99-Year-Old WWII Veteran Shares War Stories with Rutgers–Camden

Jake Ruser recounted firsthand experiences as part of veteran speaker series

Ruser (right) with Rutgers–Camden Director of Veterans Affairs Fred Davis

Ruser (right) with Rutgers–Camden Director of Veterans Affairs Fred Davis

Rutgers University–Camden’s Office of Military & Veterans Affairs hosted Private First Class Jake Ruser this week as part of its second annual speaker series, which seeks to educate civilians on military turning points in history through the lens of veterans who lived through those experiences. 

Ruser, 99, a native of Conshohocken, Pa., served with the 4th Infantry Division as a combat medic, picking up the wounded, evacuating them to aid stations, and treating them in such conflicts as the Battle of the Bulge. With vivid clarity, Ruser recounted his time in the war, starting from his arrival at the epicenter of battle: Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. 

He described the euphoria of his division liberating Paris a few months later. “You would never believe there was a war going on. We went in by motorcade, and people were all over our trucks; we could barely move,” Ruser said. “They brought out their champagne and everything. It was a big celebration.” 

Ruser also detailed his time in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest in Germany, which he said was one of the worst battles fought in the European theater of operations. In November 1944, the American front was met with heavy casualties. “You’re wondering, how could this happen?” Ruser said.

Ruser explained that with so many losses, the U.S. and German forces decided to halt fighting and called two truces. “The Americans and Germans worked together to gather the dead, and we were able to bring the American casualties back to the aid station,” he said. 

Soon after, Ruser’s unit was dispatched to the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg in what became the Battle of the Bulge. He described a few close calls, including when his team nearly drove into enemy lines and were mistaken for Germans while retrieving mail.

“We were stopped at a checkpoint because there were some Germans who were supposed to be dropped behind our line at the start of the battle to sabotage our operation and disrupt our communication,” Ruser said. “The number on our vehicle matched one of the numbers they were looking for. We were two hours late, but everyone was just glad we got back safely.”

“You’re wondering, how could this happen?”
Jake Ruser

After his military service, Ruser attended business school, beginning a successful career in accounting and later working for IBM. Last year, Ruser served as honorary co-grand marshal of the Philadelphia Veterans Day Parade along with friend and fellow member of the Delaware Valley Battle of the Bulge Association, Cpl. Benjamin Berry. 

The Military & Veterans Affairs speaker series was made possible through the Rutgers–Camden Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy Innovation Grant Program. Future Office of Military & Veterans Affairs speaker series events will include sessions on the Vietnam War, the Global War on Terrorism, and the Tuskegee Airmen. 

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Design: Douglas Shelton
Photography: Christina Lynn