Paul Ginsburg, 91, of Wyncote, a real estate agent and developer who fought Japanese soldiers in hand-to-hand combat in the Aleutian Islands during World War II, died of complications from an infection Saturday, May 21, at Abington Memorial Hospital.
Mr. Ginsburg grew up raising racing pigeons in Logan. He graduated from Central High School, where he was on the wrestling and soccer teams.
He attended Temple University while working in his father Abraham's furniture store and residential real estate business in North Philadelphia.
In 1940, Mr. Ginsburg was drafted into the Army and was assigned to a combat engineering unit at Fort Belvoir, Va.
Two months after Pearl Harbor, he and the other members of his unit, outfitted in warm-weather gear, boarded a ship for the Panama Canal Zone. Instead they headed to Juneau, Alaska. The Canal Zone destination was a ruse to fool Japanese spies believed to be watching troop movements, said a son, Jay.
In Alaska, the GIs had to build their own installation. To him it was a great adventure, his son said, and he often traveled with bush pilots to scavenge supplies.
In June 1942, the Japanese captured the Aleutian Islands of Kiska and Attu. Sgt. Ginsburg and the engineers built an airfield on Adak Island to permit U.S. bombing of Kiska, and in May 1943 the engineers participated in the invasion to retake Attu.
On May 29, a Japanese horde screaming "banzai" swarmed out of the fog and attacked Engineer Hill, where Sgt. Ginsburg and his men were camped. According to an account on Military History Online, the GIs fought the Japanese with fists, rifle butts, and bayonets and, though outnumbered, managed to beat back their attackers. The Battle of Engineer Hill ended the Japanese occupation on Attu.
Sgt. Ginsburg was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions in the attack. Later, he received a commendation from the commanding general of the Alaskan Department, "in appreciation of 33 months of commendable service under conditions peculiar to the mainland and the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, requiring ingenuity, perseverance and devotion to duty."
After his discharge, Mr. Ginsburg joined his father and brother, Stanton, in Ginsburg & Ginsburg, Realtors. He involved the firm in commercial real estate, developing shopping centers and building a Howard Johnson's restaurant in Glenside, as well as apartment buildings.
Though his three sons eventually took over the business with offices in Norristown and Chestnut Hill, he continued to drive to the Chestnut Hill office four days a week until he was almost 91, his son Jay said.
Mr. Ginsburg, who had been a Boy Scout in his youth, was an assistant scoutmaster in Mount Airy for several years. He was past president of the Broad and Olney Business Association and was a Mason. He raised money for institutions including the Widener Memorial School for Handicapped Children, where he organized an annual Christmas party.
In 1992, he and his wife, Evelyn Greenberg Ginsburg, traveled to Alaska on the 50th anniversary of the Combat Engineers' landing. On his 80th birthday, he received a congratulatory letter from then-Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, and on his 90th birthday, he received greetings from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Besides his wife of 67 years and son, Mr. Ginsburg is survived by sons Bruce and Don; a sister; 10 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
A funeral will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks Memorial Chapel, 6410 N. Broad St., Philadelphia. Burial will be in Mount Sharon Cemetery, Springfield, Delaware County.