By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Gitell on Jewish war veterans

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.)

Seth writes:

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.

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  1. Rick in Duxbury

    I’m guessing that whenever the word “Vietnam” comes up at New School cocktail parties, it is responded to by the words “ixnay on the Amnay”….

  2. Dunwich

    While they have names on “The Wall” I would not think that Jews as a group would rank high amongst those who sacrificed greatly in Vietnam. At the time, the draft was primarily aimed at the poor and under-educated. College plans allowed for deferments. It wasn’t until the lottery arrived in 1970 that across-the-board military service became a reality.

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