Illustration by Art Seiden

Florida Atlantic University Libraries

Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America

World War II to the Present:

A Judaica Collection Exhibit



Three Jewisb Heroes Of World War II

by Seymour "Sy" Brody

Many Jewish men and women emerged as heroes during combat in World War 11. At times they sacrificed their lives and at other times, they suffered serious wounds. Whether on land, or in the air or at sea, Jews were there fighting alongside their fellow Americans.

It was on the first day of the war that Sergeant Meyer Levin and his teammate, Captain Colin Kelly, gave America something to cheer about. They were flying off the coast of the Philippines when they spotted the Japanese battleship HARUNA. Captain Kelly flew his bomber over the HARUNA. At that moment, Levin, who was the bombardier, launched his bombs scoring a direct hit to sink the HARUNA. They were recognized for their bravery in America and songs were written about them.

In the Battle of the Coral Sea, in the Pacific, Levin launched the bombs that destroyed a large transport filled with enemy troops. In January 1943, Levin had flown more than 60 missions. It was on the way back to his base from a mission that Levin once again became a hero in an incident which cost him his life.

His plane found itself in a severe thunderstorm and the fuel tank was reading empty. The pilot tried to gain altitude but couldn't and he landed the plane on the rough seas. Levin climbed out of his bomb bay and started to unhook the life rafts for the men to use. The plane was struck by a large wave which broke the plane in two, trapping Levin. The crew in their rafts watched in horror as they saw the plane go down with Levin in it.

Sergeant Meyer Levin was only 25 when he was killed. In the few years that he served, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star and Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart and the Certificate of Merit.

Fighting on land in the Pacific was a Marine named Barney Ross, who was a world champion in three classes of professional boxing - light-weight, junior-welterweight, and welterweight. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he was an old man in boxing - 33 years. He appeared at a Marine recruiting station to enlist. While his fighting days were over, they weren't over in fighting his country's enemies.

It was on Guadalcanal., in the Pacific, on November 20, 1942, that Barney Ross was on a patrol when he and his attachment ran into an advance party of Japanese. A hard fought skirmish began with close quarter combat. The Japanese had wounded most of his patrol. After tending to the wounded, Barney Ross began attacking the enemy by himself. The fighting lasted until the morning when help arrived. He had used up his ammunition and had to use what was left by the wounded. He received the Silver Star for his bravery.

Sergeant Theodore Billen was a gunner on a bomber. He was in the Pacific and flew over 250 missions under enemy fire. He helped evacuate men and equipment from Northern Australia and Java. His plane was in combat over Rabaul where he was credited with shooting down two Zeroes.

Sergeant Billen was in many combat missions. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, two squadron citations and a third citation signed by Generals MacArthur and Kenney. He was one of the many Jews to be recognized in the Pacific for their bravery, in combat.


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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Special Collections and Archives
S.E. Wimberly Library


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