Category Archives: Jewish Soldiers

Eric Greitens – Jewish Navy SEAL

Today’s Jewish Marksman is Navy SEAL Eric Greitens.  (Unlike Green Beret Lawrence “Super Jew” Freedman who was known for exceptional marksmanship, we’re just going to have to trust that as a special forces soldier, Eric can shoot well.  He does mention having extensive firearms training, as one would expect of a SEAL)  I just finished reading his auto-biography, “The Heart and the Fist.”

As a college kid, Eric boxed as a hobby and spent time on humanitarian aid missions to the Balkans, Africa and Central America.  A Rhodes scholar, he left the snobbish Ivy league world and signed up for the Navy, ultimately becoming an officer in the SEALs.  He served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kenya.

Eric has received many awards for his work with veterans, encouraging them to continue to serve society after they leave the military.  Among those awards was the 2012 Charles Bronfman Prize:

Accepting the Prize, Greitens cited his Jewish upbringing, and lessons learned in Sunday school – in particular, meeting Holocaust survivors who taught him lessons about the strength of the human spirit.

“What sunk in was more than the idea of ‘Never Again,’” he said. “It was the idea that even in horrific situations, people can choose courage and dignity.  People can survive.  They can move through tragedy, possibly stronger, to live full lives.

“Had it not been for that lesson, I don’t think that I would have chosen to go to work with refugees.  And had I not done that, it’s unlikely that I would be standing here today.  It was my experience in Bosnia and Rwanda, where people told me that they were grateful for the aid they received, but that they needed to be protected, that convinced me that there had to be a way to live a life both compassionate and courageous, to be both good and strong.”

I thought the book was a good read, it is not really a “war story” book as much as a message about his views on humanitarianism, and how they developed in his life.  I think he wanted to get across the message to the academic left that good intentions are sometimes not enough, and to the hawkish right that bullets are sometimes not enough.  He also doesn’t hide his criticism for some of the mistakes the US is making in the fight against terror.  It seems to me that Greitens suggests that while it’s great to have the best direct action commando forces in the world, we might be losing our edge in the special forces role that American Jews like Sid Shachnow worked so hard to establish and nurture with the Green Berets, i.e. really embedding, training and working with local forces so that locals can handle it themselves.  To oversimplify the matter somewhat, I think both men would suggest we still need to be more like the heroes in the movie “The Magnificent Seven” (based on Kirosawa’s “Seven Samurai”) and less like the Lone Ranger.

Well in any case, be sure to examine Eric’s organization The Mission Continues and consider providing him assistance.

Sid Shachnow – US Army Major General and Jewish Marksman

I recently finished reading the biography of Major General Sid Shachnow, a Lithuanian Jew who survived the Holocaust as a young boy.  He eventually emigrated to America and joined the army, and became a decorated war hero and a played an important role in leading and developing the US military Special Forces.

As for his being a Jewish Marksman, Shachnow’s biography reports that he earned both a rifle and pistol Expert Marksmanship Badge, and was a marksmanship instructor at Fort Dix.  Later, at Officer Candidate School he impressed his superiors by taking over a marksmanship class on the spot when the regular instructor suddenly took ill.

The first half of the book is a riveting account of his boyhood life in Lithuania, surviving the Holocaust and hustling to get by in Europe before making it to America.  The second half of the book covers his life in the Army, including joining the nascent Special Forces and serving in Viet Nam.  Shachnow was one of the first group of Green Berets, and eventually rose to play a key role in developing the Special Forces.  Overall, the book was a good read and I am glad I learned about a great Jewish American with a fascinating life story.

Joshua Wander – Politician, Prepper, Soldier and Jewish Marksman

Today’s Jewish Marksman is Joshua Wander.  From his website:

Josh Wander ‘Survivor’ received his Bachelor’s degree in Talmudic law from a prestigious rabbinical college in Jerusalem. He then served as a commander in the IDF and officer in the United States Air Force aux. before graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a Master’s degree in Public and International Affairs and a global studies certificate in conflict resolution with a regional concentration in the Middle East. Politically in Israel, he served as an adviser in the Israeli parliament and as the online content editor and political corespondent for The Jerusalem Post. In the US, he was an elected PA State Constable, an appointed Committeeman and a commissioned Notary Public. Wander has been assigned and loyally served in global hot spots including: Iraq, Lebanon, Haiti, Northern Ireland and Israel. A certified NRA instructor and a Range Safety Officer, he founded Jewish Preppers, People without Borders and the D4DR Club. He has also been featured in the National Geographic series “Doomsday Preppers”. 

1.  Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?

I was born in Mckeesport, PA. Went to high school in Baltimore, MD and moved to Israel where I lived for most of my adult life. I returned to the US several years ago in order to work on my degrees. I finished my Masters and then started my PhD.

 2. What do you do for a living?

Security Consultant, Politician and Student.

 3. Who introduced you to firearms?  How old were you the first time you went shooting?

My first introduction was shooting bb guns in my back yard as a child. I eventually, “graduated” to larger caliber firearms as I grew older. When I moved to Israel, I served as a commander in the IDF. I was in combat in Lebanon for a year and a half. I eventually became an NRA certified instructor if pistol, rifle and shotgun. 

 4.  How did you get involved in shooting sports?

I am dabbed in shooting sports over the years from CMP to Trap and Ipsc. 

 5.  What shooting sports have you competed in?  Have you earned any awards or classifications?

I have not formally competed, nor have I won any awards. (unless you consider army citations) 

6.  What do Jewish family members and friends think about your shooting?

There are mixed reactions. I try to get everyone involved by inviting them to my training courses. 

 7.  What do you like most about the shooting sports?

I love educating Jews about the fun and necessity of being proficient in shooting.

 8.  Do you have any goals right now in the shooting sports?

My main goal is training Jews in self-defense. I believe strongly that we are fortunate in this country to have a second amendment and that we should take full advantage of it.

 9.  Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers?

Yes! I run a website called, “Jewish Preppers” (jewishpreppers.com) Our goal is to spread the word about emergency/disaster preparedness. It includes a lot of information about defensive shooting and second amendment rights.  

Preparedness is a Jewish tradition. We have unfortunately had to “bug out” repeatedly throughout our history. From the Exodus to Expulsion from Spain, we have had to defend ourselves and more often than not, not having the ability to defend ourselves we have been forced to survive. 

Survival is the key to Jewish continuity. Fortunate are we in this day and age to have most Jews living in the United States, where there is a Constitutional right to bear arms and in Israel where we have our own army for the first time in over 2000 years. 

But the art of survival is not lost, we continue to hewn this skill and prepare for whatever the future may bring.

Mosollom the Archer

Joseph ben Matityahu (“Josephus”) was a first century Jewish historian, and is a somewhat controversial figure.  He wrote several histories of the Jewish people.  In one of his books he recounts a story told to him of the Jewish archer named Mosollom, who lived sometime Alexander the Great, so roughly 300BC:

As we were travelling towards the Red Sea, there was one Mosollam in the company, a Jew, and one of our horse-guards, that was looked upon to be very brave, and a famous marksman with bow and arrow.

As they were advancing on their way, a soothsayer, that took upon him to foretell the fortune of their voyage, bade them all stand, and they did so.  This Jew asked them what they stood for. The cunning man, showing them a bird, replied, “If that bird stands, you are to stand; if it rises, and flies on, you are to go forward too;  but if the bird takes its flight the contrary way, you must all go back again.”  

The Jew, without any more words, let fly an arrow, and killed the bird.  The diviner and his companions fell presently upon the Jew in most outrageous terms.  

“Why certainly,” says Mosollam, “you are all mad to be thus concerned about a foolish bird.  How shall that poor wretch pretend to tell us our fortune, that knew nothing of its own?  If this bird could have foreseen good or evil to come, it would have kept itself out of the way of this arrow.” 

I like that story.

Col. Lance DePlante – War Hero and Jewish Marksman

Today’s Jewish Marksman is another tip I received from a reader (keep them coming!). Reader Henry introduces us to Col. Lance DePlante:
Col. Lance DePlante (USA, ret.) 1962-1994 (Mother was Jewish) Born in Miami Beach, FL, 1939. Grew up in Belle Harbor, L.I., N.Y., Member of Far Rockaway High School Championship Rifle Team, Eagle Scout, Vietnam 1963-64, Dominican Republic 1965-66. Served with the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 8th Special Forces Groups. Received: the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with 12 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, personal security detail President Lyndon B. Johnson, at LBJ Ranch. Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Governors Twenty, President’s Hundred tabs (1984 #621), two time pistol divisional winner at Camp Perry (1984, 1985), Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge, Distinguished Rifleman Badge.

He is still a tremendous .45 pistol shot and leads in the state of New Hampshire’s BE pistol league. I am proud he is my pistol teacher, my banjo student and my great friend. A great American.
Thanks again to Henry, and mazal tov to him and Lance in their Bullseye Pistol competitions!

Lawrence N. Freedman (a.k.a. "Super Jew") – Jewish Marksman and Green Beret

Today, December 22, marks the death of Lawrence N. Freedman in 1992, a US Special Forces Green Beret who was killed in the line of duty at age 51. Among the many skills he possessed, Freedman was considered on of the top snipers in the US Army:
But as a sniper he was nearly without peer. Once, remembers Gale McMillan, a maker of specialty weapons, the two of them were testing night scopes at Camp Perry. It was a night so dark it swallowed up the faces of their watches. Freedman lay down, steadied his arm on a sandbag, and fixed his scope at a target no larger than a quarter at a distance of 250 yards. He squeezed off five shots. When they examined the target they found a single ragged hole through which all five bullets had passed, McMillan says.

Freedman was proud of his Jewish heritage, and took the nick-name “Super Jew” among his comrades. Please take a moment today to visit some web sites that discuss more of the life of this great American Jew:

Norton Schwartz – Air Force General and Jewish Marksman

Wikipedia tell us that:

Norton Allan Schwartz (born December 14, 1951) is a United States Air Force general who is serving as the 19th Chief of Staff of the Air Force. He previously served as Commander, United States Transportation Command from September 2005 to August 2008. As Chief of Staff, he serves as the senior uniformed Air Force officer responsible for the organization, training and equipping of nearly 700,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian forces serving in the United States and overseas. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the general and other service chiefs function as military advisers to the Secretary of Defense, National Security Council and the President. He assumed his current assignment on August 12, 2008.

Schwartz grew up in Toms River, New Jersey, the son of a typewriter salesman. The first Jewish Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Schwartz was a member of the U.S. Air Force Academy Jewish choir before his 1973 graduation. In 2004 General Schwartz was awarded the Jewish Community Center’s Military Leadership Award. In accepting the award, General Schwartz said he was “proud to be identified as Jewish as well as an American military leader.”

That’s all well and good, but most important to this blog’s readers is the fact he earned the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon. The ribbon is awarded for proficiency with either a service rifle or handgun, but we don’t know which one in General Schwartz’s case. I do not see a bronze service star on his ribbon in the photo, which would indicate he earned the ribbon with both weapons. I suppose for now it will be a mystery that perhaps one our readers can shed some light on!

Thanks to reader Brad_in_MA for suggesting a profile of General Schwartz!

Budd Gardstein – Jewish Gunsmith

A gunsmith is a person who repairs, modifies, designs, or builds firearms. Good gunsmiths have encyclopedic knowledge of firearms and their components, metallurgy, woodworking, machining, and history. Today we meet Budd Gardstein, a Jewish gunsmith and learn more about him and the work he does:

1. Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?

I grew up outside of White Plains N.Y. I now live in Laurel County Kentucky, in the southeastern part of the state bordering Tennessee and West Virginia. Here, kids walk the hills and streets with .22 rifles, 20 gauge shotguns, and fishing poles and nobody thinks anything of it. It’s a different world and I love it.

2. What do you do for a living?

As a gunsmith, I repair and restore guns, whatever my customers need: repairing broken stocks, hand-fitting custom scope mounts in the machine shop, and fine woodworking. I also do blacksmith work. Lastly, I am a certified Kentucky Firefighter– as a Gunsmith-Blacksmith I work to keep the guns firing hot all the time, but as a Firefighter I work to go to the source of the fire and fight it to put it out!

3. Who introduced you to firearms? How old were you the first time you went shooting?

As an adult, through military service. I served 4 years in the Air Force, including a year in Vietnam.

4. How did you get involved in gunsmithing?

It started by wanting to work on my own guns, and with a lot of effort I expanded out. I went to school in the days when they had shop classes. I took mechanical drawing, drafting, wood shop, metal shop, auto mechanics, and machine shop. Literally, anything I could get my hands on. I have always been working with my hands, and of course, I love good tools: Both hand and power. I learned well, adapted well, and I improvise as needed. To put it bluntly, I can fix almost anything.

5. Are you involved in any shooting clubs or sports? Have you earned any awards or classifications?

I do participate in Single Action Shooting Society (SASS “Cowboy Action Shooting”). But here in the Kentucky Hills people shoot as part of everyday life.

6. What do Jewish family members and friends think about your gunsmithing and gun ownership? How do customers and shooting buddies respond to your being Jewish?

I do not have much interaction with other Jews in the area. My customers have no clue about Judaism, I don’t think it crosses their minds one way or another.

7. What do you like most about your job?

I work on people’s guns that are their dreams. Some of the projects that come here have been in the family for generations, and have stories and emotions attached. Many are being given that special attention so that they can be handed down to grandchildren. We talk with everyone. We coined the phrase “Junk or Heirloom? You Decide, We Repair. I heard years ago “The Difficult We Do Immediately, The Impossible Takes a Little Longer”. One of my Blacksmith books talks of a man’s concept of “you have to be more stubborn than the iron”.

Many of the jobs that come here wind up more complicated than thought of at first. Often customers bring or send me guns that appear Dead On Arrival. They might be rusted solid, broken, missing vital parts. Some have not worked in a generation. Some would say that these are impossible jobs, some would not even talk with the potential customers. There is a lot of satisfaction in bringing a dead gun back to life. We are problem solvers. People’s treasures come in with all sorts of problems, and we talk with them. We try very hard to make the broken dream whole again and come true. The smile on the clients face shows me that we made the dream come true. That is very satisfying.

8. Have you ever done any gunsmithing work on a firearm with any sort of Jewish connection?

I don’t remember if I worked on Jewish guns, but I have worked on UZIs and clones.

9. Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers? Interesting stories, words of wisdom?

The biggest thing we should ask ourselves is what is our attitude towards defense of ourselves and others? Do we assume that people around us are safe, or should we be prepared for the enemy and other dangers at any time, as Torah tells us? And what about the safety of others, are we people who depend on others and just rely on 911 in an emergency, or should we be the answer? As a firefighter, we run in to fire when others run out…isn’t that part of what being Jewish is all about?

Check out Budd’s web site (http://www.buddsgunsmith.com/) which I’ve added to the links at the right. If you need a gunsmith, give him a call!

Hap Rocketto – Jewish Marksman and Marksmanship Historian

I was pleasantly surprised when Hap Rocketto contacted the site, not only because he is Jewish, but also because he gave a long list of additional competitive Jewish shooters I will be telling you about this year. Even better, he had a profile already composed, saving me time (I have so little of it lately!). First, Hap himself is a great rifle shooter:
Hap Rocketto was rated a Distinguished Rifleman in 1981. He is one of few who have been a member of both Service Rifle and Smallbore Rifle All National Guard Rifle Teams, where he served as both a coach and shooter. An NRA Smallbore Distinguished Position Rifleman he has earned Presidents Hundred honors three times, has been a member of numerous open and National Guard national championship teams, the 2002 Three Position Intermediate Senior National Champion, member of the 2007 US Championship Indoor Four Position Championship team as well as a multiple National Record holder. He is a member of the 1600 Club and has served as adjutant of the US Roberts Team as well as captain and coach of the US Drew Cup Team. Rocketto was a member of the 1973 and 1985 US silver medal winning US Maccabiah Rifle Team and a member of the Connecticut Shooters Hall of Fame.

Aside from his shooting accolades, Hap is well known shooting historian, and his articles appear in numerous publications as well as online sources. I particularly enjoy how his writing style brings his subjects to life, and he knows exactly which details to mention such that by then end of one of his pieces you feel as if you have personally met the person he covers.

I have previously cited to his work when I wrote about Morris Fisher.
But here are some sources for his other works, which I am sure you will enjoy:
http://pronematch.com/tag/hap-rocketto/
Hap’s Corner on the Rifleman’s Blog

Morris Fisher – Greatest Jewish Marksman?

Today on The Rifleman’s Journal (and also here) there is a great story about Morris Fisher, one of the greatest rifle shooters of all time. A summary of the article doesn’t do justice, just go and read it! If you must have the bare bones summary from Wikipedia:

–>

Morris Fisher (May 4, 1890 – May 23, 1968) was an American sports shooter who competed in the 1920 Summer Olympics and in the 1924 Summer Olympics. He won a total of five olympic gold medals. He was the author of Mastering the Pistol (1940) and Mastering the Rifle (1940).
He was born in Youngstown, Ohio, and died in Honolulu, Hawaii. Fisher frequently competed in shooting tournaments while on duty as a United States Marine. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Sergeant Major and in April 2009, he was inducted into the United States Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame.

So of course I ask, with a name like Morris Fisher….was he Jewish? I believe so, but could not verify 100% using Google. Here’s what I found:

1. Books.google.com gave me some hits, but only snippets are available:
a. American Hebrew and Jewish messenger, Volume 115, Issue 4:
b. Studies in the American Jewish experience: contributions from the fellowship … By Jacob Rader Marcus, Abraham J. Peck:c.

–>–>Jews and the Olympic Games: sport : a springboard for minorities By Paul Yogi Mayer2. Aside from the book snippets, a web site listing prominent Jews does identify him as Jewish (go to sports, then shooting).

3. On the blog Grunt.com blog I found someone posted “I think I read he is in the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. VERY interesting Marine. “ However, I could not find him in any Jewish Sports Hall of Fame lists on the Internet…

The snippets from the books are the most persuasive, but if anyone has more proof please let me know! Perhaps someday Google will publish the entire pages…or a Jewish genealogy buff will help me out.