For a high school dropout who failed English three times, Leon Uris had an outstanding career as a best-selling author. The Baltimore-born (August 3, 1924) Uris was the son of a Jewish paperhanger from Poland who had come to America after a year in Palestine.

Uris joined the Marines at 17, in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His service as a radioman in the South Pacific was the foundation of his first novel, Battle Cry, which he published in 1953, several years after being discharged from service and working in the distribution department of a newspaper. Battle Cry was on the best-sellers list for a year and was snatched up by Hollywood, where Uris went to write the screenplay.

Exodus (1958), Uris’ most famous novel, followed months of research. It is the story of the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, focused on the dramatic story of the refugee ship, “Exodus.” Both the book and the movie were incredibly successful.

While Uris wrote on a variety of subjects (WWII in Greece, conflict in Ireland, etc.), the Holocaust and the State of Israel were very significant themes in his canon. His 1961 best-seller, Mila 18, chronicled the harrowing uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. He returned to a Holocaust related topic in 1970 with QB VII, a courtroom drama about a libel case unveiling the horrible acts of a hidden former Nazi. The Haj (1984) presented Uris’ view of the Palestinian perspective of the events surrounding 1948, and Mitla Pass (1988) explored the 1956 Sinai campaign.

Uris was a celebrity writer who continued to produce popular novels throughout his life. His last book, O’Hara’s Choice (concerning issues facing the U.S. Marine Corps after the Civil War), was published in 2003, a few short months before he passed away at the age of 78.

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