When the North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, the United Nations authorized its member nations to give support to South Korea. Fifteen nations responded, including the United States. General Douglas MacArthur was appointed as commander of the United Nations fighting forces. As in the past, Jews in America responded to their nation's call to arms.
Billy Rose, in his widely syndicated column, "Pitching Horseshoes," tells of the heroism of U.S. Marine Corporal Abraham Geller of Ne York City's Lower East Side. Geller was the son of a rabbi. The family lived near Delancey Street. In the Marine Corps, Geller always awakened a half-hour earlier before the others so that he could go through the ritual of Orthodox morning prayers.
His regiment had been pushing the enemy back. The regiment had crossed the Han and cut the Seoul-Haesong Road. The soldiers bedded down in hastily dug foxholes to get a few hours sleep. They knew that in the morning they were going to fight their way toward the Korean capital.
An hour before dawn, the only ones awake were the sentries: Captain George O'Connor, who was figuring out strategies to use when the regiment moved ahead, and Geller, who had started his morning prayers When Geller finished praying, O'Connor told him to get a cup of coffee from the chow truck.
"Thanks, Captain," said Geller, "But today is Yom Kippur, and I'm not supposed to eat until sundown."
O'Connor was amazed that Geller wouldn't eat until the day was over. Geller fasted and observed his holiday as well as a Jew can when in combat.
That morning, the regiment moved forward. The advance moved slowly as the enemy put up stiff resistance. The casualties were high for both sides. Dead bodies were all over the field. One of the badly wounded North Koreans was playing dead as Geller's company moved forward. Geller was standing a few feet from O'Connor when he saw the North Korean move. He pulled out his bayonet and made a dive for the enemy soldier. Geller managed to kill him. But, he also stopped three bullets that were intended for O'Connor.
The fighting was so heavy that it was three hours before Geller received a shot of penicillin. He was then carried into the operating room. The surgery lasted an hour. O'Connor waited for it to be over, When the surgeon came out, he was there to greet him.
"How is he doing," O'Connor asked.
"He is doing well. The bullets went through his abdomen and the penicillin was a factor in preventing peritonitis. In a manner of speaking, Geller owes his life to the fact that when he was shot there was hardly any food in his stomach."
O'Connor shook his head as he started to understand a little bit more about the meaning of fasting on Yom Kippur.
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.
Return to Table of Contents