Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

“Single Handed” by Daniel M. Cohen is a compelling true story of one of the most heroic men of the Korean War. At the time he served, he was not even a U. S. citizen.

Tibor “Teddy” Rubin was born in 1929 in Pásztó, a small village in Hungary. His and many other Jewish families lived peacefully with their neighbors, thinking they would avoid the horrors they were hearing about in the rest of Europe. But in 1943, as Russia was breaking through the front, Germany directed its ally Hungary to round up the Jews. 

Mr. Rubin’s parents sent him off with a group of older men who were trying to reach the Swiss border. They were all captured and sent to the concentration camp at Mauthausen in Austria.

When the Americans liberated the camp in 1945, Mr. Rubin was so grateful he vowed he would repay America somehow. Eventually he arrived penniless in the U.S. and in 1950, volunteered for the U.S. Army.

 At first he did not speak enough English to pass the tests, but that did not stop him. In fact, nothing much stopped him. He single handedly held a hill in Korea for 24 hours against waves of North Korean soldiers to cover the retreat of his company, and  braved sniper fire to save a fellow GI. Mr. Rubin was wounded, an injury for which he received two Purple Hearts. Most of his unit was captured and sent to a POW camp in North Korea. Mr. Rubin, who knew firsthand about the horrors of “camps” like Mauthausen, had also learned their unique first aid practices and how to steal food, experience that allowed him to share his knowledge with his fellow GIs by sneaking
food from the Chinese and North Korea supply depots.  

 His English was broken. As the only Jewish person, he looked different. He was different. He faced down a firing squad, giving hope to his buddies, and while a POW, was credited with saving the lives of some 40 American servicemen.

Although his valor was recognized by his fellow GIs and various army personnel deemed him worthy of some medals, nothing but the Purple Hearts ever materialized. His openly anti-Semitic sergeant never passed the recommendations up the line.

Finally, after 55 years, in 2005 President George W. Bush awarded Mr. Rubin the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. In the process of securing recognition for him, buddies came forward, Congressmen intervened, lawyers applied pressure and reporters pressed the cause. The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat that can be awarded to members of the armed forces. Below is part of the Medal of Honor citation.

“Corporal Tibor Rubin distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period from July 23, 1950 to April 20, 1953, while serving as a rifleman with Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division in the Republic of Korea. While his unit was retreating to the Pusan perimeter, Corporal Rubin was assigned to stay behind to keep open the vital Taegu-Pusan Road link used by his withdrawal unit. During the ensuing battle, overwhelming numbers of Korean troops assaulted a hill defended solely by Corporal Rubin. Corporal Rubin’s gallant actions in close contact with the enemy and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.”