Jews in the US Army


Four American Jews who made a major contribution to the American armed forces.

Most American Jews are unaware of the major contribution that their fellow Jews have made to the American armed forces. Many have in fact changed the way the US military operates.

Here are four men who made a difference.

Commander Uriah P. Levy, war hero, anti-Semitism fighter, philanthropist

Uriah P. Levy served with distinction in the war against the Barbary Pirates and the British during the War of 1812. He was the Commodore of the Mediterranean Squadron of the United States Navy. Uriah Levy has six times court martialed senior officers for anti-Semitism. On two separate occasions he was kicked out until counsel reviewed the proceedings and reinstated Levy. Despite this, he became the first Jewish officer in the US Navy.

While a general officer in 1850, Levy led efforts to eliminate flogging as a punishment for sailors convicted of crimes under Articles of War. The US Navy was the first major navy to do so.

After retiring from the Navy, Levy learned that Monticello – Jefferson’s home and plantation – was about to be sold to pay off family debts. Levy bought it and started its restoration. He commissioned the Jefferson Statue which now sits in the Capitol Rotunda as the only privately funded statue on U.S. property. The religious center of the Naval Academy bears the name of Levy.

Vice-Admiral Joseph Taussig – Naval Strategist

Joe Taussig’s father, Ed, was recruited into the United States Navy by Uriah Levy and became the Naval Academy’s first Jewish midshipman. Ed Taussig was the first of four generations of Naval Academy graduates, all of whom have had distinguished careers.

By the time the United States became involved in World War I, Joe Taussig participated in missions in China, Cuba, and the Philippines. In May 1917, as commander of Destroyer Squadron 8, he led the first destroyer squadron to deploy to Europe. His squadron’s accomplishments led to an assignment to DC as the Chief of the Enlisted Personnel Division, the organization responsible for recruiting, training and retaining enlisted men.

After the war, Captain Taussig testified before the Senate Naval Affairs Committee that when World War I broke out, the navy was far from ready for war. His comments and award-winning essay who then challenged Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proposal that the Navy compensate for the lack of manpower by enlisting men on parole from prison earned him Roosevelt’s wrath.

In the United States, officers “serve at the pleasure of the President.” As a practice that continues to this day, officers of the Navy or the Marine Corps rarely speak out publicly against our political leaders. When you do, you put your career in danger.

Admiral William Sims, the Navy’s most senior officer and a Navy readiness critic publicly supported Taussig. Sims sent Taussig to Naval War College first as a student, then as a tactics instructor, and eventually he became the head of the strategy department.

When Roosevelt took office in 1933, he informed the Navy that he would not approve of the promotion of RADM Taussig to vice-admiral. The dispute became public when two influential columnists – Drew Pearson and Robert Allen – criticized Roosevelt’s decision not to promote Taussig who was the deputy chief of naval operations. Instead, the Navy gave him command of the cruiser and battleship divisions before sending him to lead the Norfolk Navy Yard and the Fifth Naval District.

In May 1940, Taussig was again invited to testify before the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs. He said the Navy was not prepared for a war with Japan that he believed was inevitable. Allen and Pearson called Taussig “the Navy’s best strategist.”

Roosevelt was furious and as commander-in-chief he asked Taussig to step down immediately. After Pearl Harbor and the first Japanese victories followed Taussig’s plan, he was recalled, promoted to vice-admiral, and served on the Secretary of the Navy’s staff.

Today, the legacy of VADM Joseph Taussig continues. As the head of the enlisted personnel division, he set standards that individuals must meet and focused the Navy’s efforts on recruiting the best and brightest men and women. He established the Naval War College as a think tank for naval strategy and war games that honed the skills of the officers who led the navy to victory in World War II.

Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Rosenthal – Bomber Pilot

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Robert Rosenthal had just graduated from Brooklyn Law School. December 8e, he enlisted in the army and after receiving his wings, he was assigned to fly B-17s. He arrived in England in August 1943 as a B-17 aircraft commander in the 418e Bomb squadron, 100e Bombardment group.

The group was known as the “Bloody Hundredth” due to its high loss rates, although they weren’t much worse than any other B-17 unit. Before the P-38s and P-51s began escorting bombers to targets and back, the Eighth Air Force was losing more than ten percent of bombers on each mission. With hunter escorts, the loss rate fell to seven percent more “acceptable”.

October 10e 1943, Rosenthal’s crew in a B-17 named Rosie’s Riveters takes off on their third mission. The Eighth Air Force expected the bombers to hit their target in Münster, Germany, unescorted. His B-17 was the only one of the 13 bombers in his group to return. When he landed, two of his plane’s four engines were cut due to combat damage and there was a large hole in the left wing due to a direct impact from an 88mm shell.

Rosenthal completed the required 25 missions and volunteered for a second tour. The first time he was shot in September 1944, he broke his arm overthrowing German-occupied France. The Free French managed to bring him back to England and Rosenthal resumed his career as a B-17 pilot.

On his 52sd and alongside the last mission, Rosenthal flew the lead bomber headed for Berlin. An 88mm anti-aircraft shell set the B-17 on fire. Nonetheless, Rosenthal conducted his formation above the target before he descended. He was the last to jump 1,000 feet just before the B-17 exploded. Rosenthal and his crew landed behind Soviet lines and were repatriated to England. Rosenthal carried out one more mission before the end of the war.

Rosenthal was selected to interview Herman Goering and prepare the case against the leader of the Luftwaffe. Goering was convicted of war crimes and the night before his hanging a cyanide pill was smuggled into his cell and Goering committed suicide.

In 1948, Robert Rosenthal returned to the law firm which hired him as soon as he left law school. He was elected to the Jewish-American Hall of Fame in 2006 and died at the age of 90 in 2007.

Colonel Aaron Bank – The founder of the Green Berets

As a young man, Aaron Bank has traveled extensively throughout Europe and is fluent in German and French. At the start of World War II, he was 37 years old and volunteered. He attended the Officer Candidate School and was appointed second lieutenant. Due to his language skills, Bank was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

After training in the conduct of clandestine operations, he parachuted into France on July, 1944 as the leader of a three-man team from Jedburg codenamed Packard, knowing that if captured the Gestapo would torture and kill him. Aided by French partisans, Bank’s team harassed the Germans until he was withdrawn at the end of 1944.

Bank’s next mission was to recruit and lead a team of anti-Nazis and former German soldiers who would kill Adolph Hitler if he fled to his redoubt at Berchtesgaden. OSS chief William Donovan reportedly told one of his subordinates to “tell the bank to have Hitler”. The mission was called Iron Cross and was canceled right after the team boarded their plane for the trip to Bavaria.

Immediately after the end of the war in Europe, Bank was sent to French Indochina to rescue French and other Europeans held by the Japanese. There, Bank worked with Ho Chi Minh who was fighting the Japanese. After the war, Bank served in intelligence posts in Europe before being sent to Korea as managing director of the 187e Regimental combat team having participated in several battles.

Returning to the United States, Bank was appointed chief of the special operations branch of the Army Psychological Warfare Office and was ordered to “staff and obtain approval for a force of OSS Jedburg style ”. In 1952, the military approved and funded a unit of 2,300 men. Its mission was “to infiltrate by land, sea or air deep into enemy occupied territory and organize the potential of the resistance guerrillas to conduct special forces operations with an emphasis on guerrilla training.

Bank and seven others started on 10e Special Forces Group (Airborne) on June 19e, 1952 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In two years, the 10e was inhabited, operational and split into two units, the 10e and the 77e. After the Berlin uprising in 1953, both were enlarged. The structure, training, tactics and employment of the Green Beret A teams that the bank described in 1952 are still in use today. Colonel Bank retired in 1958.

After Bank left the army, President Kennedy authorized the wearing of the “beret, man, wool, gun green, army tint 297”. Since then, the army’s special forces have been known as the Green Berets.

Bank has written two books. One was the story of his career – From OSS to Green Berets. The other was a novel titled iron Cross that Ethan Nathanson, author of The dirty dozen, helped him write.

Horrified by the lack of security at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in southern California near his home, Bank pushed for changes. On two occasions he had to publicly expose the factory’s vulnerability to sabotage. Finally, in 1974, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acted on its recommendations for all nuclear power plants in the United States.

There are many more like ADM Ben Morrell who is considered the father of the Navy SeaBees and General Sydney Sachnow, a Holocaust survivor who is one of the most revered and most revered Green Berets. decorated who has never had a distinguished career. Their accomplishments, along with many more, are buried in the military history of the United States. They are Jewish role models whose stories are worth telling our children.

If you are interested in this topic or are part of a group that would like to see the presentation on these American Jews and many more, the author welcomes this opportunity. You can contact him via or via his website

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