David Daniel “Mickey” Marcus was born on George Washington’s birthday in 1902 as the fifth child of an immigrant Jewish couple from Romania. He started life in the poverty stricken lower eastside of New York. Soon his father was making money and they moved to the better neighbour hood of Brooklyn.
He was growing up in a time when hoodlums delighted in tormenting Jews. He soon learned to fight and stand up for himself. He attended a public school in 1909, the start of a good education. Later he entered boys high. It was here that he shone as an athlete and prize-fighter.
Upon release he soon entered the US Military Academy at West Point. It was June 1920 and the academy superintendent at the time was Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur.
1924 saw his graduation amongst the top third of his class and showed good “Leadership Potential”.
July 3rd 1927 saw him marrying Emma, now being moved around to an army of different posts, but always-studying law. Finally ending up as first Deputy Commissioner of Correction. Under years of Tammany Hall Rule, the prisons of New York had become cesspools of corruption. Mickey set about cleaning up this problem with a large broom. The smashing of a big racket on Welfare Island Penitentiary won him acclaim through out New York. His name in the law circles was spreading fast.
At the outbreak of war in Europe Mickey decided to join up again. Back in uniform he was sent to a training camp in Alabama 1940. With the Federally Activated National Guard Unit to which he was attached. He held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and his post was that of judge advocate of the 27th Infantry Division.
Desk work was very boring for Mickey and he always yearned for action, but he was never allowed to Command. His work took him on some very important meetings as legal advisor to the Roosevelt-Churchill-Chiang meetings in Cairo in November 1943 then to Teheran for the Roosevelt-Churchill-Stalin meeting.
Mickey finally managed to get a move to England to improve communications between the civil affairs division and supreme headquarters allied expeditionary forces, (SHAEF). It was here Mickey discovered that the US 101st Airborne Division would take part in the D-Day Landings, so he wangled a seat on the drop. Being one of the only two men present who had never parachuted before. Upon landing he soon took charge, leading his men in some heroic deeds. But word soon spread back to the USA and Mickey was with drawn back to the States.
After the War he had to supervise most of the legal activity concerning the Nuremberg Trials, hand picking the judges, prosecutors, etc.
His collection of medals now read the “Distinguished Service Medal”, “The Bronze Star”, and “The Army Commendation Ribbon”. He was nominated three times for the “Legion of Merit” and six times for the rank of “Brigadier General”.
January 1948 saw Mickey landing in Palestine to help the Jews hang onto the so-called New State of Israel. It had been a long hard decision for him to make, but always wanting action and favouring the underdog he had finally decided to help.
Mickey was the only man who could help the Jews his military knowledge was the best they could buy. He surveyed the troops in all parts of the country and started to mould them into an Army. He ordered all the equipment and even wrote a complete manual to train the new Israel Army.
On May 8th 1948 the British Army fed up of being in the middle of the Jews and Arabs quit, leaving a vacuum. The forces of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Trans Jordan invaded Israel. Jerusalem became under siege Mickey masterminded the building of a road to relieve the city, called the Marcus Way. For this he was appointed Commander of the Jerusalem Front. At this point Mickey had achieved the Rank of Brigadier General. He was the first Jew to command what amounted to an Army division. He was the highest-ranking Jewish Battle Commander since the Maccabeuses, of the second century before Christ. Ironically an American soldier of fortune was now in command of troops fighting troops led by a British soldier of fortune, (Mayor General Bagot Glubb) leading the Jordanian Forces.
A truce was worked out to take place on June 11th 1948. During the evening of June 10th, around 3am Mickey took a walk in the evening air thinking about what he’d achieved. He spoke to a sentry and carried on walking. At 3.35am the sentries changed guard. Not knowing Mickey was walking around the sentry heard a noise and upon seeing a figure opened fire.
Mickey died immediately with bullet in his heart. He was the last person to die in the conflict. His body was flown home and Mickey was buried at West Point. He’s the only American buried there who served in a Foreign Army.
Also a good read is
“Merc” 'American Soldiers of Fortune' by Jay Mallin and Robert K Brown, Copyright 1979. Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc. later First Signet Printing 1980