Old soldiers never die

A British vets group unveils a computer archive at Ammunition Hill.

jewish allies 88 (photo credit: )
jewish allies 88
(photo credit: )
A group of World War II veterans of the British and American armies dedicated a computerized archive of 60,000 Jewish Allied servicemen from Britain recently at the new annex to the Ammunition Hill Museum. The two touch-screen computers virtually link the Jewish Military Museum in London with the Six Day War battlefield site, in what Ammunition Hill Association chairman Moshe "Katcha" Cahaner hopes will become a permanent exhibit of Jewish military heroism from across the world. The database, known as the Jewish Record of Honor, was created by Gerry Bean, a past national chairman of Britain's Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX). Bean, who passed away last year, dedicated six years to collating the record, which is based on the overlapping card files and documents kept by wartime Jewish chaplains, the British armed forces and AJEX's own roster. The organization donated 10,000 to the Jerusalem museum, along with the database and computers. Sixteen ex-servicemen and their wives were on-hand for the ceremony. Among them were Leslie Sutton, a Royal Air Force vet who stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy on the June 6, 1944, D-Day landing together with the American First Army, AJEX's national chairman Harold Newman and Peter Wagerman, the organization's national deputy chairman. The still incomplete Ammunition Hill Museum Annex, designed by local architect Ari Avrahami, is being built by the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Hayesod, and the Jewish National Fund. Ammunition Hill owes its name to Gen. Edmund Allenby, who developed the hilltop as a weapons depot for the British Army after capturing Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks in December of 1917, during World War I. After the British withdrew from Palestine in 1948, the strategic hill and its police station were taken over by Jordan's Arab Legion. In the ensuing 19 years, the site was heavily fortified with a series of reinforced trenches and concrete bunkers. The task of capturing the fort was given to the Israeli 3rd company of the 66th regiment of the Paratrooper Brigade's reserve force (55th brigade), led by Mordechai Gur. At 2:30 a.m. on June 6, 1967, the paratroopers stormed the hill in a ferocious four-hour battle that cleared the way for the attack on the Old City and the reunification of Jerusalem. During the battle, they were joined by a force of the 2nd company. Facing the attackers were a well dug-in Jordanian company of 150 soldiers of the el-Hussein regiment . Thirty-six Israelis and 71 Arab Legionnaires lost their lives before the main bunker was blown up. The battle became synonymous with the heroism and self-sacrifice of the fight for Jerusalem; the pop ballad Givat Hatahmoshet (Ammunition Hill), with words by Yoram Taharlev and melody by Yair Rosenblum, became a 1967 hit second only to Naomi Shemer's Jerusalem of Gold. The Ammunition Hill memorial site was inaugurated in 1975, preserving part of the destroyed, bullet-scarred Jordanian post and adding a museum with a wall honoring the 182 Israeli soldiers killed in the 1967 battle for Jerusalem. In 1987 the site was declared a national memorial, and each year the main ceremony of Jerusalem Day is held there.