Colonel David Marcus Playground
Colonel David Marcus Playground
In 1948 this playground was dedicated to the memory of Colonel David "Mickey" Marcus, an outstanding Jewish-American patriot who sacrificed his life during the struggle for Israel’s independence. He was born on February 22, 1901 on Hester Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. When David was seven, his family moved to the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. As a youngster, he excelled in boxing, baseball, and football. He attended Public School 109 and was graduated from Boys High School in 1919. After a year of study at City College of New York, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. Marcus’s engaging laughter and athletic ability won him the fellowship and respect of his fellow cadets.
After graduating in 1924, Marcus reported for duty with the 16th Infantry at Governors Island. He also attended night classes at Brooklyn Law School and earned the L.L.B. in 1927 and the Juris Doctor the following year. Meanwhile, Marcus resigned from the Army, married Emma Chaison of Brooklyn, enlisted in the Reserve Corps, and entered civilian life. Between 1929 and 1941, he earned a series of appointments: junior attorney in the Treasury Department, Assistant U.S. Attorney, First Deputy Commissioner, and then Commissioner of Corrections of the City of New York under Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.
After the outbreak of World War II, Marcus reentered the Army as a lieutenant colonel. He served as Judge Advocate and Provost Marshal and then worked in the Army’s Civil Affairs Division. Promoted to Colonel in 1943, Marcus assisted in the negotiation of several critical international accords. Though untrained as a paratrooper, he joined the D-Day airborne assault and parachuted into Normandy in 1944. For his service he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Ribbon, and the Order of the British Empire. Colonel Marcus retired from the Army in 1947 and went into private law practice in Manhattan.
For Marcus, the call of duty was loud and true. In November 1947 the United Nations voted to divide Palestine, then under British rule, into Jewish and Arab states. At the request of Israeli officials, Marcus arrived in Palestine to transform their untrained, unorganized forces into a modern army. After the British withdrew, Israel declared its statehood on May 14, 1948. When Arab forces attacked the next day, Israel was prepared to defend itself.
After a brief visit to America, Marcus returned to Israel to serve as supreme commander of the Israeli forces on the Jerusalem front. On June 10, 1948, just six hours before the first truce between the Arabs and Israelis, he was killed while inspecting his troops. Israeli official Joseph Hamburger stated, "We would rather have lost a battle than lose Colonel Marcus. His loss is a great tragedy to us. It is a fact that Colonel Marcus saved Jerusalem and you can imagine what Jerusalem means to us."
Colonel Marcus was laid to rest at West Point, and his funeral was attended by such dignitaries as General Maxwell B. Taylor, Lt. Col. Moshe Dayan of Israel, and Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York. Every year, a memorial service is held at his grave. Visitors have included Israeli Prime Ministers David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin. The 1966 movie, "Cast a Giant Shadow," told the story of Marcus’ military career. New York City paid tribute to its native son by naming this playground for him by Local Law 65 in 1948. The playground originally opened in 1935, and its area was increased the following year. During the 1948 ceremony, a bronze plaque on a granite plinth was dedicated to Colonel Marcus. The Jewish War Veterans of Kings County presented a second plaque in 1993. Student, soldier, public servant, and strategist, Mickey Marcus is remembered with pride at this children’s playground in Midwood.