Better Late Than Never

The White House announced September 14 that Cpl. Tibor Rubin in recognition of his courageous actions in Korea from 1950 to 1953 will be awarded the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor will be presented to Rubin by President Bush during a White House ceremony, September 23.

At age 13, Rubin was forced from his native Hungarian Jewish community to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Both his parents and two sisters perished in the Holocaust. Rubin survived until the camp was liberated two years later by American troops.

Rubin immigrated to the United States in 1948 and answered the noble call to duty by volunteering for Army service. By July 1950, Rubin was fighting on the front lines in Korea as an infantryman in I “Item” Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. During numerous engagements, Rubin’s actions to engage the enemy and to tend the wounded, at careless disregard for his own safety, resulted in the heroic defense of his unit. In one such mission, Rubin single-handedly defended a hill for 24 hours thereby allowing his company to withdraw.

The JTA has an interesting article that discusses the issues of anti-Semitism that prevented him from receiving the medal at the time of his actions. I particularly like this part:

When Rubin was interviewed three years ago, he told this reporter, I want this recognition for my Jewish brothers and sisters. I want the goyim to know that there were Jews over there, that there was a little greenhorn, a little shmuck from Hungary, who fought for their beloved country.

Times have changed.

Now, Rubin said with a self-deprecating laugh, It’s Mister Shmuck, the hero.

In October 1950, Chinese troops crossed the border into North Korea. During the ensuing battle, Rubin was severely wounded before being captured along with other Soldiers.

For the next two and a half years, Rubin risked his life daily to keep his fellow Soldiers alive and hopeful in two of the worst prisoner of war camps, officials said.

Witnesses have said that Rubin’s personal actions to obtain food and to provide medical care directly resulted in more than 40 Soldiers surviving Death Valley and Pyoktong Prisoner of War camps. In all his time in Korea, Rubin was recommended for the Medal of Honor an unprecedented four times! However, he left the service with only two purple hearts (and 100% disability).

There is a fantastic online exhibit about Rubin sponsored by the Army. It is very well done, and will be updated soon with his full citation and information on the presentation of the award.

You can also check out an article in the Jewish Journal of Greater LA, which takes an in-depth look at the challenges of Jewish service members to receive the recognition they deserve. They also spotlight the work that the Jewish War Veterans (JWV) have done to fight for Rubin and other deserving Jewish service members.

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