This is a black and white photograph of Col. David (Mickey) Marcus. He is dressed in his American military uniform which includes a white shirt and tie and a dark jacket. He has pins with the letters “US” and with a gold star on both his left and right lapels: the letters are on the top lapel, and the stars on the lower lapel. This is a formal portrait that can be assumed to have been printed in the United States in the second half of the 1940s. A handwritten note under the photograph reads: “General David Marcus who fell in the Israeli War.”
David Marcus was born on Hester Street in New York to Jewish immigrant parents from Romania. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the US Army during World War II. After the UN Partition Plan was approved in 1947, Marcus was approached by David Ben-Gurion to serve as a military advisor. The US Army gave Marcus permission to go to Israel on condition that he did not use his real name. He was therefore known in Israel as Michael or Mickey Stone. Marcus is best known for planning and implementing a road to bypass the existing road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during the Arab siege of Jerusalem. The new road was nicknamed the “Burma Road.” Tragically, Marcus was killed by friendly fire hours before the UN-brokered ceasefire took effect on June 11, 1948. He was buried at West Point, with the following inscription on his gravestone: “Colonel David Marcus—a Soldier for All Humanity.” Prime Minister Ben-Gurion sent a letter to Marcus’ widow stating that, “Marcus was the best man we had.”
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David (Mickey) Marcus – David Marcus was born to a Jewish family in the United States in 1901. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and became a colonel in the US army and a lawyer. After serving in World War II, which included parachuting into Normandy and working with Holocaust survivors in displaced persons (DP) camps, Marcus became convinced of the importance of Zionism and the creation of a Jewish state in Israel. In 1947, when Marcus had returned home to the United Status, the UN voted on the partition plan which divided the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. While the plan was accepted by the Jewish community, the Arabs rejected it and began fighting. David Ben-Gurion asked Marcus to find someone who could come to Israel as a military advisor; he couldn’t find anyone, so he decided to come himself. The US army gave Marcus permission to come to Israel on condition that he didn’t use his real name. He took the name Michael Stone and was given the nickname of Mickey in Israel. Marcus assisted the Haganah in defending settlements in the Negev and the Old City of Jerusalem. The central issue for the besieged Jerusalem at the time was the lack of supplies due to the Arab military positions overlooking the road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Marcus uncovered and made accessible an alternate road, nicknamed the “Burma Road,” which saved the people of Jerusalem from starvation and supplied them with weapons and ammunition. Hours before a UN brokered ceasefire went into effect on June 11, 1948, Marcus went for a walk outside his army base. When the sentry on guard noticed an unidentified figure and Marcus didn’t respond to the request to say the password, perhaps due to his deficiency in Hebrew, Marcus was shot and killed. He died on June 10, 1948 and was buried at West Point. His gravestone reads: “Colonel David Marcus – A Soldier for All Humanity.” Prime Minister Ben-Gurion sent a letter to Marcus’ widow saying, “Marcus was the best man we had.”
Convoys During the War of Independence – The first stage of Israel’s War of Independence began after the UN vote for partition and the establishment of a Jewish State on November 29, 1947. From this time and until the British left the country on May 14, 1948 Arab militias attacked Jewish transportation around Israel. Travel to Jerusalem, the Negev, and the Galilee settlements was especially difficult, effectively isolating many cities and villages from the rest of the country. At first, the Haganah provided tight security for a few cars to travel. Later, they introduced a convoy system whereby armoured vehicles that were more resistant to fire from light weapons traveled together. In March 1948, the situation worsened and convoys were attacked throughout the country. An exceptionally dangerous stretch of road was the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem route. Due to the location of Arab villages, the section between Latrun and Sha’ar Hagai and areas around the Castel were extremely dangerous. A convoy taking medical and military supplies and medical personnel to the Hadassah hospital complex on Mt. Scopus, which was cut off from the rest of Jerusalem, was ambushed on April 13, 1948, killing 78 people including doctors, nurses, patients, Haganah fighters, and one British soldier. On 18, May 1948, the Arab Legion conquered the fort at Latrun, which overlooked the road to Jerusalem. This made it almost impossible for convoys to get through to bring much needed supplies to the besieged residents of Jerusalem. The Haganah, under the supervision of American General Mickey Marcus, secretly widened a small, hidden path that circumvented the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road and made it accessible to trucks, thus providing necessary provisions for Jerusalem. The road, nicknamed the Burma Road, was fully operational from June 14 and served as the sole supply route to Jerusalem for several months. Tragically, on June 10, a few hours before the ceasefire, Mickey Marcus, who didn’t speak much Hebrew, was killed by an Israeli sentry when he failed to respond to the Hebrew request to say the password.
Machal – Machal is a Hebrew acronym for mitnadvei chutz l’aretz (volunteers from overseas). Ever since the War of Independence, volunteers from outside of Israel have served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Veterans of the Allied Forces during World War II were the first members of Machal, coming to share their expertise with the new state. Many of the volunteers were among the founders of the Israeli army, navy, and air force. Jewish men and women from abroad can still join the army through Machal. They serve for a minimum of 14 months in a variety of units. David Ben-Gurion said the following about those who joined the army through Machal:
"The participation of...men and women of other nations in our struggle cannot be measured only in terms of additional manpower, but as an expression of the solidarity of the Jewish people."