Monday, May 31, 2004
Remembering Cousin Izzy
Cousin Izzy, Staff Sergent Isadore Siegfried Jachman, was my mother's first cousin.
In January 1945 in Belgium, he was serving in Company B of the 513 Parachute Infantry Regiment when they were attacked and pinned down by two German tanks. Cousin Izzy braved machine gun fire to retrieve a bazooka from one of his dead comrades. He then single-handedly fired at the tanks until they broke off the attach. His selfless action cost him his life, but likely saved his company from disaster. For this courageous act, he posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Izzy was born in Berlin in 1922, the first son of my grandmother's brother, Leo Jachmann, and his wife Lotte. Uncle Leo had moved to Berlin some years earlier from the family home in Kalisz, Poland, where his name had been Jachimowicz. By the late 1920's Uncle Leo and his family immigrated to the United States, settling in Baltimore, where Uncle Leo Americanized his name by dropping the second "n." Leo and Lotte had two more children, Joe and Sylvia, both "Yankees" born in the USA.
Uncle Leo and my granmother Mila were two of twelve children. Leo was the only one to come the America before the War. Another brother was in Morroco, serving with the French Foreign Legion. The remaining ten brothers and sisters were in Europe at the start of WWII. Six were killed by Hitler and the Nazis, while four, including my grandmother (along with my grandfather and mother,) miraculously survived.
In 1951 my grandparents, Mom, Uncle Joe (Mom's baby brother, born in 1945) and I (born in Germany in 1950) immigrated to the United States. Uncle Leo sponsored us, along with a brother, two sisters, and their families.
Uncle Leo was delighted to be reunited with his brother and sisters after 30 years. Mom remembers how especially happy he was to have them and their families with him in time for Sylvia's wedding in 1952.
I always loved to visit Uncle Leo and Tante Lotte - we'd be there quite often when I was a kid, as we only lived a few mintues away. Uncle Leo and Tante Lotte were like Jack Sprat and his wife, only in reverse. Uncle Leo was fat and jolly, always happy to see me. Tante Lotte was tiny and loving. Uncle Leo was a route salesman for the Baltimore Sun, and he always wore one of those change-makers on his belt - like the ice cream truck men used to wear. Whenever I'd visit, he'd always jing-jing-jing that change-maker and give me a few nickles or a quarter.
But what I remember most vividly was a shadowbox of Cousin Izzy's medals centered on one of the walls of Uncle Leo and Aunt Lotte's living room. Featured prominently was the Congressional Medal of Honor, with its sky-blue ribbon.
Uncle Leo and Aunt Lotte lived until well into the '70s, enjoying several grandchildren in their old age. Sylvia and Joe, now in their 70's themselves, have many grandchildren between them.
But Cousin Izzy remains as he was in January 1945. Our memory of him is as a handsome and heroic 22-year-old. Today, Memorial Day 2004, I think of him.
P.S. - Amazingly, today I came across a photo of the shadowbox of Cousin Izzy's medals when I Googled him to check on which paratroop unit he belonged to. I hadn't seen those medals for a few decades. His family had donated it to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History.
Sergent Jachman's Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at Flamierge, Belgium, on 4 January 1945, when his company was pinned down by enemy artillery, mortar, and small arms fire, 2 hostile tanks attacked the unit, inflicting heavy, casualties.
Staff Sgt. Jachman, seeing the desperate plight of his comrades, left his place of cover and with total disregard for his own safety dashed across open ground through a hail of fire and seizing a bazooka from a fallen comrade advanced on the tanks, which concentrated their fire on him. Firing the weapon alone, he damaged one and forced both to retire.
Staff Sgt. Jachman's heroic action, in which he suffered fatal wounds, disrupted the entire enemy attack, reflecting the highest credit upon himself and the parachute infantry