Army Cpl. Tibor Rubin was not the average soldier in the Korean War.
The Hungarian Jew was a survivor of the Third Reich’s concentration camps who pledged to join the Army if he ever made it to America.
He made it to the U.S., joined the infantry, fought to his last round against a massive Chinese attack, and then refused an early release from a Chinese prisoner of war camp so that he could use his lessons from the concentration camps to save his peers.
Rubin began trying to join the U.S. Army in 1948, but he had to study English for two years before he could speak it well enough to enlist. That allowed him to enter the service in 1950, just in time for the Korean War.
Unfortunately, Rubin’s first sergeant in Korea was extremely anti-semitic. Multiple sworn statements from members of Rubin’s unit say that the first sergeant would make remarks about Rubin’s religion and then assign him to the most dangerous missions.
In 1950, Rubin was assigned to hold a hill near Pusan as the rest of the unit fell back to a more defendable position. Rubin filled the foxholes near his position with grenades, rifles, and carbines.
When the North Koreans attacked, Rubin fought viciously for 24 hours, throwing grenades, firing weapons, and single-handedly stopping the attack. Rubin was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the first sergeant trashed the orders.
Instead of receiving a Medal of Honor, Rubin was sent on more and more dangerous missions. In one, an American position was slowly whittled down by incoming fire until only one machine gun remained.
After three other soldiers were killed while manning the gun, Rubin stepped forward and began firing until his last round was expended. That was when he was severely wounded and captured by Chinese forces.
In the prisoner of war camp, the Chinese offered Rubin a deal. If he was willing to leave Korea, he could return to his home country of Hungary and sit out the rest of the war.
Rubin declined, opting instead to stay with his brothers and help them survive the prisons. In the camps, he ran a makeshift medical clinic, scavenged for food, and even broke out of the camp to steal supplies and broke back in to deliver them to other soldiers in need.
A grief-stricken American infantryman whose buddy has been killed in action is comforted by another soldier in the Haktong-ni area, Korea, on August 28, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Al Chang) (Cutline: National Archives and Records Administration)
For decades after he returned to the U.S., Rubin lived in relative obscurity. It wasn’t until President George W. Bush ordered a review of the denied recommendations for high valor awards that Rubin’s story came back to light.
In 2005, Bush placed the Medal of Honor around the old soldier’s neck during a White House ceremony.
The citation for the medal includes his solo defense of the hill near Pusan, his manning of the machine gun, his role in helping to capture hundreds of enemy soldiers, and his actions in the prisoner of war camp.
To hear Cpl. Tibor Rubin tell his story in his own words, watch the video from Medal of Honor: Oral Histories below: