On Aug. 12, 1953, a number of old frigate-class warships in Israel’s fledgling navy were on their way back to Israeli shores after four weeks of intense training in the Aegean Sea when a series of deadly earthquakes, measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale, struck the Greek islands. The Israeli fleet, 15 hours away from the site of the disaster, doubled back and sailed past the American and British fleets, which could not access the area due to the immense size of their warships.
Yiftach Kozik described the scene: “On the island of Kefalonia…not a building remained standing, and thousands were wounded in critical condition….The flotilla’s senior physician, Dr. Ashkenazi, along with his younger colleague, Dr. Seelenfreud, were in charge of medical treatment, distributing the limited medical resources, and performing triage. The Israeli teams performed emergency surgeries.”
Since the Israeli navy was the first to land on Kefalonia it took charge and also directed the rescue operations of the American and British fleets. For three days the 450 Israeli naval men struggled side by side with the Americans and the British to provide relief to the residents of the Greek islands, saving hundreds from a sure death and transporting 400 seriously wounded casualties to the mainland.
Since the Greek government had not yet recognized the State of Israel, official recognition would arrive only 37 years later. Read more at Huffington Post.