Thursday, April 23, 2015

“He Was the Best Man We Had”

(Quote by David Ben Gurion)

In early 1948, knowing that the untrained and disorganized Jewish  fighting forces could not withstand a true battle for the Promised Land, David Ben Gurion sent Shlomo Shamir to New York to recruit training assistance. Shamir went to consult with David Daniel “Mickey” Marcus (1901-1948), who volunteered himself.

Raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Marcus graduated West Point in 1924, and, during his first posting, attended law school at night. When he finished his posting, he resigned his commission, finished his law degree and began serving in the office of the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. A few years later, Marcus was appointed Commissioner of Corrections for New York.

In 1940, Lieutenant Colonel Marcus returned to uniform, where he had an illustrious military career  including appointments as Commandant of the Army’s new Ranger School and a posting at the Pentagon where he was involved in negotiations for the surrender of enemy forces in World War II.

Following the war, Marcus was part of the Occupying Government in Berlin and was involved in assisting survivors and organizing the Nuremberg Trial of former Nazi leaders.  In 1947, Marcus turned down a Brigadier Generalship for the sixth time and resigned from the army. Shortly thereafter, he was approached by Shlomo Shamir and went to Palestine under the unranked name of Michael Stone, a condition set by the U.S. government. After studying the situation, Marcus set about the difficult task of organizing the Jewish troops. He even created a training manual for the fledgling Israel Defense Force based on the U.S. training manual. Marcus also warned Ben Gurion that the south of Israel was particularly vulnerable to enemy attack.

Beyond creating order, Marcus is best known for creating the “Burma Road” during the first stage of the war. A cease-fire date had already been agreed upon by Arab forces, who were besieging Jerusalem and were determined to possess and hold on to as much of the city as possible when the cease-fire took effect. It was Marcus’ idea, after several failed attempts at capturing the main road leading to Jerusalem, to build a second road. It took one week of heavy labor and distraction tactics, but on June 7, 1948, supply trucks rolled into western Jerusalem.

Tragically, just hours before the cease-fire, Aluf (General) Marcus was shot to death by friendly fire when he returned from a late night walk and the new sentry on duty, who did not understand English, mistook him for an enemy. He was buried at West Point.

*The nickname Mickey derived from Little Michael, which he was called as a kid because he used to shadow his older brother Michael around the neighborhood.

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