I Am My Brother's Keeper: American Volunteers in Israel's War for Independence 1947-1949
Based on recently declassified documents and more than two hundred interviews, I Am My Brother’s Keeper tells the story of the more than one thousand Americans and Canadians, Jews and non-Jews, who fought in Israel’s War of Independence.
Did you know:
• The first commander of the Israeli Navy was Paul Shulman, an Annapolis graduate;
• George “Buzz” Beurling, Canadas leading World War II ace with more than thirty kills, flew for Israel;
• The first general in the Israeli Army was West Pointer Mickey Marcus;
• The Israeli Air Force’s leading aces in the War of Independence were Rudy Augarten, an American, and Jack Doyle, a Canadian;
• Israel’s first tank commander was Lionel Druker, a Canadian; and
• The Israeli Air Force’s first test pilot was Slick Goodlin, the man who flew the X-1 experimental aircraft before Chuck Yeager.
These volunteers, and many others, served in all branches of the Israel Defense Forces - the army, the air force, and the navy. They were critical to Israel’s victory. Most of Israel’s fighter and heavy bomber bomber pilots were North Americans, and Israel would not have had an effective air force without them. In other areas, the Americans and Canadians provided invaluable technical expertise and combat experience. They stood shoulder to shoulder with Israel’s citizens in that country’s most desperate hour. Thirty-eight of the volunteers lost their lives in the struggle for a Jewish state. Others were wounded, and some ended up as prisoners of war of the Jordanian and Egyptian armies.
This is a story about men like Rudy Augarten (shown on the front cover), who interrupted his studies at Harvard to fly for Israel. This, despite the fact that Augarten had been shot down over occupied France during World War II, and survived sixty-three days behind enemy lines. It’s about Chris Magee, a World War II ace and veteran of Pappy Boyington’s Black Sheep Squadron who felt the Jews deserved a homeland. And about American Indian Jesse Slade, who believed that fighting for Israel was “the Christian thing to do”. And Buzz Beurling, the legendary “Falcon of Malta” who sought to recapture the glory days of World War II.
It’s about David Starec, who left his rabbinical studies in New York to serve aboard the Exodus, the most famous of the refugee ships that tried to break through a British blockade of Palestine. And George Tzizik, who refused to let a wooden leg keep him out of the fray. And Ray Kurtz, a Brooklyn fireman who led a daring bombing raid on Cairo.
I Am My Brother’s Keeper captures the powerful story of those Jews and Christians who stood up to be counted at a critical time in Jewish History. Only three years after the Holocaust, these volunteers helped establish the State of Israel.
This story will forever change your understanding of the relationship between Americans and Israelis.
Wars in Israel 1948 War of Independence
1948 War of IndependenceOn 14 May 1948 the State of Israel was proclaimed according to the UN partition plan (1947). Less than 24 hours later, the regular armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded the country, forcing Israel to defend the sovereignty it had regained in its ancestral homeland. In what became known as Israel's War of Independence, the newly formed, poorly equipped Israel Defense Forces (IDF) repulsed the invaders in fierce intermittent fighting, which lasted some 15 months and claimed over 6,000 Israeli lives (nearly one percent of the country's Jewish population at the time).
During the first few months of 1949, direct negotiations were conducted under UN auspices between Israel and each of the invading countries (except Iraq which has refused to negotiate with Israel to date), resulting in armistice agreements which reflected the situation at the end of the fighting. Accordingly, the coastal plain, Galilee and the entire Negev were within Israel's sovereignty, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) came under Jordanian rule, the Gaza Strip came under Egyptian administration, and the city of Jerusalem was divided, with Jordan controlling the eastern part, including the Old City, and Israel the western sector.
1956 Sinai CampaignThe 1949 armistice agreements had not only failed to pave the way to permanent peace, but were also constantly violated. In contradiction to the UN Security Council resolution of 1 September 1951, Israeli and Israel-bound shipping was prevented from passing through the Suez Canal; the blockade of the Straits of Tiran was tightened; incursions into Israel of terrorist squads from neighboring Arab countries for murder and sabotage occurred with increasing frequency; and the Sinai peninsula was gradually converted into a huge Egyptian military base.
Upon the signing of a tripartate military alliance by Egypt, Syria and Jordan (October 1956), the imminent threat to Israel's existence was intensified. In the course of an eight-day campaign, the IDF captured the Gaza Strip and the entire Sinai peninsula, halting 10 miles (16 km.) east of the Suez Canal. A United Nations decision to station a UN Emergency Force (UNEF) along the Egypt-Israel border and Egyptian assurances of free navigation in the Gulf of Eilat led Israel to agree to withdraw in stages (November 1956 - March 1957) from the areas taken a few weeks earlier. Consequently, the Straits of Tiran were opened, enabling the development of trade with Asian and East African countries as well as oil imports from the Persian Gulf.
1967 Six-Day WarHopes for another decade of relative tranquillity were dashed with the escalation of Arab terrorist raids across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, persistent Syrian artillery bombardment of agricultural settlements in northern Galilee and massive military build-ups by the neighboring Arab states. When Egypt again moved large numbers of troops into the Sinai desert (May 1967), ordered the UN peacekeeping forces (deployed since 1957) out of the area, reimposed the blockade of the Straits of Tiran and entered into a military alliance with Jordan, Israel found itself faced by hostile Arab armies on all fronts. As Egypt had violated the arrangements agreed upon following the 1956 Sinai Campaign, Israel invoked its inherent right of self-defense, launching a preemptive strike (5 June 1967) against Egypt in the south, followed by a counterattack against Jordan in the east and the routing of Syrian forces entrenched on the Golan Heights in the north.
At the end of six days of fighting, previous cease-fire lines were replaced by new ones, with Judea, Samaria, Gaza, the Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights under Israel's control. As a result, the northern villages were freed from 19 years of recurrent Syrian shelling; the passage of Israeli and Israel-bound shipping through the Straits of Tiran was ensured; and Jerusalem, which had been divided under Israeli and Jordanian rule since 1949, was reunified under Israel's authority.