David (Mickey) Marcus was born on February 22, 1901 in New York to parents who were rather distant from traditional Judaism. His grandmother, however, did her best to teach him prayers, the custom of placing a few coins in the JNF Blue Box on Friday evenings before the start of the Sabbath, and emphasized that she wanted to be buried in Jerusalem.
Upon completing high school, Marcus entered the US Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1924. But instead of the army he decided on a career in law and received his law degree in 1927, serving in numerous legal posts for the State of New York.
In 1940 he entered active service in the US Army, rising to the rank of colonel in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces(SHAEF) in Europe. He served in the Pacific theater in 1942-43. He took part in the Normandy invasion as part of a paratroop division and continued to fight until the destruction of Germany, when he was an eyewitness to the plight of Jews in the concentration camps.
He served as a legal advisor to the American delegation to the Yalta Conference and helped write the surrender terms of Italy and Germany. He received numerous decorations, including, in 1948, Britain's Commander of the British Empire.
In 1948 he was sought out and recruited as a military consultant to David Ben-Gurion and the Haganah.. He did important work in helping the underground forces' transition to a regular army, in logistics and training. He began work on the 'Burma Road' to replace the road to Jerusalem blockaded by the Arabs.
On June 10, 1948 he was accidentally killed by a sentry at Abu Gosh because he didn't understand the Hebrew request for a password. He was buried with full military honors at West Point Military Academy Cemetery, where his tombstone identifies him as "A Soldier for All Humanity." Hollywood would later immortalize Marcus in a movie, "Cast A Giant Shadow."
Ben-Gurion put it simply, "He was the best man we had."