Friend of Media Nation Seth Gitell hasn’t had to give up all his writing since becoming House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s spokesman. Recently he wrote a fascinating piece about about Jewish veterans of the Vietnam War, pegged to a book by Col. Jack Jacobs and Douglas Century titled “If Not Now, When?”
In the course of exploring Jacobs’ book, Gitell discusses his father, Gerald Gitell, himself a member of the Green Berets. The elder Gitell — who helped discover Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, whose “Ballad of the Green Berets” was an unlikely hit in 1966 — was an uncredited source of mine when I wrote about the 2001 revelation that former senator Bob Kerrey had committed war crimes in Vietnam. (Pay no attention to the date at the top of the page; it’s merely a script that displays today’s date.)
Back in the late 1960s, American Jews weren’t exactly renowned for their fighting skills. Jewish service in World War II (such as my grandfather’s) had been taken for granted as part of the total war effort America waged against the Axis Powers. But Jews as fighting men still hadn’t entered the general consciousness.
Indeed, as Seth notes, Jewish antiwar radicals such as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were far better known during the Vietnam years than any Jewish military officers. In that respect, Jacobs’ book is something of a forgotten history.