Illustration by Art Seiden

Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America

World War II to the Present:


Tibor Rubin: An Unusual Hero Of The Korean War

by Seymour "Sy" Brody

Tibor Rubin's bravery during the Korean War is probably unparalleled in the history of America's fighting heroes. That is why many organizations and individuals are involved in a major campaign to have Congress award him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Rubin, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, lost his parents in a Nazi concentration camp in the latter part of World War II. He managed to stay alive and he was liberated. He came to the United States a year and half later and enlisted in the Army to fight in Korea.

While in Korea, he had broken his leg and was shipped to an Army hospital in Japan. Although his leg was not completely healed, he was assigned to Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, which was engaged in fighting the enemy. Former Sergeant Randall J.J. Briere wrote in a letter to the President of the United States, "Although his leg was not completely healed, Tibor went about his everyday chores, always helping others who needed a boost, never concerned for his own health or safety. I warned him to be more cautious since the enemy was out in front of us, but when a cry for help was heard, Tibor managed to be the first one on the scene..."

On November 1, 1950, Tibor was wounded with shrapnel from a grenade in the left hand and chest. He and others of his company were captured by the Chinese, who were fighting with the Korean Communist government. The Chinese forced the captured American soldiers, including the wounded and the sick, to march hard and tedious distance to their prisoner of war camp. Tibor and Father Emil Kapaun, who later died in the prison camp, were both wounded but were carrying stretchers and assisting others who could not walk.

Tibor and Chaplain Kapaun were risking their lives when during rest breaks, they went up and down the line to console the tired soldiers, urging them to continue the march. Those who lagged behind were shot by the enemy. The death rate in the prisoner of war camp was running between 30 and 40 men a day. There were shortages of food, medical attention and medicine. The soldiers were still wearing their summer clothes with temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees.

Rubin, who had learned to survive in a Nazi concentration camp, applied his experience to sneak out during the night to steal food from the Chinese. He would give this food to the other prisoners, especially the sick and dying. Everytime he went out for food, Tibor was risking his life. He felt that this way his way of getting back at the enemy as they were short on food themselves.

Tibor was a prisoner for two and one-half years. His fellow prisoners credit him with saving 35 to 40 lives with his daring, almost nightly ventures of stealing food for his comrades. Tibor turned down a number of offers from the Chinese to send him back to his native Hungary.

Tibor Rubin and the others were finally released and sent back to the American hospital in Freedom Village, Korea. He was a stretcher case, suffering from his wounds without complaints. He has been recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor by the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Korean Prisoner of War Association, many of his comrades in the prisoner of war camp, individuals and others.

Many heroes receive their awards and recognition through an action that could take minutes, hours, and even a few days. Tibor's heroism and bravery was to be over a two and a half year period, never knowing when he would be caught and executed.

On September 23, 2005, Tibor Rubin was recognized for his heroism when President George Bush presented him with the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. It took over 50 years for the military to overcome its bias to give him this prestigious award.

To read Tibor Rubin's Congressional Medal of Honor Citation, click this url: Tibor Rubin's Congressional Medal of Honor Citation.

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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