Edward D. Taussig.
(photo credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN)
The island of Guam recently became the topic of heated exchange between North Korea and the United States
of America. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened to attack US forces stationed there, which prompted US President Donald Trump to respond on Friday that the US army is "locked and loaded."
Trump also said that "if anything happens to Guam, there will be big big trouble in North Korea."
Few people are aware that the tiny island, which was given to the US by Spain in 1898 under the Treaty of Paris, can boast a little more than lovely beaches and hosting the US Navy and Air Force. Guam also has a little bit of Jewishness embedded into its American and military heritage.
The man who accepted Guam and kick-started its unique relationship with the US was Jewish-American US Navy commander Edward Taussig. Born in St. Louis Missouri in 1847, Taussig chose a career in the US Navy and inspired his children to do the same, leading the next three generations of the Taussigs to enlist in the navy.
The US Navy honored both Taussig and his son Joseph by naming the USS Joseph K. Taussig destroyer after the son and the USS Taussig destroyer after the father.
Guam was conquered by the Japanese in World War II, and was retaken by the US in the battle of Guam in 1944. The intense and bloody battle claimed the lives of 18,000 Japanese soldiers and 1,800 US troops. Some of the US troops who survived the battle stayed on to serve in Guam. During a festive Jewish New Year meal held in 1945, some of the 1,500 Jewish American soldiers who dipped the traditional apple in honey for a sweet new year remembered the bitterness and cruelty of that battle.
Guam can also take pride in another minor detail; in 1972, sergeant Shoichi Yokoi was discovered in the Guam jungles, making him one of the last Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender and held out, preferring a life of isolation to giving up their arms.
When he returned to Japan, Yokoi was interviewed by Tokyo radio and said: "It is with much embarrassment that I return."
The saying made him an instant hero and a symbol of old Japanese military values. He passed away in 1997.