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Leonard M. Kravitz

(1931 - 1951)

Leonard M. Kravitz was a Jewish American soldier who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in the Korean War

Kravitz, the uncle and namesake of Jewish rocket Lenny Kravitz, grew up in the Crown Heights neighborhood of New York City. His older brother, Seymour, served in the U.S. Marines during World War II and had returned home to neighborhood glory, one reason Leonard was so quick to enlist when the war in Korea broke out.

On March 6-7, 1951, Kravitz was serving as an assistant machinegunner with Company M, 5th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division during in Yangpyong region. During this battle, the enemy launched a fanatical banzai charge with heavy supporting fire and when the main machine-gunner was wounded, Kravitz seized the weapon and poured devastating fire into the ranks of the onrushing assailants. Upon order to withdraw, Kravitz voluntarily remained to provide protective fire for the retreating soldiers and fearlessly maintained his position. His retaliation caused the enemy to concentrate vicious fire on his position and enabled his comrades to complete their withdrawal.

After the position was resecured, Kravitz’ body was found lying beside the gun he had so heroically manned, and numerous enemy dead lay in and around his emplacement. Kravitz’ unflinching courage and devotion were honored with the posthumous presentation of the Distinguished Service Cross, the country's second highest military honor.

After the war, Kravitz' longtime friend Mitch Libman began to suspect that Kravitz had not received the Medal of Honor because of his Jewish background. “I came to the conclusion that they don’t give Jews the Medal of Honor,” Libman said. “And it was pretty accurate.” For decades, Libman contacted veterans groups and Korean War newsletters and told everything he learned to anybody of influence who would listen. He lobbied congress and in 2002, managed to convince Rep. Robert Wexler [D-FL] to sponsor legislation calling for the Defense Department to initiate an investigation. In May of 2012, Libman was called by President Obama to inform him that Kravitz would be getting the Medal of Honor. 

On March 18, 2014, President Obama awarded Kravitz the Medal of Honor in a special ceremony at the White House for two dozen minorities who had been overlooked for the honor because of their religion, ethnicity or race.

Sources: U.S. Army; Washington Post; The Daily Beast