Stories of America's Greatest Heroes

Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.

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Tibor Rubin

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Holocaust-survivor and Hungarian immigrant Tibor Rubin received the Medal of Honor for his incredible resilience as a prisoner of war in Korea.

Despite saving the lives of up to 40 fellow prisoners, he served under an anti-Semitic sergeant who blocked his nomination for the Medal four separate times.

Learn more:

Ken Harbaugh: Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.

Tibor Rubin was born in 1929 in a shtetl in Hungary.

The Nazis occupied his home when Tibor was a teenager and he was sent to Mauthausen, a concentration camp complex in Austria.

14 months later, in May of 1945, Tibor and his fellow prisoners were liberated by American troops.

In that moment, he vowed: “if I ever go to America, I’m gonna become a GI Joe.”

And he did. When he was finally able to pass the English language test in 1950, Tibor enlisted in the Army and was sent to Korea.

But he served under a sergeant who was a raging anti-Semite, and who regularly sent Tibor out for the most dangerous missions.

One day, he was assigned to defend a strategic hill alone while the rest of his company withdrew to safety.

At dawn, enemy troops appeared and Rubin lobbed grenades at them for the next 24 hours, allowing his unit to successfully complete its withdrawal.

Just a few months later, Rubin was captured, and became a POW.

His captors offered to repatriate him to Soviet-occupied Hungary, but he refused, staying with his fellow GI’s in a camp they called “Death Valley” for 2 and a half years.

Rubin tried to keep morale high at Death Valley, where he was credited with saving as many as 40 of his fellow prisoners. He later said that he’d had “a heck of a basic training from the Germans”.

Rubin was nominated for the Medal of Honor four times, but it was later discovered that every one of those nominations was blocked by his anti-Semitic sergeant.

When Congress ordered the Defense Department in 2001 to review war records of Jewish and Latino servicemembers who might have been unfairly denied the Medal, Tibor was on the list.

He was awarded the medal by President Bush in 2005 and said that he was glad to prove to Americans that there was, in his own words, “a little schmuck from Hungary, who fought for their beloved country.”

The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to Thanks for listening.

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