Meet Mickey Marcus, an American War Hero and Israel's Hero!

In 1947, a year before declaring independence, David Ben Gurion, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency, anticipated war. He tried to recruit retired military leaders to help the Jews survive victoriously.

Mickey Marcus was a remarkable military leader whose name will live forever in Israel. He was a gallant soul, loved by all, who made an outstanding contribution to the people and land of Israel.

In 1947, the Jews of the British Mandate were in a dire situation. They understood when they achieved independence, they would face hostility from the surrounding Arab nations. The Jews of the Yishuv ('settlement' in English and the name the Jews used about the land) were in a desperate situation. They lacked arms as the British forbade ownership of weapons and had no organized army or professional military leadership.

Ben Gurion dispatched Shlomo Shamir, a veteran of the Haganah, an (underground military organization that operated in the interest of the Yishuv Jews), to the United States to recruit help from America's retired military leaders. He was introduced to Col. David "Mickey" Marcus, a well-connected, highly respected retired American war hero. Mickey made his contacts available to Shamir but was disappointed when those approached declined to get involved. They feared the serious repercussions of assisting the Yishuv without the sanction of the US government.
When Mickey saw that no one would step up, he offered to go himself, saying, "I may not be the best man for the job, but I'm the only one willing to go."

When he arrived in Israel, Mickey became the adviser to Ben Gurion, whom he affectionately called "The Boss." The men formed an immediate rapport, and Mickey got to work with the leaders of the Haganah and their military unit, the Palmach, which would become the Israeli Defence Forces.
While he found the defense groups unorganized, lacking supplies, and needing more mobile units, he was deeply impressed with the fighters, whom he saw as the army's primary resource. He told "the Boss," "I found less than I expected and more than I hoped for. The Haganah has educated a type of commander who could easily be converted into a first-rate officer." He then handwrote army manuals that remain unedited and in use by the IDF's School for Battalion Commanders today!

In addition to advising and training the Yishuv fighters, when Mickey traveled to the USA to tend to his ill wife, he recruited more volunteers and bought arms and equipment. With his sterling reputation and the first-hand knowledge he'd gained, he was instrumental in helping shape American military attitudes toward the Jewish defense force of the Yishuv.

Shortly following his return, independence was declared, and Arab armies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt immediately attacked the modern State of Israel. The country was in a desperate situation with advancing armies on all fronts. Ben Gurion noted in his diary that "the whole world was sure that within ten days, two weeks at the most, not a soul would be alive in Israel."

Mickey went to fight with the troops in the southern Negev and found them under heavy fire by Egyptian Spitfire fighter bombers. Mickey was undeterred and told the troops to shift from a defensive stance to a more aggressive offense! He told the soldiers to use the resources they had to shoot the attacking airplanes with rifles and reminded them that "David did it with a slingshot, didn't he?"

With troops fighting valiantly across the country, Mickey turned his attention to Jerusalem. Ben Gurion appointed him Supreme Commander of the Jerusalem Front with a rank equivalent to Major General, making him the first Israeli General!

Jerusalem was under siege and subject to constant enemy bombardment. The Jewish citizens were utterly isolated, with insufficient food and water, and at risk of complete annihilation! The blockade had proven to be impossible to break.
In a move that defined Israel's military ingenuity, Mickey proposed opening an alternative route to the city by following a forest path shepherds had traveled since biblical times. The audacious plan was carried out in dangerous circumstances under the cover of night. The three-mile road that broke the siege became known as the "Burma Road." The stunning success was a morale boost that changed the tide of the war for Israel!

In a stunning tragic event, Mickey was killed by friendly fire just outside Jerusalem. This courageous man was buried with full military honors in the USA. Speaking about Mickey and his fellow volunteers, then Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin (who served under Mickey) said, "They came to us when we needed them most during those hard and uncertain days of our War of Independence."
By following his convictions, Mickey helped to manifest his vision and paved the way for others who, like him, wanted to serve Israel. Over 1,300 Americans and Canadians came to Israel's aid in its hour of need, showing incredible heroism. Their love for Israel continues to inspire us to this day.

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Culture & History of Israel