Until the mid-twentieth century, the U.S. military almost disappeared between wars. The vast moats of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans provided the inestimable blessings of free security, and so the great armies of past wars quickly vanished. For most of our history, we have been able to ignore the much-quoted, fourth-century Latin proverb, “If you wish for peace, prepare for war.” Today, of course, we look back enviously on our halcyon past. After the cataclysm of World War II, the imperatives of the Cold War and of our ongoing engagement with Islamist extremism have required the maintenance of a powerful military.
Leo J. Daughtery presents the story of three Kentucky-based U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Companies—the Forty-seventh Rifle Company (Louisville), the Sixtieth Special Rifle Company (Owens-boro), and the Sixty-first Rifle Company (Lexington)—from 1948 to 1968. He discusses the determination of these “civilian Marines” to maintain a high level of combat-readiness. These Kentucky units made vital contributions to the Inchon landing and the fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir in Korea. Although they were deactivated in 1968, their legacy continues in their descendants in military lineage still existing in Kentucky—Echo Company of the Fourth Tank Battalion at Fort Knox and the First Military Police Company in Lexington. In fact, the Marines of Echo Company, Fourth Tank Battalion are currently serving in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom, carrying on the fine tradition of their predecessors. [End Page 133]
Lee Shai Weissbach’s essay on Kentucky Jews during the Civil War helps fill a significant historiographical gap since very little has been written on the subject. There were about twenty-five hundred Jews in Kentucky at the outset of the war with two thousand living in Louisville and most of the rest in Paducah and Owensboro. Altogether some eight thousand Jews fought in the Civil War. One late-nineteenth-century estimate has the number of Kentucky Jewish soldiers at thirty, but there were almost certainly more than that.
Kentucky Jews demonstrated the variety of Civil War commitments. There were Jewish abolitionists like Adolph Brandeis of Louisville, father of Louis D. Brandeis, and Jewish slaveholders like Sam Fechheimer who owned a large plantation near Rogersville in Hardin County. Jews fought on both sides during the war. Gabriel Netter of Cromwell in Ohio County, a Union officer, died in September 1862, leading troops in a skirmish near Owensboro. On the other hand, oral tradition asserts that Felix Moses of Florence hoisted a Confederate flag over the Kentucky capitol in 1862 during the brief Confederate occupation of Frankfort.
Kentucky Jews were closely involved in two significant civil-rights issues during the war. Bernhard Henry Gotthelf of the Adath Israel congregation in Louisville served as the second Jewish chaplain in the Union army after the restriction of the chaplaincy to Christian denominations was ended in 1862. Jews in western Kentucky vigorously protested Ulysses Grant’s General Orders, No. 11 of December 1862 expelling Jews “as a class” from the areas of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky which were under his command as part of his effort to stop illicit cotton-trading.
So while the experience of Kentucky Jews during the war reflected that of their fellow Kentuckians, Lee Shai Weissbach points out that they were also “intimately involved as American society addressed these fundamental matters of civil rights and equal treatment under the law.” [End Page 134]