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Monday, December 22, 2008

First Aluf of Israel Since Joshua: Mickey Marcus

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                       
David "Mickey" Marcus (1902-1948)

Israel's birth in 1948 might be attributed to the assistance of  "Mickey" Marcus, American Jew and graduate of West Point.   He was a United States Army colonel who became Israel's first general since Joshua of the bible.

His parents were Mordechai "Max" Marcus and Leah Goldstein, born in 1864 and 1868 who immigrated from Romania in 1898 and settled on Hester Street in Manhattan on the Lower East side of New York. They had married at age 23. David Daniel Marcus "Mickey" was born on February 22, 1901, the same day as George Washington. He was destined for big things.

On the 20th of April 1910, I found the family in Manhattan, Ward 17 with Max age 46 as a fruit peddler. Lena was 42. Mickey had 6 siblings. Isadore, a stenographer for a hat factory was 18, Michael, a shipper, was 16. Jacob, an errand boy, was 15, Roy 12, David 9, Rebecca "Becca" 7, and Victoria was 5.

In 1920 David attended West Point and graduated in 1924. He attended Brooklyn Law School. By 1930 he was the Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York and dealt with people like Lucky Luciano under Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia. He was then Commissioner of Corrections in New York City by 1940. It was then that he reenlisted in the army.

Also, on 2 June 1930 at age 28 he and Emma, his new wife, left Hamilton, Bermuda on the ship "Bermuda" and sailed back to New York. It must have been their honeymoon. They lived at 2055 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. Emma was 24, born in 1905 in New York. In 1931 he was appointed assistant US attorney in the southern district of New York.

By 1942, at the start of WWII, he was made Commissioner of the U.S. Army Ranger School. He parachuted into Normandy with the 101st Airborne Division. In 1945 Micky was helping to draw up the surrender terms for Italy and Germany and was stationed in Berlin in 1945. He was put in charge of planning to feed the millions in places liberated by the Allies and clearing out the Nazi concentartion camps.

With this background, Israel's Haganah approached Mickey and recruited him to be their military advisor. He had to have his name and rank disguised to avoid problems with the British Mandate of Palestine. He was made Aluf, which is like a Brigadier General in Israel. This made him the first general in the Israeli army.

Being an assimilated American Jew, he did not speak Hebrew, which had become the language of the Jews in Palestine. He was accidently killed by a Jewish sentry on June 10, 1948 because he did not understand the question the sentry asked. It was a tragic experience. Ben Gurion told Emma, his wife, that he was the best man they had. His body was brought back by Moshe Dayan to the USA for burial and is buried in the West Point Cemetery. His gravestone says, ""Colonel David Marcus-a Soldier for All Humanity". In the Temple in Brooklyn a memorial plaque says "Killed in action in the hills of Zion while leading Israeli forces as their supreme commander in the struggle for Israel's freedom.

Kibbutz Mishmar David and the neighborhood of Neve David in Tel Aviv and many streets are named after him.

A wonderul movie was made in 1966 about his story called "Cast a Giant Shadow". It starred Kirk Douglas as Mickey Marcus. Senta Berger was a love interest in Palestine. Angie Dickinson played Emma, his wife, Yul Brynner, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra played supporting roles. Yul Brynner played the part of an important Jewish person in Haganah. John played an American general friend and Frank actually helped out in the fighting against the Arab attackers. The movie is now in DVD form found at It runs 2 hrs 18 minutes and is in color, of course.

Not many people remember seeing Kirk Douglas in this movie, so memorable about the birth of Israel. I hope you all go out and order this to find out what Israel was up against in 1948. He came along just at the right time.

Reference: Cast a Giant Shadow, DVD searches for Marcus family
Updated: 5/15/15 The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia- Marcus, David 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm 68 years old and I remember staying up late to watch "Cast A Giant Shadow" on 'The Late Show" in New York City. And I do remember Kirk Douglas playing Mickey. It's a movie I'll have to roundup for my children and grand kids to see. He was bigger than life and I remember crying when he was shot. At the time I did not know he met his end in this manner. Another good one which should not be missed is "Exodus" with Paul Newman and Eve Marie Saint. I'm sure some license was taken with both films but they both told stories to large to be contained on the 'silver screen'. And they both portrayed well the devotion of HIS children in taking back that which is our which is our.