When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the United States declared war on Japan and Germany, American Jewish men and women responded to their country's call for the armed forces. Over 550,000 served in the Armed Forces of the United States during World War II. About 11,000 were killed and over 40,000 were wounded. There were two recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, 157 received the Distinguished Service Medal and Crosses, which included Navy Crosses, and 1,600 were awarded the Silver Star. About 50,242 other decorations, citations and awards were given to Jewish heroes for a total of 52,000 decorations.
Jews were 3.3 percent of the total American population but they were 4.23 percent of the Armed Forces. About 60 percent of all Jewish physicians in the United States under 45 years of age were in service uniforms.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt praised the fighting abilities and service of Jewish men and women. General Douglas MacArthur in one of his speeches said, "I am proud to join in saluting the memory of fallen American heroes of the Jewish faith." At the 50th National Memorial Service conducted by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States, General A. Vandergrift, Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps, said, "Americans of Jewish faith in the Marine Corps have served with distinction throughout the prosecution of this war. During the past year, many Jewish fighting men in our armed forces have given their lives in the cause of freedom. With profound sympathy and respect, I join you in paying homage to them at this memorial service."
The recognition of the bravery, dedication and sacrifice made by Jewish men and women in combat was expressed by the military leaders of the American Armed Forces. General Mark W. Clark, Commander, ]5th Army Group, said, "Thousands of Americans of Jewish faith are serving under my command, carrying their share of the burden in the battle in Italy. Many of them have been killed in the service of their country. To American soldiers of Jewish faith go my most sincere thanks for their faithfulness, diligence and bravery in battle. To those who have passed on must go a nation's gratitude."
The role of Jews in the Navy was best expressed by Admiral Harold R. Stark, Commander, United States Navy in Europe: "The officers and men of the United States Naval Forces in Europe join to honor those gallant Americans of Jewish faith who, during the past year, have laid down their lives for their country ... We mourn them as brothers - brothers who cannot be with us to share this European triumph toward which they gave their lives."
The comments made extolling the sacrifices and bravery of Jewish men and women by the military leadership of the United States in World War II were based on their exploits in the field.
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
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