NEW YORK (Mar. 9)
Troop contingents formed entirely of Jews went into action for the first time in the war during the British campaign in North Africa, Raoul Aglion, who participated in the drive as a Free French observer, disclosed in an interview here today.
Aglion, former member of the French Legation at Cairo, said the units have an excellent account of themselves, fighting under the blue-white flag of Palestine and officered by Jews.
Jewish fliers bombed the fleecing Italians and ably cooperated with the British in other flying operations, he said . The Jewish cotangents by now probably have clashed with the German units sent hastily to Africa to bolster the badly-shaken Italians, he stated.
The French observer, who reached this city via the Cape of Good Hope recently, said that many Foreign Legionnaires, stationed in Syria, escaped into Palestine when the France-German armistice was signed to fight for the British. Many of these men–including a number of German Jews–fought at Derna and Sidi Barrani.
“The Jewish contingents,” he said, “consist principally of infantry and fliers. The Jewish officers commanding them are excellent. The stream of volunteers for the Air Force is particularly great. Recently in Palestine authorities asked for 600 volunteers in this arm. More then 3,000 immediately volunteered.”
Naturally, these units are under the supreme command of Gen, Archibald Wavell, Aglion said.
The contingent of Jewish troopers from Tunisia is particularly large, he said. These are fighting in Free France formations.
At first the British in Palestine looked askance at Foreign Legionaires from Syria who were of German origin but the Legion officers who accompanied them in their flight finally convinced the British that suspicions of their loyalty were unfounded. These troops fought as well as any others at Sidi Barrani and other points.
He said the Italians through the Vichy-controlled Alexandria consulate had warned Free French leaders that Free Frenchmen would be shot as rebels if they were caught. This threat has not yet been carried out, owing largely to lack of opportunity. No Free Frenchman or Foreign Legionaire has yet fallen alive into the hands of the Italians, it was said.
A Polish cavalry brigade, which escaped from Syria, and which included a number of Jews, also gave a good account of itself in the fighting.