They faced down nine Arab armies that had been trained and equipped and were in some cases even commanded by the British, lead among them the Jordanian Legion, which was then considered the Middle East's best army.
Israel alone, under an arms embargo and with a divided command, faced down the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Israel however was not entirely alone. While no Western nation sent military aid, foreign volunteers, some Jewish, some not, came-- often illegally and against the wishes of their own governments to help Israel's fight for freedom against the Arab Muslim tyrannies that threatened to crush its existence and wipe out its people. They were few in number but they mattered and made a difference simply by coming. Some never returned home.
These are some of the names and stories of the 40 who never came back.
Spencer Boyd, 25, of St. Louis, July 18, 1948. A veteran of both the RCAF and US air force, he and four of his seven passengers were murdered by passing Arab irregulars after his plane made a forced landing near Nabi Rubin, close to Rehovot. One passenger survived by playing dead. Two others had gone for help. Buried Haifa Military Cemetery.
Ari Lashner, 33, of New York City, March 15, 1948. An ex-US Navy radio operator, he came to Israel as a crew member of the Aliyah Bet ship Norsyd. He belonged to the Haganah Field Corps when killed at Kibbutz Kfar Blum in the Galilee by a sniper's bullet fired from across the Jordan River. Buried Kfar Blum, Upper Galilee.
William Gerson and Glenn King
Pilot William Gerson, 35, and flight engineer † Glenn King, 31, both of Los Angeles, April 21, 1948. They were killed when their C-46, one of five being ferried to Israel, crashed while taking-off at Mexico City after one of its engines failed. They were the IAF's first casualties. Both are buried in Los Angeles.
Harold Monash, 24, of New York City, April 23, 1948. An ex-US Army officer, he suspended his studies at the Haifa Technion to join the Palmach. He was killed in an encounter with Arab irregulars near Jerusalem. Buried Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim near Jerusalem.
George 'Buzz' Beurling
George 'Buzz' Beurling, 26, of Verdun, Quebec, May 20, 1948. Beurling was Canada's top fighter pilot of World War II. He and co-pilot Leonard Cohen, of Britain, were killed when the airplane they were preparing to ferry to Israel crashed at Urbe Airport near Rome. Buried in Haifa Military Cemetery.
Joseph Kahn, 40, of Los Angeles, July 17, 1948. A US Army veteran, he arrived in Israel on the Altalena and joined the Irgun Zvei Leumi in Jerusalem. He was killed in the joint Irgun and Stern Group attempt to secure a foothold in the Old City of Jerusalem. Buried Mt. Herzl, Jerusalem.
Leonard Fitchett, 25, of Vancouver, October 20, 1948. An ex-RCAF pilot, his Beaufighter was shot down by anti-aircraft fire while making a low-level attack against the Iraq el Sueidan police fortress in the Negev. Buried in Haifa Military Cemetery. The remains of his two crewmen, pilot Stan Andrews of the USA and navigator Dov Sugarman of Britain, were never found.
Edward Troyen, 22, of New York City, July 19, 1948. A US air force veteran, he was an IAF maintenance mechanic at Ramat David Air Base. Although not obliged to do so, he volunteered for a flying mission during which he was wounded by enemy fire. He died next day in a hospital. Buried Haifa.
Bill Edmondson, 21, of Chicago, July 9, 1948. A non-Jew of Irish descent, he was killed in an ambush on the road to Jerusalem. Buried Haifa.
Ralph Moster, 24, of Vancouver, December 7, 1948.
“. . . if anything should ever happen to me, I shall not be sorry that I’ve come to Eretz Yisrael. . . . I am grateful to you for having brought me into this world at such a time that I have a chance to fight for a free land for the Jews.”
-- Ralph Moster, letter to his mother, June 12, 1948.