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More than a century ago, Ellis Island opened its doors to receive immigrants in search of the American dream. Many of these immigrants and their first-generation American sons and daughters repaid America for her welcome with patriotic endeavors that preserved freedom and inspired others to share in that dream. Some sacrificed their lives. Others lived to be one hundred.

Those listed here are just some of America's outstanding patriots with roots to Ellis Island. Patriotism sometimes looms large, but often we find it in our own neighborhood. We celebrate all who continue to serve America and help assure the lamp of liberty stays lit beside the golden door.

    • Irving BerlinComposer of Patriotic Favorite
    • Michael StrankRaised Flag at Iwo Jima
    • Yogi BerraFought in D-Day Invasion
    • Ella GrassoBroke New Ground as Woman Governor
    • Abie AbrahamPOW Survivor at Bataan
    • General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret)Former Secretary of State
    • Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN"Father of the Nuclear Navy"
    • Bob HopeFriend to U.S. Armed Forces

God Bless America Irving Berlin
Composer of Patriotic Favorite

"God Bless America," proudly sung by Americans for generations whether in celebration or to lift spirits, was written by Ellis Island immigrant Irving Berlin. Israel Beilin arrived from Russia at age five with his family in 1893 and settled on New York's Lower East Side. Through a printer's error on sheet music for his first song, the songwriter's name was changed to Irving Berlin. As the clouds of war were forming over Europe in 1938 creating a surge of patriotism, Berlin rewrote the lyrics to a song he had composed 20 years earlier and called it "God Bless America." He donated the royalties to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, believing that he should not capitalize on patriotism. Vocalists from Kate Smith and Donna Summer to Lee Greenwood and Leanne Rimes are among the many who have recorded this patriotic favorite.

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Iwo Jima Flag Raising Michael Strank
Raised Flag at Iwo Jima

When Michael Strank arrived in America with his mother at Ellis Island in 1922, no one knew that the young boy from Slovakia would one day immortalize America's fighting spirit. Raised in Pennsylvania, Strank joined the Marines in 1939 and fought in the South Pacific during WWII. He landed on Iwo Jima in February 1945 as part of the 5th Marine Division. In the battle of Mt. Surbachi, Sergeant Strank led five fellow Marines in raising the American flag at Iwo Jima, one large enough, he instructed, so that "every Marine on this cruddy island can see it." The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the scene lifted the morale of Americans fighting overseas and on the homefront and remains an emblem of World War II. Sergeant Strank was killed by enemy artillery fire weeks later. The highly decorated Marine was eventually buried at Arlington National Cemetery in the shadows of the immense bronze sculpture that memorializes him and his comrades and remains an icon for the Marine Corps.

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Iwo Jima Flag Raising Yogi Berra
Fought in D-Day Invasion

Baseball fans who endlessly argue balls and strikes would no doubt agree Yogi Berra is one of the most loved of the New York Yankee greats. Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra grew up in an Italian neighborhood of St. Louis, his father Pietro having arrived at Ellis Island in 1909. With World War II raging in Europe and Japan, 18-year-old Yogi Berra joined the Navy. The future Hall of Fame catcher participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, volunteering for duty on a rocket boat that capsized off Omaha Beach. He was stationed in North Africa and Italy and completed his service in the United States.

Father Pietro Berra:   View Passenger Manifest  |  View Passenger Record  |  View Ship Image

Ella Grasso Ella Grasso
Broke New Ground as Woman Governor

Born Ella Giovanna Oliva Tambussi in 1919, the only child of Italian immigrants, she became the first woman to be elected governor in her own right rather than succeeding a deceased husband or acting as his surrogate when in 1974 she was voted the Governor of Connecticut. Both her parents came through Ellis Island from Italy just after the turn of the century. Ella Grasso's election as governor capped a long career in public service. She was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1952 and six years later became Secretary of State of Connecticut. In 1970, voters chose Grasso as a representative from the Nutmeg State in the 92nd Congress. Governor Grasso won reelection in 1978 but sadly resigned her office in 1980 due to terminal cancer. President Reagan posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.

Father Giacomo Tambussi:       View Passenger Manifest  |  View Passenger Record  |  View Ship Image
Mother Maria Natalina Oliva:   View Passenger Manifest  |  View Passenger Record  |  View Ship Image

Abie Abraham
Abie Abraham POW Survivor at Bataan

Sergeant Abie Abraham, whose father came from Syria through Ellis Island in 1902, fought with the 31st Regiment against the Japanese on Bataan during World War II. Overpowered by the Japanese forces, Abraham's Regiment endured the infamous Bataan Death March. From April 1942 until February 1945, Sergeant Abraham watched as 4,100 of his fellow POWs were tortured and killed. He began recording names, origins and messages from the prisoners on can labels and paper scraps, further risking his own life if caught. After being rescued, Sergeant Abraham remained in the Philippines for 2 years to help find the remains of his American comrades. He was also the key witness against Supreme Japanese Commander Lt. General Matasura Homma, who was found guilty of war crimes and executed.

Father Elias Abraham:   View Passenger Manifest  |  View Passenger Record  |  View Ship Image

Gen. Colin Powell General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret)
Former Secretary of State

Colin Powell built upon the values instilled by his Jamaican immigrant parents to become the first African-American to hold the office of United States Secretary of State. His mother arrived at Ellis Island in 1923. "By their hard work and their love for this country, they enriched this nation and helped it grow and thrive," says General Powell. "They instilled in their children and grandchildren that same love of country and a spirit of optimism." He joined the ROTC at the City College of New York and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, rising to the rank of four-star General in 1989. As the first African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Powell became a national figure during Desert Storm in 1991. Ten years later President George W. Bush appointed him Secretary of State, where he took a leading role in rallying America's allies in the war against terrorism.

                 Mother Maud McKoy:   View Passenger Manifest  |  View Passenger Record

Rear Admiral Rickover Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN
"Father of the Nuclear Navy"

Admiral Rickover, a graduate of the Naval Academy, played the role of father to the nuclear fleet, its officers, and its men. Born in Makow, Russia (now Poland) in 1900, shortly before the American submarine force came into existence, Hyman Rickover came through Ellis Island as a six-year-old with his parents. After serving in World War II, Rickover led the effort to develop the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), which went to sea in 1955. Admiral Rickover continued to direct all aspects of building and operating the nuclear fleet. Today's Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine, USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 709), part of the U.S. 6th Fleet, is the first U.S. warship named in his honor and the only Los Angeles class submarine not named for a city.

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Bob Hope Bob Hope
Friend to U.S. Armed Forces

Bob Hope arrived on America's shores from England in 1908 as two-year-old Leslie Townes Hope. The comedic actor's career took a life-defining turn, when in 1942 he decided to help entertain America's troops fighting overseas. Hope's partnership with the USO continued for five decades, with his final tour in 1990 to entertain troops in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. President Lyndon Johnson bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon Hope in 1969 for his service to the men and women of the armed forces through the USO. In 1997, the U.S. Congress designated Bob Hope the first honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces.

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If you know the details for another Ellis Island immigrant or family member worthy of consideration for this list, please send us an email with passenger name, date of arrival, name of ship, and special Patriotic contribution.


God Bless America — By Irving Berlin
Copyright 1938, 1939 by Irving Berlin
Copyright Renewed 1965, 1966 by Irving Berlin
Copyright assigned to the Trustees of the God Bless America Fund
International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted by Permission of the God Bless America Fund.

Iwo Jima Memorial, Washington D.C. — Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Ella Grasso — Photo courtesy of the Connecticut State Library

Bob Hope addressing troops in Vietnam — Photo courtesy of Hope Enterprises, Inc.

Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN — Photo courtesy of United States Navy (c. 1955)

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