Sunday, July 29, 2007


There is a good history of Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers from a great many countries who fought in the Israeli war of Independence. One of the most interesting stories is that of the Navajo Indian named Jesse 'Tex' Slade.
Back in those close-to-prehistoric days of 1948, around 3,500 or so volunteers from Western and English-speaking countries went to fight for Israel in the War of Independence. The exact number of volunteers per country is still in some dispute, but the best estimate is that about 1,000 came from the United States with another 250 from Canada. Another 700 volunteered from South Africa, 600 from Great Britain, 250 from North Africa, 250 from Latin America, and still others from France and Belgium. There were also small contingents from Australia, the Belgium Congo, Rhodesia, Finland, and Russia. All told, there were individual volunteers from some 37 different countries.

There was even a volunteer from the Navajo Indian Nation. His name was Jesse 'Tex' Slade and he was a member of my unit. He used to go into each battle with a Navajo charm bracelet, a Cross, and a Mezuzza worn around his neck, for as he succinctly put it, "You'all just cain't be too careful with all them bombs and bullets flyin' around." At least one of those three medallions must have worked, for he survived the war without a scratch and ended up operating a dude cattle ranch in the Negev and, according to persistent rumor, rustling cattle from Jordan on the side.

Ralph Anspach, a Berkeley Economics professor and a former Fourth Troop gunner in 1948, reminded me recently that the reason Jesse gave for coming to fight for Israel and ending up in our 'democratic' unit was because of the prejudice he faced in the U.S. army during WWII. It seems that the only officer who treated him with proper respect was the captain of his infantry unit, a man named Grossman. This being the one positive experience of his military service, he became fascinated with Jews and vowed to help the Jewish State when the opportunity arose.

I gave a talk in 1995 before an ORT group in Fullerton, California on my experiences in the War of Independence, and I recounted the story of Jesse Slade and Captain Grossman. After my talk, a woman came up to me and told me that she was visiting from New York, that her maiden name was Grossman, and that Captain Grossman was almost certainly her late brother (not your everyday name for the captain of an American infantry unit), that he was a captain in the U.S. Army in Europe towards the end of WWII, and that he was the commander of a mixed infantry unit of Blacks and American Indians! Naturally, they picked a Jew to lead this multicultural group into battle!

More here...

The whole history of volunteers can be found here.


Anonymous said...

Ord Wingate comes to mind.... as does my friend and comrade Sean McAllister, a Christian from Bromley in Kent.

Super-duper, top-secret...Raful was not a Jew.



Pastorius said...

That secret army has only grown larger and larger with the years.

We're waiting.

WATCHER71 said...

Good post , really informative and inspiring...yes I could see the language problem....but really a few key phrases could be taught in Hebrew...perhaps Hebrew fluent officers ....trivial problems that could be worked around...anyway I'm back in the reserves....getting ready...