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Tibor "Ted" Rubin (born June 18, 1929) is a Hungarianmarker-born Holocaust survivor who immigrated to the United Statesmarker in 1948 and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Korean War by President George W. Bush on September 23, 2005. Rubin is a resident of Garden Grove, Californiamarker.

Rubin was repeatedly nominated for various medals and awards, but was overlooked because of anti-Semitism by a superior: according to the Washington Post, "in affidavits filed in support of Rubin's nomination, fellow soldiers said their sergeant was an anti-Semite who gave Rubin dangerous assignments in hopes of getting him killed."

Childhood in Hungary

Rubin was born in Pásztómarker, a Hungarian town with a Jewish population of 120 families, the son of a shoemaker and one of six children. At age 13, he was transported to the Mauthausen concentration campmarker in Austria and liberated two years later by American troops. Both his parents and one of his sisters perished in the Holocaust.

Immigration to the United States

Rubin came to the United States in 1948, settled in New York and worked first as a shoemaker and then as a butcher.

In 1949, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army, both as an assumed shortcut to citizenship and, he hoped, to attend the Army’s butcher school in Chicago. Knowing hardly any English, he failed the language test, but tried again in 1950 and passed, with some judicious help from two fellow test-takers.

Antisemitism in the army

By July of that year, Private First Class Rubin found himself fighting on the frontlines in Korea with I Company, Eighth Regiment, First Cavalry Division. There he encountered Sergeant Artice V. Watson, an anti-Semite who consistently "volunteered" Rubin for the most dangerous patrols and missions. This was attested to by lengthy affidavits submitted by nearly a dozen men who served under him, mostly self-described "country boys" from the South and Midwest.

On one such mission, according to the testimonies of his comrades, Rubin secured a route of retreat for his company by single-handedly defending a hill for 24 hours against waves of North Korean soldiers. For this and other acts of bravery, Rubin was three times recommended for the Medal of Honor by two of his commanding officers. Both were killed in action shortly after, but not before ordering Watson to begin the necessary paperwork to secure the medals for Rubin. Some of Rubin’s fellow GIs were present when Watson was so ordered, and all are convinced that he deliberately ignored the orders. "I really believe, in my heart, that First Sergeant Watson would have jeopardized his own safety rather than assist in any way whatsoever in the awarding of the medal to a person of Jewish descent," wrote Corporal Harold Speakman in a notarized affidavit.

Chinese POW camp

Toward the end of October 1950, massive Chinese troop concentrations crossed the border into North Korea and attacked the unprepared Americans. After most of his regiment had been wiped out, the severely wounded Rubin was captured and spent the next 30 months in a prisoner of war camp.

Faced with constant hunger, filth and disease, most of the GIs simply gave up. "No one wanted to help anyone. Everybody was for himself," wrote Sergeant Leo A. Cormier Jr., a fellow prisoner.

The exception was Rubin. Almost every evening, he would sneak out of the camp to steal food from Chinese and North Korean supply depots, knowing that he would be shot if caught. "He shared the food evenly among the GIs," Cormier wrote. "He also took care of us, nursed us, carried us to the latrine... He did many good deeds, which he told us were mitzvahs in the Jewish tradition... He was a very religious Jew and helping his fellow men was the most important thing to him." The survivors of the camp credited Rubin with keeping them alive.

Rubin refused his captors' repeated offers of repatriation to Hungary, by then behind the Iron Curtain.

Medal of Honor citation


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Corporal Tibor Rubin distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period from July 23, 1950, to April 20, 1953, while serving as a rifleman with Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Korea. While his unit was retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, Corporal Rubin was assigned to stay behind to keep open the vital Taegu-Pusan Road link used by his withdrawing unit. During the ensuing battle, overwhelming numbers of North Korean troops assaulted a hill defended solely by Corporal Rubin. He inflicted a staggering number of casualties on the attacking force during his personal 24-hour battle, single-handedly slowing the enemy advance and allowing the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal successfully.

Following the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, the 8th Cavalry Regiment proceeded northward and advanced into North Korea. During the advance, he helped capture several hundred North Korean soldiers. On October 30, 1950, Chinese forces attacked his unit at Unsan, North Korea, during a massive nighttime assault. That night and throughout the next day, he manned a .30 caliber machine gun at the south end of the unit's line after three previous gunners became casualties. He continued to man his machine gun until his ammunition was exhausted. His determined stand slowed the pace of the enemy advance in his sector, permitting the remnants of his unit to retreat southward.

As the battle raged, Corporal Rubin was severely wounded and captured by the Chinese. Choosing to remain in the prison camp despite offers from the Chinese to return him to his native Hungary, Corporal Rubin disregarded his own personal safety and immediately began sneaking out of the camp at night in search of food for his comrades. Breaking into enemy food storehouses and gardens, he risked certain torture or death if caught. Corporal Rubin provided not only food to the starving Soldiers, but also desperately needed medical care and moral support for the sick and wounded of the POW camp.

His brave, selfless efforts were directly attributed to saving the lives of as many as forty of his fellow prisoners.

Jewish veterans

The Jewish War Veterans Act (officially the Leonard Kravitz Jewish War Veterans Act of 2001, after another Jewish Army veteran in the Korean War, and uncle and namesake of Lenny Kravitz) established a review of Medal of Honor nominations for servicemen of the Jewish faith or extraction whose nominations may have been derailed because of antisemitism.

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