WASHINGTON (Dec. 18)
Jewish groups have criticized a U.S. Army review board for rebuffing World War II veteran David Rubitsky’s claim that he singlehandedly killed 500 Japanese soldiers, and for denying him the Congressional Medal of Honor.
But Steve Shaw, executive director of the Jewish War Veterans of America, called verification of Rubitsky’s claim “a problem both for the Army and for us.”
Rubitsky, 72, has had his case reviewed for a Congressional Medal of Honor for the last two years. The Army said last Friday that there was “incontestable evidence” that Rubitsky did not kill a large number of Japanese in a battle in New Guinea in 1942.
Army Secretary Michael Stone has the power to overturn the review board’s decision, “but he’s not going to do that,” Maj. Joe Padilla, an Army spokesman, said Monday. “It’s just that he has reviewed the findings of the review board and concurs with the findings.”
For Rubitsky to have received the medal, either Stone or the review board would have had to review Rubitsky’s claim positively. In addition, both houses of Congress would have had to approve legislation exempting Rubitsky’s case from a rule that recommendations for World War II deeds be filed by 1951.
Padilla praised Rubitsky for having “served honorably” and noted the veteran received a combat infantry badge and a bronze star. That is “probably what the average soldier received during World War II for their service,” he added.
Shaw said there was no evidence of anti-Semitism against Rubitsky by a senior officer who was in a position to write a recommendation, as Rubitsky’s superior during the war had claimed.
But Shaw admitted that, in general, “the military is a microcosm of American society and sure, there’s anti-Semitism there.”
Two Jews were among the Army’s 295 Medal of Honor recipients in World War II. In World War I, four Jews were among 95 recipients, none were among the 70 Korean War recipients and one was among the 155 Vietnam War recipients, said Padilla.
Such a medal “shouldn’t be given (out) lightly,” Shaw said.
But Seymour Reich, president of B’nai B’rith International, said the Army is “better to err on the side of honoring an undeniably brave man than risk begrudging a courageous soldier a grateful nation’s debt of honor.”
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, called the decision “unconscionable” in a letter last Friday to Stone. Foxman said the ADL had “worked on Mr. Rubitsky’s behalf for the past two years, since learning of the discrimination.”
Besides Rubitsky, Shaw is aware of one other Jewish veteran seeking such a medal.
Tibor Rubin, a disabled Korean War veteran, claims he risked his life to save the lives of 35 fellow prisoners of war. Rubin said he stole food and supplies for his dying comrades and tended to their wounds.
The JWV last year kicked off a nationwide campaign to have the Army issue a medal to Rubin.