February 22 will mark the 102nd anniversary of the birth of this great Jewish and American hero. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in 1924, he voluntarily parachuted into Normandy on “D” day, June 6, 1944, the day the Allied invasion of Hitler’s “Fortress Europe” began. At that time Marcus was an officer in the 101st Airborne Division.
Far too old to be drafted in 1940, Marcus volunteered for Army service when he was 38 years old. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Marcus was appointed executive officer to the military governor of Hawaii. In 1942 he was appointed commandant of the Army Ranger school, which developed a number of new tactics for jungle fighting. From there he was sent to England to participate in the invasion of Europe.
Because Marcus was also a graduate of the Brooklyn law school, he participated in drawing up the surrender terms of Germany and Italy. Thereafter he served in the occupation government of Berlin. Soon he was asked to deal with the starving survivors of the Nazi horrors and also assumed responsibility for clearing out the German death camps, which contained thousands and thousands of rotting corpses.
In 1946, Marcus served as chief of the U.S. war crimes commission which prepared the Nürnberg trials of the major Nazi bosses. These experiences impressed on Marcus the depth of European hatred for Jews, a hate which is unabated to this day and continues to produce daily attacks on Jews from Sweden to Italy and from Russia to England.
Marcus returned to civilian life in 1947. In 1948, upon the Israeli Declaration of Independence, and in view of the cowardly Arab attack on the 600,000 Jews living there, the then prime minister of Israel, David ben Gurion, asked Marcus to find an American officer willing to serve as military advisor to Israel. Unable to find anyone willing to undertake this task, Marcus went to Israel himself and was appointed the first general in the history of Israel since the days of Judah Maccabee (160 B.C.E.).
Marcus faced a tremendous task in that capacity. The British occupiers of Israel had furnished the surrounding Arab armies with all the equipment needed to kill every Jew in Israel. The British even commanded the Arab forces that had come to make another Auschwitz of the new Jewish state.
In view of this dire situation, Marcus designed a new command structure for the Israel Defense Forces. He taught the Israelis what he had experienced in the U.S. Army Ranger school, he organized road construction, making it possible to bring more men and equipment to beleaguered Jerusalem, and showed the vastly outnumbered Israeli army how to use guerilla tactics and defeat the huge Arab armies invading their country.
During his service in Israel, Marcus called himself Michael Stone, a requirement of the U.S. War Department, as the Department of Defense was then called.
Because of the success of the Jewish defenders of their homeland, a truce was called between the Arab invaders and the Israeli army on June 10, 1948. Six hours before that truce was to go into effect, “Mickey” Marcus was killed by an Israeli soldier as he walked around a camp at Abu Gosh, a small town near Jerusalem. Marcus could not sleep that night and draped a bed sheet around his body as he walked. Challenged in Hebrew, a language he did not know, he could not answer and was taken for an Arab by the soldier who shot him. Marcus is buried at West Point.
In 1966 the movie “Cast a Giant Shadow” was first shown. It is the story of the life of Mickey Marcus as portrayed by Kirk Douglas. The book had been written earlier by Ted Berkman.
Marcus has not been forgotten. On June 10th, 1998, on the 50th anniversary of his death, the New York City Department of Corrections commemorated Marcus with a ceremony at the Colonel David Marcus playground in Brooklyn. The Chief of the Department, Edward Reilly, recalled that Marcus had been Commissioner of Corrections under Mayor Fiorello La Guardia from 1934-1940.
The plaque unveiled that day reads: “May his Courage and the Ideals of Liberty and Equality for Which he Sacrificed his Life Serve as an Inspiration to all Children. Died, Telshe Stone, Israel, June 10, 1948, in the Israeli War for Independence.”
David “Mickey” Marcus was a true American Jewish hero. Such men are worth more than all the “diploma chasers” among us. May his memory always inspire us to stand up for Israel and the Jewish people.
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Grandparents: A New Look at the Supporting Generation (with Dr. Ursula A., Falk, 2002), & Man's Ascent to Reason (2002).