List of Jewish Medal of Honor recipients

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The Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War and is the highest military decoration presented by the United States to a member of its armed forces. Recipients must distinguish themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. The medal is presented to the recipient by the President of the United States.

Since it was instituted there have been 3,473 recipients; at least 17 American Jews have received the Medal of Honor[n 1] for their actions starting in the American Civil War through the Vietnam War. The first recipient of the medal was Benjamin B. Levy of the 1st New York Volunteer infantry for his service at the Battle of Glendale on June 30 1862. The citation for his medal read: This soldier, a drummer boy, took the gun of a sick comrade, went into the fight, and when the color bearers were shot down, carried the colors and saved them from capture. He was only seventeen years old when he earned his medal.[1] David Orbansky also received it for his actions in 1863 during the American Civil War. Samuel Gross was the only Jewish American Marine to receive the medal for his actions in Fort Riviere, Haiti. The last to receive it was Tibor Rubin in 2005, who was believed to have been overlooked due to discrimination. His medal was for his actions in the Korean War in 1950, 55 years before he received the medal.

American Jews and the Medal of Honor[edit]

Depending on religious definitions and varying population data, the United States currently has the second largest Jewish community in the world (after Israel). The American Jewish population was estimated to be approximately 5,128,000 (1.7%)[n 2] of the total population in 2008 (304,060,000).[2] However, it may be as high as 6,444,000 (2.2%).[n 3] As a contrast, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics estimated the Israeli Jewish population was 5,435,800 in 2007.[3]

The medal is bestowed "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in actual combat against an armed enemy force" and the recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Due to the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.[4][5]

Until 1914 the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart were the only medals that could be received so prior to 1916 the criteria for the Medal of Honor were much less restrictive than it is today. In 1916 however a board was established to ensure that future awards would be made only for the highest purposes, and some awards were rescinded.[6]

Since the institution of the Medal of Honor, at least 17 have been presented to American Jews, of which four were received posthumously.[n 1]

American Civil War[edit]

The American Civil War was a major conflict fought between the federal government of the United States and eleven of its member States which sought to secede and to create their own government, the Confederate States of America. It started on April 12, 1861, shortly after Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, and ended four years later on April 9, 1865. During the war over 10,000 military engagements took place and more than 3 million people fought on both sides with 40% of the battles being fought in the states of Virginia and Tennessee.[7]

Since its creation, 1522 have received the Medal of Honor for actions during the American Civil War[8] and depending on sources, at least four were Jewish.

Note: Notes in quotations are derived or are copied from the official Medal of Honor citation
Image Name Service Rank Place of action Date of action Notes References
Abraham Cohn Army Sergeant Major Battle of the Wilderness and Battle of the Crater, Virginia May 6, 1864 and July 30, 1864 "During Battle of the Wilderness rallied and formed, under heavy fire, disorganized and fleeing troops of different regiments. At Petersburg, Va., ... bravely and coolly carried orders to the advanced line under severe fire." [9][10][11][12]
Leopold Karpeles Army Sergeant Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia May 6, 1864 "While color bearer, rallied the retreating troops and induced them to check the enemy's advance" [9][10][11][12]
BenjaminLevy.jpg Benjamin Levy Army Private Battle of Glendale, Virginia Jun 30, 1862 Drummer boy, took the gun of a sick comrade and went into the fight, when the color bearers were shot down he carried the colors and saved them from capture. [9][10][11][12]
David Orbansky Army Private Shiloh, Tennessee, Vicksburg, Mississippi 1862 and 1863 "Gallantry in actions" [9][10][12][13]

Indian Wars[edit]

Indian Wars is the name generally used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between the colonial or federal government and the native people of North America. The wars, which ranged from the 17th-century to the early 1900s, generally resulted in the opening of Native American lands to further colonization, the conquest of American Indians and their assimilation, or forced relocation to Indian reservations.[14]

From the time the Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War, through the end of the Indian Wars there were 426 recipients[8] who received it for actions in one of the Indian Wars, including one American Jew, [9], Simon Suhler, who received it under the name Charles Gardner. [15]

Note: Notes in quotations are derived or are copied from the official Medal of Honor citation
Image Name Service Rank Place of action Date of action Notes References
Simon Suhler Army Private Arizona Aug 1868 – October 1868 Enlisted under the name Charles Gardner; "Bravery in scouts and actions against Indians" [9][12][15]

Haiti[edit]

In 1915 Haiti saw several bloody changes in Government leadership and the result was an unstable and dangerous environment for American citizens, business and interests. After a citizen led revolt overthrew and killed the brutal new dictator General Vilbrun Guillaume Sam within 6 months of seizing power President Woodrow Wilson ordered the United States Marines to restore order and protect American property and lives. When the Marines arrived they began engaging the rebel Cacos and in a battle that ended at Fort Riviere, Haiti and resulting in hand-to-hand combat, the Cacos were eliminated. After the battle six Marines received the Medal of Honor[8] for their actions including Dan Daly, Smedley Butler and the only Jewish Marine to ever receive the Medal, Samuel Marguiles, who received it under the name Samuel Gross.[16][17]

Note: Notes in quotations are derived or are copied from the official Medal of Honor citation
Image Name Service Rank Place of action Date of action Notes References
Samuel Gross Marine Corps Private Fort Riviere, Haiti Nov 17, 1915 Also known as Samuel Marguiles; "was the second man to pass through the breach [in the fort's walls] in the face of constant fire from the Cacos and, thereafter, for a 10-minute period, engaged the enemy in desperate hand-to-hand combat". [9][12][16][17]

World War I[edit]

When World War I broke out, the United States initially maintained a policy of isolationism, avoiding conflict while trying to negotiate peace between the warring nations. However, when a German U-boat sank the British liner Lusitania in 1915, with 128 Americans aboard, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson vowed, "America isn't too proud to fight" and demanded an end to attacks on passenger ships. Germany complied and Wilson unsuccessfully tried to mediate a settlement. He repeatedly warned that the U.S. would not tolerate unrestricted submarine warfare, in violation of international law.[18] In 1917, three years after the first shots of the war were fired, the United States entered the war and by the end of the conflict more than 4.7 million American soldiers, sailors and Marines would fight in the war.[19]

More than 250,000 Jewish Americans served in the armed forces during the war with more than 3,000 killed in action and another 12,000 being gassed or wounded.[12]

One hundred twenty four[8] people would eventually receive the Medal for their actions during the war, four of them were Jewish. One of them, William Sawelson, received it posthumously, when he was killed by a machine gun attempting to assist another injured soldier.[9][20]

  This along with * indicates that the Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously

Note: Notes in quotations are derived or are copied from the official Medal of Honor citation
Image Name Service Rank Place of action Date of action Notes References
Sidney Gumpertz.jpg Sydney G. Gumpertz Army First Sergeant Bois-de-Forges, France Sep 29, 1918 "Gumpertz left the platoon of which he was in command and started with 2 other soldiers through a heavy barrage toward the machinegun nest. His 2 companions soon became casualties from bursting shells, but 1st Sgt. Gumpertz continued on alone in the face of direct fire from the machinegun, jumped into the nest and silenced the gun, capturing 9 of the crew." [9][12][20][21]
US Army Benjamin Kaufman.jpg Benjamin Kaufman Army First Sergeant Forest of Argonne, France Oct 4, 1918 "He took out a patrol for the purpose of attacking an enemy machinegun which had checked the advance of his company. Before reaching the gun he became separated from his patrol and a machinegun bullet shattered his right arm. Without hesitation he advanced on the gun alone, throwing grenades with his left hand and charging with an empty pistol, taking one prisoner and scattering the crew, bringing the gun and prisoner back to the first-aid station." [9][12][20][22]
William Sawelson - WWI Medal of Honor recipient.jpg William Sawelson* Army Sergeant Grand-Pre, France Oct 26, 1918 "Hearing a wounded man in a shell hole some distance away calling for water, Sgt. Sawelson, upon his own initiative, left shelter and crawled through heavy machinegun fire to where the man lay, giving him what water he had in his canteen. He then went back to his own shell hole, obtained more water, and was returning to the wounded man when he was killed by a machinegun bullet." [9][12][20][21]

World War II[edit]

During World War II 16.1 million American service members served[19] and more than 650,000 of them were Jewish American men and women. More than 50,000 American Jews received medals during the war[12] including five Medals of Honor.[9][12][23]

Among the recipients were three Jewish Americans, Isadore S. Jachman, Ben L. Salomon and Raymond Zussman who all received it posthumously.[9] Jachman and Salomon were both killed attempting to assist other fallen soldiers; Zussman's medal was received for risking his life on September 12, 1944, but he was killed less than a month later before receiving it.[24]

  This along with * indicates that the Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously

Note: Notes in quotations are derived or are copied from the official Medal of Honor citation
Image Name Service Rank Place of action Date of action Notes References
Isadore S. Jachman* Army Staff Sergeant Flamierge, Belgium Jan 4, 1945 "[L]eft his place of cover and with total disregard for his own safety dashed across open ground through a hail of fire and seizing a bazooka from a fallen comrade advanced on the tanks, which concentrated their fire on him. Firing the weapon alone, he damaged one and forced both to retire." [9][12][23][25]
Ben L. Salomon* Army Captain Battle of Saipan, Mariana Islands Jul 7, 1944 Held off advancing Japanese soldiers to protect the wounded he was treating [9][26][27]
black and white headshot of Tony stein in his military uniform Tony Stein* Marine Corporal Iwo Jima, Japan Mar 1, 1945 "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company A, 1st Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. The first man of his unit to be on station after hitting the beach in the initial assault, Cpl. Stein, armed with a personally improvised aircraft-type weapon, provided rapid covering fire as the remainder of his platoon attempted to move into position. When his comrades were stalled by a concentrated machinegun and mortar barrage, he gallantly stood upright and exposed himself to the enemy's view, thereby drawing the hostile fire to his own person and enabling him to observe the location of the furiously blazing hostile guns. Determined to neutralize the strategically placed weapons, he boldly charged the enemy pillboxes 1 by 1 and succeeded in killing 20 of the enemy during the furious single-handed assault. Cool and courageous under the merciless hail of exploding shells and bullets which fell on all sides, he continued to deliver the fire of his skillfully improvised weapon at a tremendous rate of speed which rapidly exhausted his ammunition. Undaunted, he removed his helmet and shoes to expedite his movements and ran back to the beach for additional ammunition, making a total of 8 trips under intense fire and carrying or assisting a wounded man back each time. Despite the unrelenting savagery and confusion of battle, he rendered prompt assistance to his platoon whenever the unit was in position, directing the fire of a half-track against a stubborn pillbox until he had effected the ultimate destruction of the Japanese fortification. Later in the day, although his weapon was twice shot from his hands, he personally covered the withdrawal of his platoon to the company position. Stouthearted and indomitable, Cpl. Stein, by his aggressive initiative sound judgment, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of terrific odds, contributed materially to the fulfillment of his mission, and his outstanding valor throughout the bitter hours of conflict sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service." [28]
Raymond Zussman* Army Second Lieutenant Noroy-le-Bourg, France Sep 12, 1944 "[R]econnoitered alone on foot far in advance of his remaining tank and the infantry ... Fully exposed to fire from enemy positions only 50 yards distant, he stood by his tank directing its fire ... Again he walked before his tank, leading it against an enemy-held group of houses, machinegun and small arms fire kicking up dust at his feet. ... Going on alone, he disappeared around a street corner. The fire of his carbine could be heard and in a few minutes he reappeared driving 30 prisoners before him." [9][12][23][24]

Korean War[edit]

When Korea was split into two separate countries, North and South, along the 38th parallel tensions between the two countries were worsened when other countries began to get involved on both sides. The communist country of North Korea was supported by Russia, China and others, while the democratic South was supported by the United Nations and the United States. In 1950 the United States got involved and over the next three years more than 1.5 million US service members would serve in Korea.[29][30] During the three years of the war 133 Medals of Honor were presented[8] and although more than 150,000 Jewish American men and women were serving in Korea at that time, not one received the Medal of Honor.[31]

On July 23, 1950 Tibor Rubin was serving as a rifleman in Korea when his unit was forced to retreat and he was ordered to stay behind and keep the road open for the withdrawing unit. During the 24-hour battle he single-handedly fought off an overwhelming number of North Korean troops, inflicting severe casualties on the attacking unit and assisted in the capture of many prisoners. A few months later Chinese forces staged a night-time assault on his unit and Rubin manned a machine gun allowing the unit to retreat southward, again inflicting heavy casualties on the attacking unit. During the battle he was severely wounded and was eventually captured by Chinese forces. Although the Chinese offered to release him early and return him to his native Hungary, he refused, remaining a prisoner and risking his life repeatedly by sneaking out at night to get food and medical supplies for other wounded prisoners.[32]

A 1993 study commissioned by the United States Army to investigate racial discrimination in the awarding of medals. During the investigation it was determined that one Veteran American Jew and Holocaust survivor, Tibor Rubin, had been the subject of discrimination due to his religion and should have received the Medal of Honor.[33] In 2005, 55 years later, President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Honor to Rubin in a ceremony at the White House, for his actions in 1950 during the Korean War.[33]

Image Name Service Rank Place of action Date of action Notes References
PFC Lenny Kravitz.jpg Leonard M. Kravitz* Army Private First Class Yangpyong, South Korea Mar 6, 1951 "On March 6 and 7, 1951, Kravitz' unit's positions at Yangpyong were overrun by the enemy. Kravitz voluntarily manned a machine-gun position, forcing the enemy to direct its efforts against him and helping his comrades to retreat at the cost of his own life."
TiborRubin cropped.jpg Tibor Rubin Army Corporal Republic of Korea Jul 23, 1950 – April 20, 1953 During a 24-hour battle he slowed the advance of an assault of Chinese troops allowing other personnel with the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal successfully. Although he was severely wounded in the battle and subsequently captured by Chinese forces he chose to remain in Chinese prison despite offers of an early release. While detained he risked his own safety by sneaking out at night and breaking into enemy food stores and gardens to find food for other soldiers and providing medical care to the sick and wounded prisoners. [9][32][34]

Vietnam War[edit]

The Vietnam War was a military conflict between the Communist-supported Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States-supported Republic of Vietnam. It started in 1959 and concluded April 30, 1975 with the defeat and failure of the United States foreign policy in Vietnam.[35]

During the Vietnam War, 246 Medals of Honor were received, 154 of them posthumously.[8] Two American Jews received the Medal, Jack H. Jacobs[36] from the Army and John Levitow[37] from the Air Force.[9]

Image Name Service Rank Place of action Date of action Notes References
JackHJacobs.jpg Jack H. Jacobs Army First Lieutenant Kien Phong Province, Republic of Vietnam Mar 9, 1968 Although seriously wounded and bleeding profusely, he assumed command and ordered a withdrawal. He then repeatedly returned through heavy fire, to rescue other wounded including the company commander and treated their wounds. On three occasions he repelled Viet Cong squads who were also searching for wounded American soldiers in the same area, killing three and wounding several others. [9][12][36][38]
John Levitow.jpg John Levitow Air Force Airman First Class Long Binh Army post, Republic of Vietnam Feb 24, 1969 Although severely wounded himself from a mortar round, he moved another wounded crew member to safety. He then used his own body to smother and move a smoking flare from within the cargo compartment of the aircraft and threw it from the back of the plane as it separated and ignited in the air as it cleared the aircraft. [37][38]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Different sources give different numbers and names of recipients; 29 different recipients are identified as Jewish Americans in the differing references not counting the various aliases used by many of them.
  2. ^ "US Census Bureau Statistical Abstract" (PDF). Table 74, 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Washington, DC. February 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 28, 2011. Retrieved April 12, 2011. For persons 18 years or older, based on the Religious Landscape Survey, a survey conducted in the summer of 2007.
  3. ^ "US Census Bureau Statistical Abstract" (PDF). Table 76. Central Bureau of Statistics. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 13, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2011. Christian Church Adherents, 2000, and Jewish Population, 2007—States. The Jewish population includes Jews who define themselves as Jewish by religion as well as those who define themselves as Jewish in cultural terms. Data on Jewish population are based primarily on a compilation of individual estimates made by local Jewish federations (as reported in the American Jewish Yearbook).

References[edit]

Inline
  1. ^ https://www.civilwar.org/learn/galleries/glendale
  2. ^ "USA Statistics in Brief". Population by Sex and Age. Central Bureau of Statistics. 2008. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  3. ^ "Statistical Abstract of Israel". Table 2.2. Central Bureau of Statistics. 2008. Archived from the original on June 14, 2009. Retrieved June 15, 2009.
  4. ^ "A Brief History — The Medal of Honor". Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Department of Defense. August 8, 2006. Archived from the original on June 15, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
  5. ^ Department of the Army (July 1, 2002). "Section 578.4 Medal of Honor". Code of Federal Regulations Title 32, Volume 2. Government Printing Office. Archived from the original on June 21, 2013. Retrieved 2006-07-23.
  6. ^ "Mishalov .com". Medal of Honor: History and Issues. Neil Mishalov. December 15, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2009.
  7. ^ Borritt, 1995, p. 247
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Medal of Honor recipients". Medal of Honor statistics. United States Army Center of Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Jewish recipients of the Medal of Honor". Medal of Honor: History and Issues. C. Douglas Sterner. 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-03-16. Retrieved June 3, 2009.
  10. ^ a b c d Brody, 2004, pp. 68–71
  11. ^ a b c "Civil War (A-L)". Medal of Honor recipients. United States Army Center for Military History. December 10, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Scharfstein, 1997, p. 320
  13. ^ "Civil War (M-Z)". Medal of Honor recipients. United States Army Center for Military History. December 10, 2010. Archived from the original on February 23, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  14. ^ Thornton, 1990
  15. ^ a b "Indian Wars period". Medal of Honor recipients. United States Army Center for Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  16. ^ a b "Haiti Campaign – 1915; Gross, Samuel entry". Medal of Honor recipients. United States Army Center for Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  17. ^ a b Brody, 2004, p. 75
  18. ^ Brands, 1997, p. 756
  19. ^ a b Stone, Andrea (March 27, 2007). "'One of the last': WWI vet recalls Great War". USA Today. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  20. ^ a b c d "World War I". Medal of Honor recipients. United States Army Center for Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  21. ^ a b Brody, 2004, pp. 138–9
  22. ^ Brody, 2004, pp. 132–3
  23. ^ a b c Brody, 2004, pp. 202–3
  24. ^ a b "World War II (T-Z)". Medal of Honor recipients. United States Army Center for Military History. December 3, 2010. Archived from the original on December 31, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  25. ^ "World War II (G-L); Jachman, Isadore S. entry". Medal of Honor recipients. United States Army Center for Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  26. ^ "World War II (M-S); Salomon, Ben L. entry". Medal of Honor recipients. United States Army Center for Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  27. ^ Brody, 2004, pp. 204–5
  28. ^ "Medal of Honor Recipients - World War II (M–S)". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. June 26, 2011. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  29. ^ Stewart, 2005, ch. 8
  30. ^ Hermes, 1966, pp. 2,6,9
  31. ^ Rausch, 1996
  32. ^ a b "Korean War; Rubin, Tibor entry". Medal of Honor recipients. United States Army Center for Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  33. ^ a b "Tibor Rubin". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved July 21, 2008.
  34. ^ Brody, 2004, pp. 264–5
  35. ^ "Vietnam War". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 5, 2008. Meanwhile, the United States, its military demoralized and its civilian electorate deeply divided, began a process of coming to terms with defeat in its longest and most controversial war
  36. ^ a b Brody, 2004, pp. 268–9
  37. ^ a b Brody, 2004, pp. 270–1
  38. ^ a b "Vietnam (A-L)". Medal of Honor recipients. United States Army Center for Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
General

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