Remembrance of WWII British General Orde Wingate Held at ANC

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 9/14/2023

“We are rightly celebrating Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate’s contribution to Israel and his very strong support for the creation of a Jewish state,” said Dame Karen Pierce, the British Ambassador to the United States, to a small crowd gathered in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery, a few feet from the headstone bearing Wingate’s name. About 30 people, mostly British and Israeli officials along with American Jewish war veterans, came together to honor Wingate on Sept. 8, 2023.

Wingate, best known for his exploits in World War II’s China-Burma-India Theater, had previously served in the British Mandate of Palestine (modern Israel). During a Palestinian uprising in the 1930s, he trained and led teams of Jewish commandos against guerrillas trying to attack Jewish communities. He died in an airplane crash on March 24, 1944 and was initially buried with the American crew of his B-25 Mitchell bomber. After the war, they received a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Hosted by retired Army Col. Barry Lischinsky, the national commander of the Jewish War Veterans (JWV), the event included the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthems of Great Britain, Israel. and the United States. A prayer from Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum honored Gen. Wingate’s ultimate sacrifice. “There is no greater mitzvah [good deed] than this.” 

Eliav Benjamin, the deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy, followed Dame Pierce at the podium. “Orde Wingate is seen as a hero by so many Israelis,” he said. “He was not Jewish but was a strong advocate for the Jews in Israel and an impeccable advocate for Jewish statehood.” Benjamin then went on to list places, buildings and streets throughout Israel bearing Wingate’s name. “He deserves the memory and the honor.”

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Nelson L. Mellitz, a past JWV national commander, concluded the remarks by talking about Wingate’s leadership during the revolt. “The Jews really didn’t have a defense,” he said, until Wingate created a force of Jewish commandos. Mellitz then read the names of the five Americans and three British service members who died with Wingate.

After their comments concluded, Dame Pierce, Mr. Benjamin and Col. Lischinsky laid a wreath at Wingate’s headstone while a bugler sounded Taps.

The crowd included two high-ranking British officers and an American World War II veteran. British Rear Adm. Tim Woods reflected that the ceremony “captured how much [Wingate’s] memory is cherished by Jewish war veterans and Israel, as well as the United Kingdom.” Col. Alcuin Johnson, who once served in the unit Wingate commanded during World War II, took pride in the general’s three Distinguished Service Order awards, the United Kingdom’s highest award for military leadership. World War II Jewish veteran Frank Cohen concurred, stating, “I think it’s important that we express our appreciation in the way Wingate treated the Jewish community, and it’s important for me to be here to join that.”