The 33rd annual Colonel David (Mickey) Marcus Memorial Service commemorating him and other American volunteers who died in Israel's War of Independence was held May 2nd, 1999, at the United States Military Academy.
Marcus, who had served as Correction's First Deputy Commissioner and then Commissioner under Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, later became a U.S. and Israeli military hero. Participants in the West Point event, organized by the American Veterans of Israel, included a detachment -- a Captain and five Correction Officers -- from Correction's Ceremonial Unit and a representative of the Department's Maccabees Society.
West Point Rites Honor Hero Commissioner/Col. 'Mickey' Marcus
On a corridor wall in the Jewish Chapel of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is displayed the above photo layout depicting Col./Commissioner David 'Mickey' Marcus at different stages in his military career. From left: Cadet Marcus, Class of '24. Marcus and roommate Lt. Charles Stevenson on Mickey's Wedding Day, 1927. Col. Marcus, February,1945. Marcus with Israeli Army, 1948.
Mickey Marcus graduated West Point with the Class of 1924. Surviving members of that class and relatives of deceased members are holding 75th Year commemorative events that include reference to him as a symbol of the kind of unselfish service rendered by those graduates. Marcus has been remembered many ways. His name adorns a playground in Brooklyn, a rest home for Israeli Army personnel in Haifa, a housing development in Tel Aviv called Neve David Marcus, a kibbutz called Mishmar David, a Marcus Memorial Library at the Command School in Israel, a Marcus Lodge of B'nai Brith, a Lodge of the Knights of Pythias, a post of the Jewish War Veterans, a chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, and a chapter of the B'nai Brith Youth Organization.
Between 1947 and 1948 about 3,500 volunteers from outside countries fought alongside Israel's finest. An estimated 1,000 came from the United States and another 250 from Canada. Most of the English-speaking volunteers had -- like Marcus -- fought in World War II and wanted to put that combat experience at the service of the emerging Jewish State.
Marcus wrote a Israeli military training manual. He took the would-be country's tough but loose-knit guerrilla raiders, the Palmach, and instilled in them a sense of discipline and chain of command. He succeeded in persuading those supplying the military forces that soldiers needed uniforms as well as firepower. He
reorganized the forces into effective, quick-moving units capable of striking first in sustained attacks to harass, confuse and halt the Egyptian tanks' advance in the Negev. He played a significant role in offensives against Jordanians holding Latrun, a gateway to Jerusalem.
An honor detail of six Department of Correction officers stands at attention during West Point cemetery ceremonies honoring Col./Commissioner Marcus and other Americans who fought in the Israeli War for Independence. Also participating was C.O. Ernest Brauer, at left facing forward, secretary of DOC's Maccabees Society. At left facing right is Lt. Col. Richard White, U. S. Military Academy Jewish Chaplain.
The Israeli regard for this "foreigner" was such that they entrusted to him the supreme command over their entire central Jerusalem-Tel Aviv front, making him in effect a Brig. General. He is said to have been the first to hold that rank in Israel's modern army. His is the only grave at West Point for an American killed fighting beneath the flag of another country. American Veterans of Israel (AVI), which organized the May 2nd West Point memorial service, represents the more than 1,200 American and Canadian men and women who volunteered between 1946 and 1949 to serve either as crews on the ships attempting to bring illegal immigrants into Palestine (Aliyah Bet) or as members of the Israeli armed forces (Machal) during Israel's War of Independence.
Over the shoulder of an Honor Detail Correction Officer, right, can be seen Israeli Defense Forces Col. Amir Ellenbogen, center, saluting after placing the flower wreaths at the grave of Col./Commissioner Mickey Marcus.
About 100 people gathered in the West Point Jewish Chapel reception hall, starting at 10 that Sunday morning. The chapel rites began at 11 with Presentation of Colors by the Jewish War Veterans of Rockland and Orange, N.Y. They later performed the colors closing procession. Cadet First Class Jarred Lang lit the memorial candle. Retired U. S. Navy Capt./Rabbi Dr. Nissan Schulman delivered the invocation. U.S. Military Academy Chaplain Lt. Col. Rabbi Richard White gave the welcome, and later the benediction. AVI president Samuel Z. Klausner, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, offered greetings. Israel Defense Forces Col. Amir Ellenbogen was the guest speaker, bringing his country's expression of tribute and appreciation to the occasion. AVI executive board member Dr. Lola Sprinzeles spoke of the motives that had inspired her and others to volunteer their services to the Israel independence movement. The Spairo Family Choir sang a musical medley. AVI vice president, Dr. David Kaplan, served as master of ceremonies.
At the Marcus gravesite in the military cemetery, the Academy Color Guard joined in the flag rituals. AVI officers read the names of deceased members. The Shapiro Family Choir again sang. Rabbi Schulman read a psalm. Col. Ellbogen and Lt. Col. White laid the flower wreaths. An Academy squad fired the honor salute. An Academy bugler played taps.
Israeli Defense Forces Col. Amir Ellenbogen, center foreground, and the Honor Detail Correction Officers, right background, stand at attention during the singing of Ka'l Maleh Rachamin by the Shapiro family Choir at West Point cemetery ceremonies honoring Col./Commissioner Marcus.
Throughout the chapel and cemetery ceremonies, the Correction honor detail lent its presence as a group and was joined by C.O. Ernest Brauer, secretary of DOC's Maccabee Society. Coincidentally, Brauer grew up in Marcus' Brooklyn neighborhood and attended the local high school named for the Col./Commissioner.
In a letter to AVI president Klausner and Chaplain White, Correction Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik thanked the organization and West Point for responding affirmatively to his suggestion that the Department, which Marcus led as First Deputy Commissioner and then Commissioner, have a participating presence in the ceremonies:"We consider our being granted the opportunity to join with you on this occasion a privilege. For it allowed us to signify as an agency how proud we are to have had once leading us this singular person who later led the armed forces of the United States and Israel in separate wars. He did so with great distinction and courage"
A West Point cadet squad stands with rifles at the ready to fire the salute at the Marcus gravesite ceremonies.
Col./ Commissioner Mickey Marcus Playground
To Get Facelift
Go to Rededication of the Mickey Marcus Playground in Brooklyn
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-- Thomas McCarthy, NYCHS webmaster