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Congress approves review of medals for Jewish WWI vets

JTA

December 21, 2011 | 10:46 am

From left to right: The Army, Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard, and Air Force medals

From left to right: The Army, Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard, and Air Force medals

Congress approved a requirement for the U.S. military to review World War I records to determine whether Jews who received decorations should be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

The amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, which passed last week and will soon to be signed into law by President Obama, requires “the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy to review the service records of any Jewish American World War I veteran awarded the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross for heroism during World War I and whose name and supporting material for upgrade of the award to the Medal of Honor.”

The Defense Authorization Act shapes military policy and authorizes funding for the military.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) introduced the amendment at the urging of Elsie Shemin-Roth, whose father, William Shemin, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for service in France.

Shemin was a platoon sergeant who during a battle in Burgundy crossed through gunfire three times to rescue soldiers. The third time he sustained wounds but refused treatment because his commanding officers had been killed or injured. Shemin led the platoon out of danger.

Such valor, military experts say, would usually garner the highest honor, the Medal of Honor.

Shemin believed he was slighted, receiving the lesser honor, because he was Jewish. He died in 1973.

Shemin-Roth was moved to advocate for the review in 2001 after reading of similar laws requiring reviews of medals of minorities in other wars.

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