Too Young to Die

Private Samuel Terzian

On December 24, 1924, when the rest of the world was celebrating Christmas Eve, Charles and Mary Terzian, an Armenian couple living in Los Angeles, California, were celebrating the birth of twins—Samuel and Dorothy. 

Like most twins, Samuel and Dorothy shared a unique and mysterious bond. They were inseparable and understood each other without saying anything. During their childhood, the entire family settled in Akron, Ohio—the “Rubber Capital of the World.” This new location changed many things, but not the special relationship between Samuel and Dorothy. Just like in Los Angeles, they did everything together and were always there for each other, especially in February 1935 when their beloved father died.

Samuel was a kindhearted and cheerful teenager. He always had a smile on his face, lived every day to the fullest, and never lost his optimism. After attending South High School, Samuel worked for the Firestone Corporation, but in August 1943, the world was in agony, and freedom was in peril, so he decided to join the US Army. A few days later, when it came time to leave, Mary took her little boy in her arms and broke into tears. She knew that many young men would never return and couldn’t bear the thought of losing her only son.

As a proud member of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, Samuel landed on Utah Beach on June 11, 1944 and took part in the Invasion of Normandy. In between battles, he often thought about his precious and irreplaceable sister. Dorothy was thousands of miles away, but he felt as if she were right by his side. A month after touching French soil, Samuel found himself in “Hedgerow Hell.” The particular nature of Normandy’s landscape, with its tall thick hedgerows and limited visibility, was ideally suited for German ambushes. On July 16, 1944, one of the American soldiers who suddenly fell to the ground was Samuel. Badly wounded by enemy fire, he was immediately taken to a field hospital. So many brave men died on that day, but Samuel survived.

Once recovered, this Armenian American hero returned to combat duty and participated at the Battle of Hürtgen Forest which took place in Germany between September 19, 1944 and December 16, 1944. There are no words strong enough to describe what happened in that forest. The fighting was so deadly that everyone called it “The Death Factory.” Some young soldiers were blown apart and died instantly, while others were critically wounded in a no man’s land, and spent hours, all alone, scared and in excruciating pain before dying. More than 30-thousand American soldiers were killed or wounded during the Battle of Hürtgen Forest.

On October 15, 1944, Samuel was in the heart of the forest between Zweifall and Vossenack. With every step he took, his senses had to remain sharp for unusual shapes and suspicious sounds. Danger was everywhere, and the enemy could be anywhere. On that fateful day, Samuel and his comrades were assigned the mission of destroying a heavily defended line of German bunkers. Samuel fought with remarkable courage and extraordinary determination, but during the assault, a German bullet struck his chest. His comrades rushed to his aid, but nothing could be done to save him. Born in the City of Angels, Samuel died in the Devil’s forest.

When his mother was informed that her 19-year-old son had died for freedom, she was devastated and so was Dorothy who lost her other half. Samuel didn’t have a brother, but he had many brothers-in-arms who loved him as much as he loved them. He was buried among his fallen comrades at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium.

Private Samuel Terzian’s grave at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium

After graduating from The University of Akron with a degree in education, Dorothy became an accomplished artist and a devoted art teacher. To honor the memory of her twin brother, Dorothy established the “Terzian Family Scholarship” at The University of Akron.

Like so many Armenian American heroes who gave their lives to defeat tyranny, Samuel died way too far from home and was far too young to die. He never got the chance to get married, become a parent or fulfill a dream, but his sacrifice enabled so many people to live these magical moments. Seventy-six years after his death, let us all take a moment to look at his face, his eyes, his smile, and imagine what Samuel endured in Europe. We can never thank him enough or repay the debt we owe him, but we can make sure his memory lives on, and ensure that future generations remember this brave young man.

Rest in peace Samuel, and rest assured that we will never forget you.

John Dekhane

John Dekhane

John Dekhane grew up in Paris before moving to the South of France. He works for a sport organization in Monaco. Since he was a child, he has always been interested in World War II with particular emphasis on American soldiers. In order to honor them, over the past years, he has located and purchased WWII U.S. artifacts in Europe and donated these items to more than a hundred museums in the United States.
John Dekhane

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  1. In november 2010 I have adopted Sam’s Grave. Since then I have visited his Sister and her family a few times in the States and hosted them in my house in the Netherlands. A real friendship has developed. I visit Sam’s grave a few times a year, with flowers on behalf of his sister Dorothy and to thank him for his ultimate sacrificie.

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