Fred Rochlin, B-24 navigator who became a master storyteller

Nothing about Fred Rochlin was usual. Son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he grew up in Nogales, Arizona raised by a Mexican Indian girl. He spoke English, Spanish and a little Yiddish. He aced his classes in high school but was flunking out of college when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

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Fred Rochlin During WWII

Serving as a navigator on a B-24 Liberator in Italy with the 15th Air Force, Rochlin flew fifty missions. During his time in Italy, he helped a woman give birth, fended off the amorous advances of a male commanding officer, was shot down twice and walked out of Yugoslavia with the help of a partisan woman.

After WWII, Rochlin moved to California and attended college on the GI Bill. He became an architect in Southern California and lived a professional life until his retirement in the mid-1980s. In 1994, Rochlin attended a performance workshop held by actor Spaulding Gray. Encouraged by the people around him, Rochlin took another class in solo performance. Fred Rochlin wasn’t an actor and the teacher wondered why he wanted to join. But when Rochlin got up and spoke about his time in WWII, the class knew they were seeing something special.

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Fred Rochlin in the 1990’s

Rochlin was reluctant to talk in front of people and was afraid he would forget his lines while performing. With coaching, Rochlin gained enough confidence to perform several of his vignettes where he spoke to standing ovations. After a write up in the New York Times, Rochlin was invited to perform all over the country. From 1996-2001 Fred Rochlin told his story at packed theaters around the country.  Rochlin didn’t see his tales as “war stories”, he wanted them to be known as tales learned from life about love, friendship, people and all the small things that one learns on their journey through life.

Fred Rochlin passed away in 2002, but left behind a tale of the beauty, joy and occasional sadness that just happened to be learned from the nose of a B-24. highly recommends Fred Rochlin’s book: Old Man in a Baseball Cap.

Fred  Rochlin’s book can be found here:

Old Man in a Baseball Cap

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