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Today's Medal of Honor Moment for 21 May

WWI, a very tough Navy Lieutenant.


Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy. Place and date: Aboard German submarine U-90 as prisoner of war, 21 May 1918. Entered service at: Illinois. Born: 18 December 1891, Cresco, Howard County, Iowa. Citation: When the U.S.S. President Lincoln was attacked and sunk by the German submarine U-90, on 21 May 1918, Lt. Izac was captured and held as a prisoner on board the U-90 until the return of the submarine to Germany, when he was confined in the prison camp. During his stay on the U-90 he obtained information of the movements of German submarines which was so important that he determined to escape, with a view to making this information available to the U.S. and Allied Naval authorities. In attempting to carry out this plan, he jumped through the window of a rapidly moving train at the imminent risk of death, not only from the nature of the act itself but from the fire of the armed German soldiers who were guarding him. Having been recaptured and reconfined, Lt. Izac made a second and successful attempt to escape, breaking his way through barbed-wire fences and deliberately drawing the fire of the armed guards in the hope of permitting others to escape during the confusion. He made his way through the mountains of southwestern Germany, having only raw vegetables for food, and at the end, swam the River Rhine during the night in the immediate vicinity of German sentries.

Lieutenant Izac was the son of an immigrant from Alsace-Lorraine, Balthazar Izac, who was wed to Mathilda Geuth, herself a first-generation German-American.  He was a 1915 graduate of the Naval Academy.  The injuries incurred during his escape attempts eventually forced his early retirement from the Navy in 1921.  He served in Congress as a member of the California delegation, representing San Diego, for 10 years from 1937-1947, before settling in Virginia after he lost his 1946 re-election bid.  He died in 1990.

Aside from earning the Medal, his greatest contribution was, to my mind, bearing witness to the Holocaust.  He was part of the delegation from Congress that General Eisenhower asked be sent over to inspect the camps.  Eisenhower understood that given the magnitude of the event, people were going to try to stuff it down the memory hole, and he wanted persons of power to personally come see what had happened in Germany during the war.  A transcript of Congressman Izac's testimony is available here, via the Special Collections of the Woodruff Library at Emory University.

Vietnam. This is one of the awards reviewed for possibly having been downgraded due to racial prejudice, hence the abbreviated citation, as was the case with many of these awards.

Then-Spc. 4 Erevia distinguished himself May 21, 1969, while serving as a radio-telephone operator during a search-and-clear mission near Tam Ky City, in the Republic of Vietnam.