Ablest Nav­i­ga­tor: Lieu­tenant Paul N. Shul­man USN, Israel’s Vol­un­teer Admiral

J. Wan­dres
  • Review
By – August 30, 2011
Born in New York City in 1922, PaulNach­man Shul­man attend­ed DeWitt Clin­ton High School, the Cheshire Acad­e­my in Cheshire, Con­necti­cut and, before Pearl Har­bor, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia, where he was enrolled briefly in the Naval ROTC pro­gram. He was also one of only 50 Jew­ish mid­ship­men to grad­u­ate from the U.S. Naval Acad­e­my in 1944, a fact that was not lost on David Ben Guri­on or the Haganah lead­er­ship. 

 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.

Discussion Questions