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Remembrance: 'Exodus' Helmsman

The man who steered the "Exodus" into the British blockade of Palestine has died.

In 1947, Bill Millman was helmsman of the rusted American boat that carried five thousand Jewish holocaust survivors trying to emigrate to what was then British-controlled Palestine.

"Big Bill," as he was called, was born and bred in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and he joined the mainly Jewish crew of "Exodus 47" after leaving the US Navy.

But the British Navy seized the ship before it reached its destination. The incident set off a diplomatic crisis and in 1948 the United Nations established the State of Israel.

In a WBUR documentary three years ago, Millman recalled his role in history, "I got a line for you. How many times in one man's lifetime can you help create a country? OK. We helped create a country where there wasn't one before. If you want to go back to Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, all those gangsters who wanted to form a new country. I put myself in that category."

Bill Millman, the "Exodus" helmsman died last week at the age of 80. He's survived by his son Barry, who lives in Tewksbury, and daughter, Cheryl, of Georgetown.

To hear the documentary about Bill Millman and "Exodus 47," click on the link below.

This program aired on December 13, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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