Admiral Mullen told the story a couple of days ago about a man named Tibor Rubin. The Chairman recounted his tale because Yom Hashoah – this year falling on April 21st – is set aside each year to remember the six million or so Holocaust victims lost to brutality during WWII and the years leading up to the war.
â€œ’He lost his family to the Nazis and later managed to survive his own ordeal in a concentration camp,’â€ Mullen said, referring to Rubinâ€™s two-year confinement at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, before he was liberated by American troops at age 15.” (DefenseLink)
Such an experience is hard to fathom for most of us. No one would have thought less of the young man if he had slid into depression and isolation. But he didn’t.
Instead, he joined the U.S. Army.
Sent to Korea in 1950, he distinguished himself in conditions that would have destroyed a lesser man.
As a rifleman in Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, he was sent to a hill overlooking the Taegu-Pusan Road during the retreat to the Pusan Perimeter early in the war. His assignment: keep the road open until the 8th Calvary got through the chokepoint.
He did that, and he did it alone.
Singlehandedly, he fought back wave after wave of attacking enemy forces, inflicting a “staggering number of casualties” during his 24 hour fire fight. (Quote from his medal citation)
Later in the war, when Allied forces broke out and headed into North Korea, he helped capture several hundred North Korean soldiers. Several hundred.
In another battle he manned a .30 caliber machine gun to allow his unit to get out of harm’s way. In the end, wounded and out of ammunition, he was captured by the Chinese.
Initially, he was offered his freedom to go back to Hungary, where he was born, but he refused. Instead, he stayed with his comrades. On some nights, risking certain death if caught, he snuck out of camp to steal food from enemy storehouses for his fellow captives. His actions in the POW camp are credited with saving the lives of 40 other prisoners.
After his release and the end of the war, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor three times. But anti-semitism raised its ugly head, and his papework was never forwarded by his chain of command.
It wasn’t until September 23, 2005 that he finally received the recognition he deserved, when President Bush presented him with the Medal of Honor.
Tibor Rubin survived two wars, three concentration camps (two in Korea), and anti-semitism to emerge as one of our nation’s heroes. In the process he served as a living testament to dignity and determination.
As Admiral Mullen said in his Holocaust Remembrance Day message, â€œAs we pause to remember the 6 million who perished, let us also pause to celebrate the lives of those who survived — who went on to teach us the great responsibility of life itself,â€ he said. â€œIt matters what we do.â€
Tibor Rubin is our hero of the week.