Aliyah Bet & Machal Virtual Museum

North American Volunteers In Israel's War of Independence

A Tribute to Samuel Z. Klausner

Sam Klausner Obituary Photo

Samuel Z. Klausner was born in Brooklyn, NY on December 19th, 1923, and died in Philadelphia, PA on December 27th, 2021. In his youth, he read Torah and European Jewish poetry. He joined Zionist youth groups and was aware of what was going on in Palestine. After serving as a navigator in WWII in B-24 bomber aircraft, for which he was awarded two bronze stars, he earned a Bachelors in Mathematics from New York University. In 1947, he went on to study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but, for security reasons, classes never started. He went to a recruitment office, and when they found out about his valuable prior experience, they directed him to the Air Force. The problem at that time was that Jerusalem, where Sam was living, was cut off from Tel Aviv, where the Air Force was based. During the waiting period before he was able to get to Tel Aviv, he was active in the Haganah and was assigned to a Kibbutz south of Jerusalem. Its members launched a raid in Bet Safafa. There was a chance that enemy fighters might have followed the kibbutzniks during their return. To protect their return, Sam and another American took a position atop a hill with a Browning heavy machine gun.

There was a daily flight from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem around dawn that typically carried state officials. One day, the return flight was empty, and so Sam was allowed to board. In Tel Aviv, he was in his familiar role as a navigator. Whereas in the US military, navigators looked up locations in a book, in this role, he used stars and radio towers to provide a location. He guided the ferrying of munitions and unassembled airplanes from Czechoslovakia to Israel. An order he got at night told him to join a crew on a flight over Damascus. It was the only air raid in Syria during the war. On this flight, he was not serving the role of a navigator, but that of a "bomb chucker." Sitting on crates were 100-pound bombs. When the time was right, Sam and his crewmates pushed them out of the doors of the plane.

After the war, Sam came back to New York to earn his Ed. D. in psychology from Colombia, then returned to Israel for a teaching stint at Hebrew University. In New York again in the early 1950s, Sam started a fraternal organization that met at the Jewish Theological Seminary, attracted around 200 veterans of the 1948 war, and lasted a few years. Completely independently, in the 1960s the AVI (American Veterans of Israel) started gathering. It wasn't until the late 1980s that Sam got involved in that organization, but he soon became a major force behind it. In addition to creating its first website, he was in charge of its detailed newsletter and served as President. Regarding an exhibit at a Museum, Ralph Lowenstein, in the Winter 2006 AVI Newsletter,  "The absolute rocks of support for this Museum project were Si Spiegelman, Sam Klausner and David Gerard, three men who play a largely unsung role in holding AVI together year after year, and who played a major role in generating the member support for the project." In recent years, he had been working on a book about the experiences of Machalniks based on a questionnaire that hundreds of veterans answered. We thank Sam for his service to the United States during WWII, assistance to Israel during its precarious early days, and for helping us remember the actions of the American volunteers in the 1948 war properly.

See this Toldot Yisrael interview in which he tells his story, especially as it relates to Israel.

Read his obituary on

See an article in Jewish News (Arizona) that describes his Israel Independence war experiences.