World War II’s Secret Unit of Jewish Warriors

In 1942, Winston Churchill and his generals decided to create a secret commando squad, known as X Troop, made up of Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria. Leah Garrett tells the story of one member, Peter Masters, and his participation in the invasion of Normandy, in this excerpt from her new book on the unit:

Peter Masters was the nom de guerre of Petar Arany, a Jewish Austrian refugee who had escaped to Britain as a teenager and had been interned as an enemy alien before being selected as a member of . . . X Troop. The X Troopers . . . were German speakers who were trained in counterintelligence and advanced combat techniques. To protect themselves from execution if captured, they took on fake British names and personas. The X Troop had proved itself so valuable to the British military that the men had been parsed out in small groups to assist existing commando units. Masters has been chosen for the Bicycle Troop.

Soon after landing in France, the Bicycle Troop found itself dismounted outside a village in which a German unit was guarding passage to a bridge the Jewish commandos had been ordered to take. At this point, Captain Robinson, Masters’s commanding officer, ordered him to “go down to that village and see what’s going on.”

Masters understood. They were going to send the funny-talking stranger to draw the Germans’ machine-gun fire. During their training back in the British Isles they had been warned that some of the Brits might see them as an expendable suicide squad, and now it seemed this warning was coming true.

Peter walked alone down the middle of the road, like a hero in one of the Westerns he had watched in the Welsh cinemas. He was terrified but reminded himself that this was for the greater good. It was just a pity, he thought, that all his years of training were going to go to waste.

Then he remembered a different movie, one he had seen in 1939 called Gunga Din, starring Cary Grant as Sergeant Archibald Cutter, a British Army warrant officer in colonial India. To disarm an angry mob in one scene, Cutter had yelled that they were all under arrest. Perhaps that could work here.

Masters cleared his throat and bellowed in German: “All right! Surrender, all of you! Come out! You are completely surrounded and don’t have a chance! Throw away your weapons and come out with your hands up if you want to go on living. The war is over for all of you.” There was an eerie and unnerving silence, but no one fired at him.

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Read more at Military Times

More about: Jews in the military, Winston Churchill, World War II

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship