Tibor Rubin was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor and Korean War hero who received the Medal of Honor 55 years late because his sergeant was an anti-Semite.
Tibor was born in Paszto, Hungary in 1929. When World War II broke out, Tibor’s parents tried to send him to safety in Switzerland, but on the way there he was caught and sent to Mauthausen concentration camp.
American troops liberated Mauthausen in 1945, and Tibor was freed. He learned that his parents and two sisters had perished.
On his own, teenage Tibor emigrated to the United States, where he worked as a shoemaker, a profession he learned from his father. Tibor was a patriotic American, and in 1949 he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army, but was rejected because of his poor English skills.
In 1950, Tibor tried again, and this time passed the test… with help from some friendly fellow test-takers.
Private First Class Rubin was sent to South Korea with the 8th Cavalry Regiment. According to sworn testimony by almost a dozen of his comrades, Tibor’s sergeant Arthur Peyton was a raging anti-Semite who repeatedly sent Tibor on the most dangerous missions.
On one of these missions, Tibor single-handedly defended a hill for 24 hours against wave after wave of North Korean soldiers. Two of Tibor’s commanding officers recommended him for the Medal of Honor. Both men were killed in action soon afterwards, but they had already started the paperwork.
Sergeant Peyton deliberately buried the case.
Corporal Harold Speakman, who served alongside Tibor, said in an affidavit, “I really believe in my heart that Sergeant Peyton would have jeopardized his own safety rather than assist in any way whatsoever in the awarding of the Medal of Honor to a person of Jewish descent.”
In 1950, Chinese troops attacked the American soldiers now trapped inside North Korea, and Tibor was seriously wounded and captured. He spent 30 months in a North Korean POW camp – his second experience of extreme privation.
Suffering from starvation and disease, an “every man for himself” attitude developed among the captured GI’s. Only Tibor remembered the scriptural injunction to treat others as you would treat yourself. He snuck out of the camp every night to steal food from the Chinese supply depots, risking his own life to do so.
Fellow GI Leo Cormier said, “Tibor 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 man was the most important thing to him.”
The POW’s who survived their terrible captivity credited Tibor with saving at least 40 American soldiers.
After the war, Tibor worked in his brother’s liquor store in Long Beach, California. In 2001, the U.S. Military began investigating cases of soldiers who had been denied the Medal of Honor because of their race or religion, and Tibor’s incredible acts of bravery were discovered.
In 2005, George W. Bush presented Tibor Rubin with the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House.
Tibor died in 2015, leaving his wife Yvonne and two children.
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