Leon Uris: Life of a Best Seller

By Ira B. Nadel | Go to book overview
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It took all my life to become an overnight success.

—URIS, 1984

THE DAY URIS DIED on Shelter Island, his first wife, Betty, had a stroke in California. At the same time, Rachael and Conor were preparing to board a flight in Aspen to visit him. En route to the airport, Jill received word of his death. They returned home to prepare for a funeral. At first, Uris wanted to be cremated. The thought of a burial reminded him too vividly of the mass burials of the Holocaust. But he was a marine and wanted to be remembered as one, therefore the possibility of internment in a Marine Corps cemetery appealed.

Uris called the Marine Corps Historical Library two or three weeks before he died to ask about procedures for a marine funeral. He made it clear to his cousin Herschel Blumberg, however, that if being buried in a military cemetery meant that he would be taking the plot of someone killed in action, he would refuse to do so. Throughout his life, he upheld the Semper Fidelis code of the marines.1

With the assistance of his cousin Herschel, the dedicatee of O’Hara’s Choice and himself a former marine, and Michael Neiditch, attempts were made to bury Uris at Arlington National Cemetery. Confusion over his war records prevented his internment there, but he was allowed to be buried at Quantico National Cemetery in Quantico, Virginia, home to more than 24,000 deceased members of the armed forces.2 Uris would have approved: the land was once part of a U.S. Marine Corps training base established in 1918. In 1977, the more than 700 acres became part of a new cemetery administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. On a hot day in June 2003, Uris had a full military funeral with honors, which meant an honor guard, a three-volley gun salute, and taps.

A rabbi and brigadier general conducted the service. The latter movingly read from the opening of Battle Cry. Both were unusual tributes for an enlisted man who had not risen above the rank of private first class. A letter was read from the commandant of the corps. The service, conducted in a gazebo-like shelter


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Leon Uris: Life of a Best Seller


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