Category Archives: Military

A Glimpse of Humanity in the Midst of Wartime Atrocities

Entrepreneur and military historian Shalom Lamm has spent many years contributing to the Jewish-American community. Shalom Lamm’s recent work includes Operation Benjamin, a project that provides proper grave markers for fallen Jewish-American soldiers, including one who died following the Bataan Death March.

Most accounts of the Bataan Death March describe it as one of the most devastating events a soldier could experience. However, one soldier, Marine PFC Irvin Scott, lived to tell how an act of humanity by a Japanese guard saved his life.

Ill-trained and inexperienced Philippine and American soldiers were forced to retreat into the jungles of the Bataan Peninsula after a Japanese attack at Luzon. The Allied forces surrendered, but the Japanese marched the prisoners of war 66 miles from Mariveles to San Fernando in groups of 100.

Survivors witnessed their comrades dying from disease, lack of food, being run over by trucks or tanks, and being bayoneted. When they finally arrived at POW camps, PFC Scott and others were ordered to build a road to Tayabas, but Scott had contracted malaria and passed out while working. A Japanese guard secretly provided him extra food and medicine, which the guard hid in a banana leaf and dropped onto the ground. This act helped save Scott’s life.

An Overview of Manila American Cemetery

For decades, Shalom Lamm has leveraged his success as a managing member of Lion and Lamm Development into good works for his local community and the Jewish community at large. In addition to holding membership with the Hevra Kadisha, Shalom Lamm serves as a tireless advocate for the recognition of Jewish American soldiers who died fighting in World War II.

To support his interest in this area, Mr. Lamm founded Operation Benjamin, a nonprofit that works to ensure fallen Jewish soldiers are buried with an appropriate Star of David grave marker. Recently, Operation Benjamin collaborated with the American Battle Monuments Commission and the US ambassador to the Philippines to place Star of David headstones over the graves of Jewish soldiers buried at the Manila American Cemetery.

Since its dedication in 1960, the Manila American Cemetery has served as the resting place for 17,184 fallen American soldiers who served in World War II. The cemetery, which is located in the Philippines, spans 152 total acres and includes a white masonry chapel, as well as mosaic maps that recognize the achievements of the American Armed Forces. In addition, Manila American Cemetery honors over 36,000 soldiers missing in action, whose names can be found on the Tablets of the Missing.

For further information on the Manila American Cemetery, visit http://www.abmc.gov/Manila.

Operation Benjamin Coordinates Renaming Ceremony for Jewish POWs

Based in New York, Shalom Lamm has an extensive real estate leadership background and has overseen a variety of successful property rehabilitation projects. One of the founders of Operation Benjamin, Shalom Lamm is part of an organization that recently coordinated successful efforts with the American Battle Monuments Commission in burying fallen Jewish American World War II soldiers under the Star of David.

The five service members honored at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in February 2020 served in the Pacific theater during the war. They included one who died of typhus, one who was a victim of enemy shell fire, and another who succumbed to a gunshot wound. In addition, two prisoners of war died of hardship and starvation within Japanese prison camps.

A common thread among these men was that they shared a strong sense of patriotism, as well as a robust Jewish faith, and gave their lives for principles of democracy and freedom. They were among a Jewish contingent that made up approximately 2.7 percent of the total number of soldiers who served in World War II. What Operation Benjamin’s research revealed was that only 1.5 percent of American WWII graves bore the Star of David.

With personal omission and clerical mistakes two major reasons why Jewish Americans might be buried under a Christian cross, the aim of Operation Benjamin is to ensure that this situation is rectified as much as possible. Coordinated with the American Battle Monuments Commission, the ceremony in the Philippines included a Mourner’s Kaddish recitation and provided a sense of closure to the families of the deceased.

It represents just one part of an ongoing process that requires ample proof to be provided of each soldier’s Jewish identity before the renaming ceremony.

A Memorial to the American Soldier

In the last few years, Shalom Lamm has spent much time devoted to honoring Jewish-American soldiers who fought and died in WWII. Through Operation Benjamin, Shalom Lamm assisted families with having the markers on the graves of soldiers who fought changed to reflect their heritage.

Through Operation Benjamin, family members of fallen WWII soldiers were able to participate in a ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial that would honor their sacrifice by changing Christian grave markers to the Star of David to reflect their Jewish faith. The Cemetery is a beautiful monument comprised of 152 acres located on a plateau visible from a panoramic view.

The accompanying chapel is a white masonry building complete with sculpture and mosaic located in the middle of the cemetery. Twenty-five mosaic maps are located within the hemicycles and narrate the events of the battles that occurred in the Philippines and New Guinea.

Visit any time of the year, and the scene is picturesque and quiet, one that encourages reflective thought. However, one is easily transported back almost 57 years to the Battle of New Guinea, a battle where many soldiers lost their lives.

The Battle was a concerted effort of the Allied Forces and lasted a year-between January 1943 and January 1944. Described as a nightmare, the hostile terrain was filled a million with natural enemies, including the heat, monsoon rains, the morass of mangroves, and poorly constructed infrastructure.

Then, various diseases such as scrub typhus, dengue fever, and dysentery made the environment hostile. Shortages of supplies in a battle that often left the Allied Forces scrambling created the conditions for completing an impossible mission.

The scenes are similar to the excitement of an army advancing and retreating, artillery firing off and explosions filling the air as soldiers scramble and fight. Eventually, the Allied Forces overwhelmed the Japanese soldiers and won the battle, and the memorial in Manila would be a testament to the courage and sacrifice of the American GI.