Israel – Who Was Israel’s First Modern Day General?

"Mickey" Marcus Was The First Modern Day General In Israel

Remembering David Mickey Marcus The IDF's First General

Israel’s First General Was A West Pointer

Colonel David "Mickey" Marcus was the son of Romanian immigrants who settled in Brooklyn.

Mickey was a tough street kid, who by virtue of his courage and experiences became Israel’s first general since Judah Maccabee.

After a distinguished career in military and public service to the United States, the forty-six-year-old Marcus wrote his name forever in the annals of Israeli history.

He attended West Point and served in the United States Army, and he was part of a regiment that liberated the concentration camps.

Mickey Marcus Alias Michael Stone

In 1947, David Ben-Gurion found someone who could unify and train the various military groups in Israel and that person was Mickey Marcus, who went to Israel, despite the fact that serving in another nation’s army was tantamount to treason.

He went by the nom de guerre Michael Stone, and was the first aluf, or general, in the Israeli army.

The Nazi Death Camps Experienced First Hand

In 1944, Marcus’s consciousness of himself as a Jew suddenly took a dramatic turn when he was put in charge of planning how to sustain the starving millions in the regions liberated by the Allied invasion of Europe.

And a major part of his responsibilities involved clearing out the Nazi death camps.

And in those camps, Marcus came face to face with the survivors of Nazi atrocities and saw with his own eyes the piles of uncounted Jewish corpses in Europe’s death camps.

Following that assignment, Marcus was named chief of the War Crimes Division, where he planned legal and security procedures for the Nuremberg trials.

And through these experiences, Marcus came to understand the depths of European anti-Semitism and though never previously a Zionist, he became convinced that the only hope for the remnants of European Jewry lay in a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Permission To Use An Alias

Marcus returned to civilian life in 1947 and just a few months later the United Nations authorized the division of Palestine and the eventual creation of a Jewish state.

And just a few days after its creation, David Ben-Gurion asked Marcus to recruit an American officer to serve as military adviser to Israel.

After failing to recruit any of his associates Marcus decided to volunteer himself.

The U.S. War Department granted Marcus, who was a reservist, permission to accept the offer, provided he didn’t use his own name or rank and only if he disguised his military record.

Michael Stone Arrives In Israel

"Michael Stone" arrived in Tel Aviv in January 1948, to confront a nearly impossible situation.

The widely separated Jewish settlements in Palestine were surrounded by a sea of hostile Arabs.

The newly created Israel would have no defensible borders, no air power, just a few tanks and ancient artillery pieces and almost no arms or ammunition.

The Haganah was an effective underground organization, but it had no experience as a regular national army and facing it were well-supplied Arab armies determined to drive the Jews into the sea.

* The pro-Arab British administration in Palestine prevented the importation of military supplies to the Israelis.

Israelis Get Trained And Prepared

Stone designed a command structure for Israel’s new army and wrote manuals to train it, adapting his experience at Ranger school to the Haganah’s special needs.

He identified Israel’s weakest points as the scattered settlements in the Negev and the new quarter of Jerusalem, and when Israel declared independence and the Arab armies attacked in May 1948, Israel was somewhat ready.

As ready as it could be!

Keeping the Arab Armies Off Balance

Stone’s hit-and-run tactics kept the Egyptian army in the Negev off balance and when the Jewish section of Jerusalem was about to fall, Marcus ordered the construction of a road to bring in additional men and equipment to break the Arab siege.

Israel withstood the Arab assault with its borders virtually intact, and in gratitude, Ben Gurion named Mickey Marcus Lieutenant General, the first general in the army of Israel in nearly two thousand years.

Killed By Friendly Fire

It was near Abu Ghosh that Mickey was killed!

He went out in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and because it was cold, he wrapped himself in a white sheet.

The young Jewish man assigned as a compound guard didn’t speak English and Mickey didn’t speak Hebrew.

The guard saw a white-robed figure approaching and not understanding Marcus’s response to his challenge, fired a single, fatal shot.

Marcus’s body was flown back for burial at West Point, where his tombstone identifies him as "A Soldier for All Humanity".

He was buried with full military honors!

The Best We Had!

There is still a village in Judea, named ‘Mishmar David’, (David’s Guard), that is named after him.

Marcus was a person blessed to become a hero in two countries that he loved, and Ben-Gurion put it simply,

"He was the best man we had!".

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