Illustration by Art Seiden

Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America

World War II to the Present:


Jews Who Fought In World War II And Korea

by Seymour "Sy" Brody

Many Jewish veterans of World War II didn't rest on their laurels for long. They joined the American Armed Forces to fight in the Korean conflict. One of these men was Major Melvin Garten.

Garten was a highly decorated hero of World War II. He had received the Silver Star Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation, and the Purple Heart Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters for having been wounded four times in battle.

Garten was the captain of K Company,. 312th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army, when he was hailed for extraordinary heroism in action against the armed enemy. This action took place on October 30, 1952, near Surang-Ni, Korea. Garten observed that the assault elements of companies F and G were pinned down by a withering fire on a dominant hill. He voluntarily proceeded alone up the rugged slope to help them. When he reached the besieged troops, he found that the key personnel had been wounded and that the men were without command.

He took command of the remaining troops by rallying eight men. He assigned four to machine guns and distributed hand grenades. Employing the principle of fire and maneuver, the troops stormed the enemy trenches and bunkers. These men, led by Garten, displayed such tenacity and heroism in attacking that the enemy was routed and the objective was secured. He directed and coordinated a holding action until reinforcements arrived.

Garten was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry in Korea. The end of his citation sums up his heroism: "Major Garten's inspirational leadership, unflinching courage under fire and valorous actions reflect the highest credit upon himself and are in keeping with the cherished traditions of the military service."

Another World War 11 veteran who fought in Korea was Major Joseph 1. Gurfein of Brooklyn. Gurfein was a West Point graduate. He was involved in months of combat in World War 11. His fearless and calm leadership under enemy fire in Korea earned him the Silver Star Medal.

Gurfein was a parachute-engineer liaison officer attached to a battalion that had the mission of breaking through the enemy lines. In the winter, the battalion was moving through a mountain on a narrow trail. A booby-trap exploded and wounded several men at the point of the column.

The soldiers in the front became confused. Those behind started to move back toward where they came from. Gurfein stopped the soldiers' withdrawl, reorganized them and started moving them ahead. A few hours later, the enemy attacked. Again, confusion set in. Gurfein again acted to steady them. By this time, the snow was falling and the temperature had dropped below zero. Without regard for his safety, Gurfein moved among his troops. He tried to inspire them to continue the attack. He finally restored order. His men moved forward to engage the enemy.

Garten and Gurfein exemplified the Jewish fighting men in the Korean Conflict. Not only were they heroes in Korea, but they were also heroes in World War 11.

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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