By Harold Katz
Together, Hugh and I left our studies at the Harvard Law School in 1947 to volunteer for Aliyah Bet and our bond became indissoluble. He came on as a seaman aboard the “Hatikvah.” When the British Marines came to board us as we approached Haifa with our ma’apilim in June of that year, Hugh was in the forefront of the fighting until truncheons and guns subdued us. In the Cyprus camp, it was Hugh McDonald whom the Haganah selected to break out through the barbed wire enclosures and to return at midnight with an inner tube loaded with gelignite and detonators slung around his shoulders, explosives intended for detonating and sinking one of the British ships which regularly transported the ma’apilim to and from Cyprus detention camps. Hugh crawled the last hundred yards back into the camp under fire from a British sentry.
We subsequently smuggled the explosives through British control, miraculously passing body searches, while we boarded the prison ship which was to carry us to Palestine. A bomb was to be placed in a lower hold in protest against the deportation just then of the “Exodus” refugees back to Hamburg. Again, when one man was needed to do the risky work of descending into the hold, where, if a British sailor were to be encountered, he was to be silenced, the Haganah chose Hugh McDonald. The “Empire Lifeguard” was, indeed, sunk alongside the dock upon arrival in Haifa. We were interned in the Atlit detention camp – and then escaped, Hugh in an empty packing crate. Throughout, Hugh’s courage and charisma affected all who knew him.
It would be wrong, profoundly unjust, to think this an expression of mere bravado, for Hugh McDonald was one of the selected few in our elitist world who believed that there is a right and there is a wrong; truth is not a relative value but an absolute one; that there is a divine authority and that the Bible, old and new, has operative value.
Note: Hugh McDonald was born in San Francisco on 20th July, 1920 and died in August 2001.
Source: American Veterans of Israel Newsletter: Fall 2001