In this important biography J. Wandres, a former U.S. Naval Public Affairs specialist, provides a critical analysis of the role that former U.S. Jewish naval officers played in the founding of the Israel Navy in l948, including the establishment of an officer training school and the sinking of the flagship of the Egyptian Navy in October, 1948. As in the case of Colonel David “Mickey” Marcus (West Point, Class of 1924) and Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Dunkelman, one of Canada’s most decorated war heroes of World War ll, Ben Gurion, Israel’s Defense Minister, sought to recruit between 1946 and 1948 senior Jewish officers who had seen combat in World War ll in the various allied armies, and who could provide leadership in converting the Haganah from an underground militia into a modern army, navy, and air force. Shulman, who had served in the Pacific on the destroyer USS Hunt as a Lieutenant, would eventually rise to become Israel’s first admiral. Joining Shulman in the building of an Israeli Navy was his fellow Annapolis graduate, Jonathan Leff (Class of 1943), Lieutenant Commander Marvin Broder, who had served during the war on a U.S. aircraft carrier, and Lieutenant Commander Sandy Finard, who had served in the war in the U.S. Submarine Service, among other Jewish American volunteers.
Drawing heavily on oral interviews and information secured under the Freedom of Information Act, Wandres describes the jealousies and resentments that Israeli-born defense officials and active duty naval personnel felt toward the so called “New York Jews.” Shulman suffered from these attitudes especially after he was appointed by Ben Gurion in October 1948 as the first Commander in Chief of the Israeli Navy, a post which he held until July 1949.
In this groundbreaking biography, Wandres demonstrates that without the skilled contributions of men like “Mickey” Marcus, Paul Shulman, and some 168 American and South African pilots who flew for the IDF, it is not certain that Israel would have been able to win the 1948 – 49 War of Independence.
Carl J. Rheins was the executive director emeritus of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. He received his Ph.D. in Modern European History from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and taught courses on the Holocaust at several major universities.