Chapter 15 ~ Marvin Margolis

“The next time there is a war, two of us are not going – the one who comes after me and myself.”

~ Marvin Margolis

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Marvin Margolis, the young Navy veteran that Beth introduced as her cousin, was born in Chicago on March 25, 1925. As a child, Marvin was shy and introverted. He was afraid of dark closets, walked in his sleep up to age 14 and often threatened to run away from home.

After high school, Margolis signed up as a pre-med student at the University of Chicago.  Just before his eighteenth birthday, he joined the Navy. He was in the Naval Medical Corps during his entire enlistment, for two years, four months and twenty-four days, beginning March 1, 1943. He served in the U.S. Naval training stations and hospitals in Illinois, Washington state and at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California. One psychiatric report from Illinois read in part,

“This subject is calm, quiet and a resentful individual who shows ample evidence of open aggression; has had trouble in adjusting himself to Navy discipline, has become resentful over this. He desired operating room technique which was never granted to him and this is one of the underlying bases for his resentment and disgust. A tension state has resulted and at present this man shows a lack of interest, aims and ability to concentrate. The content of thought shows a beginning hypochondriasis and self-seated resentment.”

After serving stateside for the first two years, he was shipped to the South Pacific, where he took part in the invasion of Okinawa on April 1, 1945. The massive battle, known as Operation Iceberg, lasted until mid June and resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The Allies wanted the island for an air base to begin the final assault on the mainland of  Japan, less than 350 miles away. From April 1 until May 25, the Japanese conducted seven major Kamikaze attacks on the American Navy, involving more than 1,500 suicide missions.

Margolis served 65 days on the island under intense, unrelenting bombing and air attack. He was involved with setting up a medical station at an airport that was bombed and strafed by the Japanese air force for twenty nine days. At one point he was ordered to set up a hospital in the south. He worked day and night, with little sleep, caring for 1,500 patients. Soon after, he was sent to the front lines for two weeks.  He administered aid to two companies with heavy casualties.  He worked out of a cave, which gave way under heavy rains, and he was buried up to his neck in mud, unable to move. He worked himself free the next day. Afterwards, he was described as being “amnesic, emotional with depression and instability.”

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Japan’s total losses in the battle of Okinawa exceeded 100,000, while Allied forces suffered 62,000 casualties. After his release, Margolis received disability pay. Three Naval doctors said his condition resulted from “neuroses resulting from being in [the] first landing group on Okinawa in April, 1945.”  On September 16, 1946,  Margolis was diagnosed as, “sullen, his personality is not pleasing, apathetic, inclined to sarcasm.”

Following the war, he settled in Los Angeles and signed up for pre-med classes at the University of Southern California. In October, 1946,  Margolis, Bill Robinson, Beth Short and Marjorie Graham all shared an apartment at the Guardian Arms on Hollywood Boulevard for twelve days.

After the death of Elizabeth Short, the two male roommates were wanted for questioning. Authorities stated, “He and Bill Robinson were both reluctant informants.” They also said, “It should be noted further that this suspect, Marvin Margolis, is the only pre-medical student who ever lived as a boy friend with Beth Short.

On November 26, 1946, he married Edith Bernstein  at 6331 West 6th Street in Los Angeles. By the end of the decade, Marvin Margolis had moved back to Chicago, fathered a son and found work in an auto supply company as a stock man.

In 1950, the Chicago Police Department concluded that, “Records at the office of the Secretary of Police were check and do not show anyone by the name of Margolis as ever applying for or receiving any Chicago Special Police Badge. The Chicago Police Department does not issue ‘Honorary’ badges.'” Marvin Margolis was suspected of being the Chicago policeman that accompanied Elizabeth Short to a radio broadcast in Hollywood.

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In 1949, Deputy District Attorney Arthur L. Veitch, in the presence of grand jury members, asked Detective Harry Hansen:

I think it might be just as well to ask you a question which in itself would be directly leading, but you are aware, I presume, of the investigation with respect to the fact that within 60 days of her death, this girl roomed and stayed in the rooms of a medical student at U.S.C., Marvin Margolis, who entered U.S.C. in September of 1946, and whose first obligation under his entry was to dissect a human corpse, and that Marvin Margolis is now in Chicago and that a check-up is being made.

Hansen answered, “No, I am not. The name is very familiar.”

Veitch told them:

Let us affirm to each other, nothing that’s said in this room is said outside the walls of the room. If we do that, we might inadvertently, [allow] the culprit to escape punishment forever.

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