Mike Smith found plenty of good reading about Jewish Marines in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History.
You may have seen the recent, heart-touching photo showing Jewish U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Matt Jaffe holding a baby during the evacuations in Kabul, Afghanistan. The war there ended as it began, with Marines guarding the airport, but Jaffe showed the world the compassionate side of the Marine Corps (USMC).
Unfortunately, this tender moment was followed by a despicable terrorist bombing that killed 13 U.S. servicemen — 11 of them Marines — with others wounded. About 170 Afghan civilians were also killed and many more were wounded.
As someone who served in the Corps, I felt the impact of both stories. They also led me to inquire about Jewish Marines in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History. I found plenty of great reading.
Note: While I’m writing about Marines, the Archive also holds a tremendous number of stories about Detroit Jews serving with honor in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard — and the Israel Defense Forces.
One of the earliest stories was about Jewish Detroiter and Marine Leonard Koch returning from WWI with a “scarred war diary.” Koch fought in numerous battles, including Chateau-Thierry, one of the most storied battles in USMC history (May 23, 1919, Chronicle).
The JN and the Chronicle closely followed Jews in the Marines during WWII and after. You may have known some of them. Monte Korn, well known postwar for his financial advice on radio and TV. He was a Marine (Feb. 28, 2013 JN). Local lawyer William Weinstein become the first Jewish Michigander and only the second Jewish American to become a Brigadier General in the USMC (Aug. 25, 1967 JN). Sgt. Sheldon Schwartz of Novi was a Medal of Honor awardee. This medal is only given to the bravest of the brave (Nov. 6, 2009 JN).
And it is not just Detroit Jewish men who served and serve in the Marines. Evelyn Nyman was the first Michigan woman to enlist in the Marines during WWII (obituary in Dec. 21, 2006 JN). Dorothy Florence joined the USMC in 1944 (Oct. 13, 1944 Chronicle). In 1945, Dr. and Mrs. Morris Schiff welcomed their daughter, Cookie, home after two and a half years in the Corps (Dec. 14, 1945 Chronicle).
Jewish Detroiters also do their part to support Marines. For example, a front-page photo for the Aug. 8, 1943 JN shows USMC Capt. Frank Upton receiving a contribution for the cigarette fund, a project that was sponsored by the JN (while no one would have a “cigarette fund” drive today, during WWII most in the military smoked and greatly appreciated extra cigarettes).
This tradition of Michigan Jews supporting Marines continues today. For example, see the story about the friends of Lance Corporal Jordan Leitson in the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) on board the USS Carter Hall. They sent him and his buddies lots of goodies (July 25, 2013). MEUs, by the way, are stationed on U.S. ships around the world, ready to go into action at a moment’s notice.
Appropriately, in 2019, the USMC held its first Jewish Heritage Month recognition for “the invaluable service and selfless contributions Jewish Americans, both military and civilian, give to our country and Corps.” This means Sgt. Jaffe and all Jewish Marines. Semper Fi!
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.