Rubin, Tibor (Concentration Camp Survivor, Korean War Hero, Medal of Honor Winner)

Tibor (Ted) Rubin

On the evening of October 30, 1950, in the dark, early days of the Cold War, Red Chinese forces mounted a massive nighttime assault on American troops at Unsan, North Korea. As overwhelming numbers of communist soldiers attacked Americans throughout the night and into the next day, a rifleman with the Army’s 8th Cavalry Regiment took up a 30-caliber machine gun at the south end of his unit’s line, following in the footsteps of three other soldiers – all of whom had been killed at the post.

When the rest of the American troops were told to withdraw, the rifleman never received the order, and continued "steadfastly manning" the machine gun until his ammunition was exhausted, according to Army records. The brave soldier’s "determined stand" single-handedly slowed the advance of the enemy in his sector, allowing the remnants of his unit to retreat southward, and to safety.

The brave acts that saved his fellow soldiers that October day represent only a small portion of the heroism symbolized by Corporal Rubin. On one occasion, Corporal Rubin "single handedly captured several hundred North Korean soldiers" after the breakup of the Pusan perimeter. Sworn affidavits from Corporal Rubin’s fellow soldiers document how, in another battle, when his unit was retreating, Corporal Rubin stayed behind to protect the "vital Taegu-Pusan road link" his unit would use to escape. According to his medal citation, during a 24 hour battle, Corporal Rubin "inflicted a staggering number of casualties" on the "overwhelming numbers of North Korean troops" assaulting the hill where he was stationed.

Yet, despite his glory on the battlefield, Corporal Rubin’s bravest deeds are generally considered to be his quietest. In the degrading, brutal confines of Korean prisoner-of-war camps, Corporal Rubin – a Hungarian-born Jew who survived the Mauthausen death camp in Austria – applied the survival lessons gleaned from his 14-month imprisonment at the hands of the Nazis to save the lives of some 40 fellow soldiers.

After receiving a serious leg wound during a battle in October 30, 1950, he was captured by the North Koreans and taken to the Pukchin POW camp, known to history as "Death Valley," and later to Pyoktong.

In the camps, Corporal Rubin recalled that "the biggest killer was dysentery." He and his fellow soldiers had been captured in their summer uniforms, he said, and the winter cold was unbearable. One of Corporal Rubin’s fellow prisoners, Sergeant Leo Cormier, described in a phone interview with the New York Sun, sleeping among 50 men in a 9 by 12 foot cell. "You wake up in the morning, and you reach up, and the body next to you was stiff as a board," he said. He added "If Ted wasn’t there, none of us would’ve made it out." Ted stole from the guards and made little cakes with leftover grain that he hid in his pants legs. Sergeant Cormier, who weighed 80 pounds upon his release from the camp, recalled "It tasted like manna from heaven." Tibor also force-fed soldiers who no longer had the will to eat and did more that we lack room for. He is a recipient of the Medal of Honor and two Purple Hearts.

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Posted on August 22, 2011, in Military. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. What a great story. He makes me proud to be an American and a Jew.

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