Treasure Trove: Mickey Marcus, the American who was the Israeli army’s first general

Mickey Marcus

David “Mickey” Marcus was a colonel in the United States Army in 1947, when David Ben-Gurion asked him to recruit a military adviser to design the future State of Israel’s army. Not finding anyone suitable, Marcus volunteered to do it himself. The army permitted this so long as Marcus disguised his name, so he became “Michael Stone.”

Marcus was Israel’s first general and designed the command-and-control structure of the army, adapting his American experience in the Second World War. In 1948, he built the “Burma Road,” an alternate route from the coast to break the siege of Jerusalem.

Marcus was fatally shot 75 years ago, on June 10, 1948 by an Israeli soldier on guard duty. Marcus did not know much Hebrew, and the soldier did not know English, resulting in tragic confusion when a password could not be provided as Marcus returned to his base at night.

He was buried at the military cemetery at West Point, the only soldier interred there who was killed while fighting for a foreign army.

Marcus was portrayed by Kirk Douglas in the 1966 Hollywood film Cast a Giant Shadow. This image is from the Life in Israel Coloring Book published by the Ktav Publishing House (New York) in 1949.