Today we remember: Edouard Izac
Edouard Izac was born in Iowa in 1891, the youngest of nine children. His parents were German and he spoke the language fluently.
After graduating high school, Edouard attended the United States Naval Academy, graduating in 1915, aged 24. The day after he graduated, he married Agnes Cabell and they had a daughter in 1916.
Edouard served on several ships before transferring to troop transport ship, the USS President Lincoln in July 1917, making five successful trips to Europe and back. But in My 1918, the President Lincoln was struck by three German torpedoes near the French coast and sunk. While many of the crew managed to escape, Edouard was taken as a prisoner of war.
Edouard’s captors had no idea that he was able to understand every word they said, so he was able to acquire a great deal of knowledge about German submarine operations. He was determined to get this knowledge back to the Allies and made several failed escape attempts, including jumping from the window of a moving train.
Eventually, he did escape with several other prisoners in October 1918. He broke through the barbed wire fences of the prison camp, drawing the fire of the armed guards so that others could also escape.
He and a fellow American POW headed for neutral Switzerland via the mountains of southwestern Germany, surviving on raw vegetables. He had to swim the River Rhine during the night, incredibly close to German sentries, in order to reach his destination, which they did several days later.
When Edouard finally reached London, the war was nearly over, so high command showed little interest in his intelligence. However, his bravery and devotion to his country was commended and he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1920.
Edouard would go on to have a large family and serve for several years in Congress. When he died at 98, he was the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War One.