Paul Newman revealed he was called an antisemitic slur while serving in World War II.
In the actor’s posthumous book, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir, obtained by Newsweek, the late star writes about an encounter he had with a fellow serviceman.
According to Uso.org, the Cool Hand Luke star—who passed away in 2008 at the age of 83—”initially enrolled in the Navy’s V-12 pilot training program but was disqualified upon the discovery that he was colorblind.”
Instead, the website states that “Newman served as a radioman and rear gunner for torpedo bombers.”
The Ohio native’s father, Arthur Newman Sr., was Jewish, while his mother, Theresa Newman, practiced Christian Science.
“It’s probably not a coincidence that when I served in World War II the only bloody fight I got into involved an antisemitic taunt,” Newman detailed in his book.
“I was based in Hawaii on my way out to the Pacific theater. There was a beer garden there for sailors, though you weren’t supposed to take the beer off premises.
“I figured a way to smuggle out the bottles, by wearing a denim jacket under which I could hide four or five brews inside my belt.
“The trick was you’d go over a back wall, then right back to your barracks with the contraband,” Newman said. “One of the sailors there looked up from his bunk and said to me that I owed him a beer.
“‘For what?’ I replied,” to which the man said, ‘You k***, you owe me a beer.’”
The American Jewish Committee’s website describes the derogatory term as “an ethnic slur for a Jewish person,” noting that “there are multiple theories about where the term might have emerged.”
One theory suggests that “it is derived from the Yiddish word for circle, kikel, a reference to how Jewish immigrants at Ellis Island [in New York Harbor] signed their entry forms: a circle as opposed to an X, which Jews associated with the cross of Christianity.”
Newman said that he “charged the guy” and “a big brawl ensued.”
“Though I wasn’t much of a puncher, I had practiced wrestling at Ohio University; I had an extraordinary sense of balance and could throw down an opponent, get on top of him midair and fall on him,” Newman said.
“When I landed on this guy, he had his arm underneath his hip and tore everything out of his elbow. When he got off the floor, he could only move one hand.”
Newman added: “No one bothered me again.”
The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir is available from October 27.
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