On 17th July 1947,a rickety old steamer named the President Warfield was renamed Exodus 1947. In an open sea ceremony, the Zionist blue-white flag with the Star of David was hoisted and “Hatikvah, (the Hope)” which eventually became the Israeli national anthem, was sung over and over. The Exodus 1947 became Israel’s first ship of state.
Forget what you saw in the movie “Exodus” Paul Newman wasn’t there and the British were much more brutal than portrayed in the movie.
With the White Paper of 1939 the British caved into Arab pressure (as they have done before and as they still do today). The Paper severely limited the number of Jews that could enter what was then called Palestine. The White Paper meant that Great Britain was sentencing thousands of Jews who could have escaped the Holocaust to death. The US refused to take them onto American soil FDR believed there were already too many Jews in the U.S. and Churchill refused to take them on English soil or the Jews own homeland. So the Jews began to find ways to sneak Jews into the holy land. The most famous of those missions was The Exodus 1947.
Decommissioned in 1946, the ship the President Warfield was bought for $8,000 as scrap by the Western Trading Company (a front for the Haganah, which later became the Israel Defense Forces). Jewish-American Sam (the Banana Man) Zemurray was instrumental in obtaining the ship for the Haganah, which would explain its Honduran registration. It was said that Mr. Zemurray’s United Fruit Company, was pretty much owned Honduras. The President Warfield was refitted in Baltimore and sailed for France on 25th February 1947 where it picked up over 4,500 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.
During the journey, the people on the Exodus 1947 prepared to be intercepted. The ship was divided into sections staffed by different groups and each went through practice resistance sessions. The training came in handy as the night after the renaming ceremony, two British destroyers rammed the “Exodus 1947″ from both sides, damaging the hull, railings and lifeboats. It was boarded by sailors and Royal Marines and a desperate struggle developed. The Jewish refugees fought back, using tin cans, screwdrivers, potatoes, bottles, wooden boards and metal bars as weapons.
As described by a refugee Noah Klieger, “we were determined not to surrender the ship to the British without a fight. It was an unequal battle, and eventually the Royal Navy boarding party, using truncheons and light firearms, succeeded in bringing the Exodus” under its control. The clash had lasted several hours and resulted in three deaths –- Second Officer William (Bill) Bernstein, an American Aliyah Bet volunteer crew member was found clubbed to death, a 15-year-old refugee Zvi Jakubowitz, and one other died of bullet wounds. Some 150 were injured, including other American volunteer crew members.”