Remembering the Jewish Heroes of Pearl Harbor

Dec. 13 2021

Last Tuesday marked 80 years since Japan’s unprovoked surprise attack on Hawaii, which brought the U.S. into World War II. Among the 2,403 American servicemen who lost their lives that day were several Jews. Tabby Refael tells the story of one of them:

Private Louis Schleifer, from Newark, New Jersey, was at [Oahu’s] Hickam airfield, where he was attached to the 4th Reconnaissance Squadron. Four days earlier, he had celebrated his 21st birthday. Schleifer was headed to breakfast when he saw Japanese aircraft dropping bombs over a field. He immediately took his helmet and 45-caliber revolver and ran to move some of the American planes into hangars. He fired at the Japanese planes overhead and was mortally wounded. Later that day, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

During World War II, more than 550,000 American Jewish men and women served in the U.S. Armed Forces; 11,000 were killed and more than 40,000 were wounded. During the war, Jews comprised just over 3 percent of the American population and 4.23 percent of the armed forces. At Pearl Harbor, Jewish servicemen performed acts of great heroism, such as saving some of the crew aboard the USS Utah to dropping depth charges against Japanese submarines.

But perhaps the most poignant observation about American-Jewish servicemen came from Senator Charles McNary of Oregon, who spoke at a memorial service on June 30, 1942 for Schleifer. “Jews have been fighting oppression and tyranny for centuries. They received their basic training in Egypt and became seasoned soldiers on the battlegrounds of Europe,” said McNary.

“Wherever tyranny threatens, wherever the rights of man are in danger of being destroyed, there you will find the Jew, joining forces with others willing to fight and die for freedom.”

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Read more at JNS

More about: American Jewish History, Jews in the military, 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