Korean War Hero Receives MOH
By Beth Reece
Army News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 23, 2005 -- America’s highest military honor was bestowed on CPL Tibor Rubin Sept. 23 as President George W. Bush draped the Medal of Honor around the 76-year-old’s neck in a White House ceremony.
“He risked his life to protect his fellow American Soldiers… Those who served with Ted see him as a Soldier whose many acts of compassion helped his fellow GIs survive the nightmare of imprisonment,” Bush said to distinguished guests and more than 200 of Rubin’s closest friends and relatives.
A Hungarian Jew, Rubin was forced into the Mauthausen Concentration Camp during World War II at the age of 13. On May 5, 1945, he and other prisoners were liberated by American Soldiers. Then and there, he made a promise.
“I made a promise that I would go to the United States and join the Army to express my thanks,” Rubin said.
Three years later he moved to New York and said “I do” to Uncle Sam. One year after that, the Army sent Rubin to fight in the Korean War with the 8th Cavalry Regiment’s 3rd Battalion.
Rubin was taken prisoner by Chinese troops in the fall of 1950 at the tail-end of a three-day battle in Unsan. Having survived “a heck of a basic training from the Germans,” Rubin breathed life into his fellow POWs. He is credited with saving as many as 40 lives at Death Valley and Pyoktong by providing food and nursing Soldiers through such sicknesses as dysentery, pneumonia and hepatitis.
“Every day, when it got dark, and we went to sleep, Rubin was on his way, crawling on his stomach, jumping over fences, breaking in supply houses, while the guns were looking down on him. He tied the bottom of his fatigue pants and filled up anything he could get a hold of,” said SGT Carl McClendon in his nomination of Rubin for the MOH.
“He’d go out of his way to do favors to help you survive,” said SGT Leo Cormier, a fellow POW who traveled from Oregon to attend the ceremony. “I once saw him spend the whole night picking lice off a guy who didn’t have the strength to lift his head. Ted did things for his fellow men that made him a hero in my book.”
When the Chinese offered Rubin safe passage to Hungary, a Soviet satellite at the time, he defiantly turned them down.
“I wouldn’t leave my American brothers when they needed me,” Rubin said.
Rubin also protected his comrades on the battlefield. On Oct. 30, 1950, he defended his unit with a machine gun three Soldiers had already died manning. And earlier in the war, Rubin single-handedly defended a hill while his company withdrew on the Taegu-Pusan road.
When fellow Soldier CPL Leonard Hamm lay fallen after one of the unit’s many battles, Rubin fought to go back for him when the first sergeant issued orders to leave him behind. Rubin was pinned down by snipers and forced to low-crawl for several hundred yards when rescuing Hamm, whose body was so loaded with shrapnel that he could hardly lift a limb.
“Rubin not only saved my life by carrying me to safety; he kept the North Korean snipers off our butts,” said Hamm.
Hours before the ceremony, Cormier said he is both elated and relieved that Rubin is finally receiving national recognition for his bravery and sacrifices.
“I’m so happy for him I could cry. I want to be the first person to salute him,” he said, wiping his eyes.
Rubin was nominated for the MOH four times by grateful comrades. Fellow Soldiers say Rubin might have received the medal five decades ago if not for a sergeant who failed to forward recommendations because of Rubin’s Jewish and Hungarian heritage.
Rubin’s award is being made under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, Section 552. The act called upon the secretaries of each military department to review the service records of both Jewish and Hispanic American war veterans to see if they should have been awarded the MOH. Rubin’s case was accelerated because of the wealth of eyewitness statements, Congressional support and because earlier recommendations on his behalf did not receive due priority.
Ever humble, Rubin said, “The real heroes are those who never came home. I was just lucky. This Medal of Honor belongs to all prisoners of war, to all the heroes who died fighting in those wars.”
In a Pentagon ceremony later the same day, Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey unveiled a new Korean War plaque at the Hall of Heroes bearing Rubin’s name. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also presented Rubin with a MOH flag.
The Hall of Heroes pays honor to America’s most noble Soldiers, and is located in the second-floor alcove of the Pentagon’s seventh corridor. The hall showcases three versions of the Medal of Honor, as well as the names of MOH awardees.
“Many heroes are remembered in monuments of stone, but the monuments to CPL Rubin are a legacy of lives,” Bush said.
In the years since Abraham Lincoln approved the MOH, “we’ve had many eloquent tributes to what this medal represents. But I like Ted’s description. He calls it, ‘The highest honor of the best country in the world’,” said Bush.
According to tradition, five-star generals and even the U.S. President must salute Rubin when he wears his medal.
Rubin is the first Jewish American who fought in the Korean War to receive the MOH.
Damn, surviving a concentration camp and a North Korean POW Camp? I can't even imagine what horrors he's seen.