David "Mickey" Marcus is a hero who fought for the two countries he loved, America and Israel, and was recognized for military exploits by both their armies. Born on New York's Lower East Side, he graduated from West Point in 1924. While in the Army, he studied law and when he entered civilian life in 1927, he joined the U.S. Attorney General's Office.
New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia admired Marcus and persuaded him to join the city's Department of Corrections in 1934; he was appointed commissioner in 1940. When World War 11 erupted, Marcus went back to the Army as a lieutenant colonel. Appointed a divisional judge advocate and later division commander, he attended the meetings of the "Big Five" in 1943. When the Allies decided to invade Normandy, Marcus volunteered to join the D-Day airborne assault. With no previous training, he joined paratroopers and parachuted into Normandy.
In 1945, Marcus joined General Lucius D. Clay's staff to help oversee a military government in Germany after the Nazi's defeat. Marcus was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, and British decorations. In 1947, he retired from the Army with the rank of colonel. Marcus couldn't forget entering the Dachau concentration camp at the head of a tank column and seeing the living and dead Jews. He resolved that he would help Israel survive so that Jews would have a place to live there if they chose.
The Hagganah and the Jewish Agency contacted him, asking him to go to Israel to help build up the fledgling army. Using the name of Mickey Stone, he was smuggled past the British soldiers in January 1948. At one check-point, he was stopped and asked to produce his identification. The British sentry, who wasn't too alert, accepted the forged papers with the name of Mickey Stone. If he had looked carefully, he would have seen Marcus' West Point ring. Marcus worked day and night training the raw Israeli recruits, trying to shape them into soldiers. It was expected that the Transjordan Arab Legion would be attacking at any time in the hope of destroying Israel.
Marcus returned to America briefly, returning to Israel in May 1948. He was appointed commander of the Jerusalem front and was the first officer to receive the new rank of alluf (brigadier general). Marcus was instrumental in organizing schools for officers, writing manuals, teaching the various uses of armament and helping to develop a fighting spirit within the army.
During the early morning hours of June 11, 1948, Marcus was inspecting the perimeter fence of his military headquarters in Abu Ghosh when an Israeli sentry mistook him for the enemy and accidentally killed him. He was honored by the Israeli military for his leadership and contributions to the defense of Israel.
Taken back to the United States, David "Mickey" Marcus was buried at West Point with full military honors. Mishmar Davis is a village in Judea that is named for him. Marcus was a person blessed to become a hero in two countries that he loved.
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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Last updated 18 October 2006