Report by Joe Woolf of Israel
On September 7th, 1948, the two platoon strong “B” company of the 72nd Infantry Battalion, each led by a “Sabra” officer, were sent up through the village of Tamra to remove a troublesome group of observers and snipers from Kaukji’s Arab Liberation Army. Perched on the top of Kabul Mountain they enjoyed a perfect view of the coastal plain all the way to the Mediterranean.
All the men were Machal, from diverse countries – U.K., Canada, South Africa, U.S.A., Belgium, Costa-Rica, Holland, India, Kenya, Norway, and Sweden.
At first light all hell broke loose when the enemy racked our positions with well-placed machine guns, and in the hectic engagement we were almost forced off the hill.
A wild charge by some fifteen men of No. 2 Platoon led by Sabra officer Zachariah Feldman and South African Platoon Sergeant Jeff Perlman saved the situation and our force remained in possession of the peak.
Three soldiers, Shlomo Bornstein of the U.K., Benjamin Ze’ev Hershberg of Belgium, and Sydney Leisure of Canada, were killed in the clash, and about a dozen were wounded.
South African combat medic “Locky” Fainman was cited for bravery and the recently (April 2008) found official recommendation signed by his superior, reads as follows:
“In the action at Tamra 7th September 1948, Private Lawrence Fainman, No. 53538, combat medic, displayed cool courage and determination under heavy fire, crawling and running to treat wounded men; on one occasion personally operating a Spandau machine gun of one of the wounded. His cool courage saved the lives of numerous wounded and inspired others around him.
The above showed personal valour in evacuating the wounded on the field of battle. I therefore recommend the decoration of bravery for this individual act of heroism”.
Confirming the recommendation, the 72nd Battalion Commander, Jack Lichtenstein wrote: “that the soldier, Lawrence Fainman, should receive the Decoration of Bravery for his action as medic beyond the call of duty”.
“B”Company was first commanded by American Norman Schutzman, and later by British non-Jew Derek Bowden who commanded the amalgamated “B” and “D” Companies.
Another official recommendation was also found in 2008 concerning a British Machal sapper of the 72nd Battalion. His superior had recorded:
“On the opening of the Hiram Operation 29th/30th October 1948, following our successful demolition with explosives of the bridge on the Meron Road leading to Kfar Samoi, the sound of vehicles approaching was heard. I asked for volunteers to investigate the potential danger.
Sapper Private Emanual Swift, No. 79788, did so, and also started to move rocks to build a temporary defensive position. This soldier was hit by enemy fire on the left arm. Not realizing that he had been hit, he continued to pile up the required rocks, and only after much loss of blood did he discover that he had been wounded..
The above excelled himself in this operation”.
72nd Battalion Commander Jack Lichtenstein confirmed the citation as follows:
“According to the recommendation concerning his behaviour in battle, I absolutely approve the Decoration of Excellence” for the abovementioined soldier”.
1. Lichtenstein was not Machal, but a veteran American Chalutz of the 1930’s.
2. Ben-Gurion, also Minister of Defence, received many such recommendations but only approved 12 awards, one for each of the 12 ground brigades.