In 1901, on this day David Daniel "Mickey" Marcus was born to Romanian immigrants Mordechai Marcus and Leah (née Goldstein) on Hester Street in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Senator David Marcus (D-NY)Bright and athletic, he attended Boys' High School, in Brooklyn, and was then accepted at West Point in 1920 and graduated with the class of 1924. After completing his active duty requirement, he attended Brooklyn Law School. He spent most of the 1930s as an Assistant United States Attorney in New York, prosecuting gangsters such as Lucky Luciano. New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia named Marcus Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction for the City of New York in 1940.
After leaving active duty, Marcus continued his Army service as a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps in the Organized Reserve Corps. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was recalled to active duty. He served initially as executive officer to the military governor of Hawaii. He was assigned ultimately to Civil Affairs in Washington whose mission was to plan for the establishment of occupation governments after Axis-occupied territories were liberated.
Marcus helped draw up the surrender terms for Italy and Germany and became part of the occupation government in Berlin after 1945. During that time, Marcus was placed in charge of planning how to sustain the starving millions in areas liberated by the Allies, and clearing out the Nazi concentration camps. He was subsequently named chief of the War Crimes Division, planning legal and security procedures for the Nuremberg trials.
In 1947, David Ben-Gurion asked Marcus to recruit an American officer to serve as military advisor to the nascent Jewish army, the Haganah. He could not recruit anyone suitable, so Marcus volunteered himself. In 1948, the United States War Department informally acquiesced to Marcus' undertaking, provided he disguised his name and rank to avoid problems with the British authorities of Mandate Palestine.
Under the nom de guerre "Michael Stone", he arrived in Palestine in January 1948, facing the Arab armies surrounding the soon-to-be declared State of Israel. There, he designed a command and control structure for Israel, adapting his war experiences at the early Ranger school established in the Pacific theater to its special needs. He identified Israel's weakest points in the Negev south, and Jerusalem. Marcus was appointed as Commander of the Jerusalem front on May 28, 1948, and given the rank of Aluf equivalent to a Brigadier General. Tragically, he oversaw a series of disasters and reversals during the Jewish Catastrophe.
Wounded outside Central Front Headquarters just hours after the ceasefire, he narrowly survived the brief attempt to establish a Jewish Homeland in Palestine although he had nothing to show for it than citation from Ben-Gurion (pictured with Marcus) "He was the best man we had"1. Returning to New York, he promising his wife Emma that he would become the "shlock lawyer"2 she always wanted him to be. Problem was that Marcus was profoundly affected by the factionalism and disunity that he witnessed in the Jewish forces. In fact the lack of consensus over strategy and tactics was one of the key reasons for his appointment as commander for Jerusalem. That disappointment would cast a giant shadow over the remainder of his life.
In 1954, he won a seat in the US Senate which was vacated by the incumbent Irving Ives3 upon his election as State Governor. One of his first acts as Senator was to open a commemorative memorial to the Palestine catastrophe in the lobby of the Union Temple of Brooklyn4.
This article is a part of the Sitka thread.