After a half-century, Korean War hero is awarded the Medal of Honor
WASHINGTON — Just minutes after Tibor Rubin received his medal of honor at a White House ceremony Friday, he announced he still wanted to do more for his country.
“I’m working on my second Medal of Honor,” the Korean War veteran said, smiling proudly. “This country has done so much for me. I never figured this was going to happen. I’m just as happy as I can be.”
Rubin was honored for his selflessness in battle and as a prisoner of war, actions which Army officials said saved hundreds of American lives. On Friday, several of those men joined top defense officials at the White House to thank and honor him for his service.
President Bush, who presented Rubin with his medal, called the war hero “one of the best ever to wear the uniform” and an inspiration to all Americans.
“Many heroes are remembered in monuments of stone,” Bush told the assembled dignitaries. “Cpl. Rubin’s legacy is a legacy of life. You can see his legacy in the families of the men he helped bring home.”
Rubin, 76, was born in Hungary and sent to the Nazi concentration camp in Mauthausen, Austria, as a boy. His parents and a sister were killed during their imprisonment, but Rubin survived for 14 months and was freed when American soldiers stormed the camp.
He swore to pay back the country for that freedom, and eventually emigrated to America and joined the Army. He was sent to North Korea in 1950 with the 8th Cavalry Regiment and distinguished himself for bravery in battle during several firefights around Pusan.
In once instance, Army officials said, he took hold of his unit’s only remaining weapon — a machine gun whose previous three gunners had been shot — and held off an advancing force long enough for his troops to retreat.
During that escape he was captured, but the North Koreans offered to return him to Hungary rather than keep him prisoner.
“My English at the time wasn’t so good, but I told them I’d have to go (with the POWs),” he said. “I wouldn’t want to leave without them, because I had my brothers there.”
In prison, Rubin snuck out of his barracks at night to steal food for weaker prisoners and acted as doctor and funeral director for the dying troops. Army officials said those actions also saved dozens of lives and kept other soldiers from giving up.
Military and Jewish groups have been lobbying for Rubin to receive the military’s top honor for years, saying that anti-Semitic officers kept reports of the corporal’s heroic actions quiet. For his part, Rubin said he didn’t mind the wait.
“I’m not angry with the Chinese, I’m not angry with the North Koreans, I’m not even angry with the Germans,” he said. “I figure the Lord is going to take care of them. So how could I be angry at this country, which did so much for me?”
Rubin is the 3,461st person to receive the Medal of Honor, first authorized in 1861 to honor valor in combat. Korean War veterans have received 132 of them.