Headstone replacement service for fallen World War II airman

The gravestone of an American soldier killed in the Second World War was changed to one featuring a Star of David in keeping with his preferences.

A headstone replacement service was held on Feb. 28 at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, according to a report March 3 on the United States Air Force news website, 15th Wing.

Staff Sgt. Jack Weiner, a navigator for the 345th Bombardment Group, died during an air raid on Aug. 10, 1945, only days before Japan capitulated. He was the sole son of his Jewish immigrant mother from Russia, and had enlisted even though he was excused from the draft.

Initially buried at Yokohama Cemetery in Japan, Weiner’s remains were transferred to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Mach 1949. It was during this move that an error was made, and instead of the Star of David, Weiner ended up with a Christian Cross on his headstone, according to 15thWing.

First Lt. Rabbi Levy Pekar, who serves from Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, told 15th Wing that he first heard about Weiner and the error of his headstone from one of the navigator’s relatives. He said it took some effort, but he was able to locate the Quarter Master General’s form that established ‘Sgt Weiner’s wishes to have the Star of David on his headstone.’

Pekar said Sgt. Weiner’s affected him on many diverse levels. With both of them being Airmen and Jewish, Pekar felt like Weiner’s story could easily have been his. Weiner’s story affected him on a spiritual level and as his duty as a chaplain, he realized they had to correct the error, Israel National News reported.

Over 30 members of the Honolulu Jewish community, both civilian and military, were present for the headstone replacement ceremony and recited Kaddish for Weiner.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE