A Pacifist at Iwo Jima

Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn from Pulpit to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Bloodiest Battle

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About the Book

During the 1930s, Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn was a distinguished scholar and vocal pacifist. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Rabbi Gittelsohn had a change of heart and volunteered to serve as a chaplain in the US Navy. He was the first rabbi ever deployed with the US Marine Corps, and he eventually found himself in the middle of the battle at Iwo Jima. At the end of the conflict, he gave what is one of the most renowned speeches of the war at the dedication of the 5th Marine Division cemetery, known as “the Gettysburg Address of World War II.”
This biography is based on multiple sources, including Gittelsohn’s personal papers, and follows his entire life, beginning with the Gittelsohn family’s emigration from Russia to the United States. From the growing antiwar movement after World War I, to the training of military chaplains and the anti-Semitism among their ranks, important events of the time further contextualize Gittelsohn’s life. Also detailed is Gittelsohn’s illustrious postwar career, including his service on President Harry S. Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights.

About the Author(s)

Lee Mandel is a retired U.S. Navy physician. During his distinguished career, he served on the staff of four Navy hospitals and served twice as a staff internist at the Office of the Attending Physician, United States Congress. In addition, he served as Senior Medical Officer aboard three U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. He has published in numerous journals both in medicine and history. He lives in Suffolk, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Lee Mandel
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Bibliographic Info: photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8741-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4676-3
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Lee Mandel traces the unique and well-documented story of Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn, grandson of an Orthodox rabbi from Lithuania who became one of the most famous (Reform) US rabbis by the end of World War II. Originally a pacifist, Gittelsohn found himself changed by the totalitarian threats of the late 1930s. He volunteered to serve during World War II as a military chaplain, becoming the first Jewish chaplain in the United States Marines. He survived the famous battle of Iwo Jima and numerous antisemitic incidents to thrive after World War II. A moving blend of social and military history.”—Richard Breitman, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, American University, author of The Berlin Mission: The American Who Resisted Nazi Germany from Within

• “Rabbi Gittelsohn’s journey as told by this amazing work should inspire everyone, regardless of faith or politics to dedicate themselves to service to others!!”—Rabbi Irving A. Elson, Capt, USN (Ret), director, JWB Jewish Chaplains Council

• “Lee Mandel has written a compelling portrait of Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn, the values that informed him, the events that transformed him and the moment–the Battle for Iwo Jima–that tested him and revealed his greatness. He understood the man and his faith. His portrait of the battle for Iwo Jima his compelling and he captures the struggles of a chaplain to support the Marines in the fiercest moments of battle. One comes away deeply impressed, profoundly moved, with a sense of gratitude not only for Gittelsohn’s brilliance and bravery but for Mandel’s ability to tell this most compelling story. The work is more important today than ever as patriotism is being trivialized and politicized and when so few understand the valor of the greatest generation as they faced their most difficult battle.”—Michael Berenbaum, professor of Jewish Studies, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, California

• “Roland Gittelsohn led an extraordinary life as a rabbi, pacifist, and World War II chaplain. Lee Mandel’s masterful biography does justice to the man, his beliefs, and his legacy.”—Irwin F. Gellman, author of The President and the Apprentice and Campaign of the Century