Some 75 years later – after a series of recent serendipitous moments and intensive research – five fallen Jewish American soldiers from World War II finally will be buried beneath a Star of David.
The unique re-naming ceremony is slated to take place in Manilla, Philippines, on Wednesday – coordinated by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and the founders of Operation Benjamin. The Latin cross headstones adorning the graves of five U.S. soldiers buried in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial will be replaced with the Star of David.
“We wanted to bring truth to the historical record. Amid a time of rising anti-semitism, it is important that when someone visits the cemetery that they see the physical manifestation of the Jewish men who bled and fought and died for the United States,” Operation Benjamin founder Shalom Lamm told Fox News. “The symbolism is important; these were people who were born as Jews, lived as Jews, and died as Jews. That heritage was important to them and their families.”
There are numerous reasons why a Jewish service member during the Second World War may not have been recognized as such on initial and then permanent burial – everything from clerical errors to personal omission to reduce the risk of persecution should they be captured by the enemy.
Often, Jewish soldiers had to quickly deface the “H” for Hebrew on their “dog tags” so as to not make themselves susceptible to Nazi targeting. On other occasions, it was a miscalculation that can only be contributed to the fog of war, the chaos and confusion, or because loved ones left behind did not have the money or means to correct the mistake.
Representatives of four of the five fallen will take part in the historic ceremony, along with blessings from the U.S. and Israel ambassadors to the Philippines. Together they intend to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish at each of the graves, Lamm said.