three men trained as bomb experts were included on the council: Milton Zabriskie, Henry Heins and R.C. Appeld. In the autumn of 1941, a Police Auxiliary of 21 men was organized and later expanded to 48. Also, a Fire Auxiliary of 24 men was organized, together with a First Aid Class of 40 men and women who received training. The first air raid test was blown on the fire siren in Hillsdale in October, 1941.


The day after Pearl Harbor, Dec. 8, 1941, the Defense Council held a “war conference,” upon orders from the State. A total of 141 persons were divided into zones in the community, to enforce blackouts, serve as air raid wardens on a 24-hour basis, and maintain order. By the end of 1942, the Defense Council consisted of 200 members. Borough Hall was established as headquarters, with first aid and canteen stations established at the George White School and Hemme Building.

The Army Air Force organized the Aircraft Warning Service under the sponsorship of the American Legion of Bergen County, and many Hillsdale residents joined the service. They were recognized for their contribution at the end of the war. Soldiers from nearby Camp Shanks (Orangetown, NY, Rockland County) manned anti-aircraft stations in the Pascack Valley during the war. Hillsdale young women volunteered as junior hostesses at U.S.O. dances in Hackensack, Westwood and Pearl River, NY. Hillsdale women supplied the soldiers with food books and records, and invited them for Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners at local homes. The Fire Department also entertained soldiers on several occasions.


A myriad of local committees was formed to cover all types of wartime emergencies: Demolition and Rescue Squad, Transportation Committee, Evacuation Committee, Consumer Interest Committee, and Salvage Committee. A drive held for the collection of aluminum pots and pans, in late 1941, aided the war effort. Later, there were drives for scrap metal and paper; Victory Gardens were encouraged and local residents participated in large numbers in Red Cross Blood Banks and making surgical dressings for the Red Cross. The effects of rationing were felt in Hillsdale, as in other parts of the nation.

When groups of Hillsdale volunteers or draftees left for duty, they were treated to farewell parties and given a pen by the borough. The names of the new servicemen and women were placed on the Honor Roll in the park. Throughout the war, Hillsdale residents contributed generously to bond
drives and other war fund drives.


A Hillsdale resident, Colonel Frank A. Hill, was the first American pilot to shoot down a German plane in World War II. Hill accomplished his feat over Dieppe, France. After completing 166 combat missions in Europe, Hill was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, and Air Medal with 19 Oak Leaf Clusters. The fighter pilot had six and one-half German planes to his credit by the end of the war. During his career, Hill rose from a private in the Army Air Corps, was commissioned as a second lieutenant, and was promoted rapidly as his exploits increased. He was never wounded and never lost a plane. On Nov. 24, 1943, the entire town of Hillsdale turned out to honor the 24-year-old hero, in a giant “welcome home” party. Special church services were also held on “D” day, and in 1945, general celebrations took place on “VE Day” and “VJ Day.”

The Hillsdale Defense Council, under John G. Hansen, held its final meeting on Sept. 30, 1945. In September, 1946, a giant “Welcome Home” celebration was staged to honor all men and women who had served in the war, and featured a parade, games at the athletic field, and a dance in the school auditorium.



No accurate records were kept on the number of Hillsdale men and women who participated in the Korean War and the war in Vietnam. A total of six Hillsdale men gave their lives in those two conflicts: Albert Rawson was killed in Korea, and W. Roell, G. Poor, E. Elfenbein, P.P. Muniner, and E.M. Maher Jr. lost their lives in Vietnam. The memory of these men is perpetuated by their inclusion with gold stars on the Honor Roll in the American Legion Post Hut on Legion Place.