From Latin Crosses to Jewish Stars of David: Operation Benjamin and the American Battle Monuments Commission Rededicate the Final Resting Place for Five Jewish Soldiers Buried in Manila American Cemetery
The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), in coordination with Operation Benjamin, today replaced the Latin Cross headstones marking the graves of five Jewish US soldiers buried in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial with Star of David headstones.
These actions correct errors that had persisted for nearly 75 years until they were discovered by Operation Benjamin, a U.S. based organization whose mission is to ensure that Jewish American soldiers, who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, are buried under headstones that correctly reflect their faith.
Today’s ceremony was made possible by inquiries made by the relatives of the fallen soldiers to ABMC, which oversees American military cemeteries around the world, with historical research and support from Operation Benjamin.
The soldiers honored today are: 1Lt. Robert S. Fink (Plot A, Row 7, Grave 79), Pvt. Allan C. Franken (Plot A, Row 14, Grave 131), Sgt. Jack Gilbert (Plot A, Row 4, Grave 96), Pvt. Arthur Waldman (Plot E, Row 10, Grave 56), and Pvt. Louis Wolf (Plot E, Row, Grave 33).
“Today, we gathered on the sacred grounds of Manila American Cemetery to correct the historical narratives of five of our honored dead,” said William M. Matz, secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission. “These young men left their families, the comfort of their homes and their faith communities, to answer their nation’s call. While we might never know exactly how the errors to their narratives were made – whether it was the chaos of conflict, a clerical error or personal omission due to the persecution of the Jewish people by the enemy -- today, we erased those errors.”
“Jewish soldiers have served with pride, courage and conviction in the US Armed Forces dating back to the colonial era, many sacrificing their lives to protect and defend the United States of America,” said Shalom Lamm, Founder of Operation Benjamin. “To have the opportunity to honor these soldiers and to bring some measure of comfort to their families - as well as pride to the global Jewish community - is a special and unique mission and one we undertake with the utmost love and respect.”
“In Jewish custom, honoring and respecting the dead is the greatest of all good deeds (mitzvot) as it can never be repaid,” said Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, Co-Founder of Operation Benjamin and University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought, Yeshiva University. “We are blessed to have such excellent partners as our colleagues at the ABMC to guide us and work beside us as we rededicate and sanctify the final resting place for these Jewish American heroes. We also believe it is important that when people visit these cemeteries - whether in person or virtually - they realize that more American Jews made the ultimate sacrifice than what may be commonly thought.”
Operation Benjamin is named for Benjamin Garadetsky, a US serviceman killed in 1944 during a Luftwaffe bombing of the 2nd Armored Division positions. Garadetsky was laid to rest in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, mistakenly buried underneath a Latin Cross. His headstone was changed to a Star of David in 2018. The organization has also led the efforts resulting in the change of the headstones on the graves of the brothers Charles (also buried in Normandy) and Frank (buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium) Solomon, killed in action two months apart during WWII.
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About American Battle Monuments Commission:
This independent agency of the American federal government honors the services, the actions and the sacrifices of the American Armed Forces who served on foreign soil since April 6, 1917. ABMC administers, operates and maintains 26 permanent American burial grounds and 29 separate memorials, monuments and marks, on foreign soil. It also maintains three memorials in the United States.
About American Overseas Memorial Day Association:
The AOMDA was founded in 1920 to honor the memory of the American victims of the two world wars who lay in American military cemeteries and in isolated graves in Europe. The AOMDA also helps to coordinate and sponsors the Memorial Day ceremonies in the American military cemeteries in Europe.
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