Edouard Izac: Captured On A U-Boat - The German Speaker Gathered Vital Information About The Enemy's Sub-Marine Operations
Edouard Izac: Captured On A U-Boat – The German Speaker Gathered Vital Information About The Enemy’s Sub-Marine Operations

Edouard Izac: Captured On A U-Boat – The German Speaker Gathered Vital Information About The Enemy’s Sub-Marine Operations

elizabeth - September 29, 2016

The explosion was too loud. Edouard Izac had tried his best to maneuver the ship USS President Lincoln to evade the German Submarine U-90. But it had become impossible. The Germans had calculated their moves. Unknowingly to Izac, the Germans had placed three—not one—but three torpedoes. These were armaments consisting of long cylindrical self-propelled underwater projectiles. The Germans had positioned the three torpedoes strategically in areas they knew the USS President Lincoln would pass in an attempt to run away from their U-90 submarine. When the ship USS President Lincoln came into contact with the torpedoes, they detonated. And the explosion was too loud and scaring. The USS President Lincoln sank.

The Germans worked hard to save the occupants of the sank ship. They had to take as many soldiers from the US ship prisoners as they could. The more soldiers they would take captive, the bigger their victory of that May 31, 1918, attack would be.

Edouard Izac: Captured On A U-Boat – The German Speaker Gathered Vital Information About The Enemy’s Sub-Marine Operations

 

Izac was one of those taken aboard the U-90 submarine as a prisoner of war. The Germans started their journey back to Germany to take their captives to the prisons in Germany.

Izac was very discouraged. Only two years before, his daughter Cabell had been born. Could he manage to live in prison so far away from his daughter? No, he had to try and get back home to his daughter and wife.

Family Life

Edouard Izac was born on December 18, 1891, in Ceresco, Iowa. His father was Balthazar who came from Alsace-Lorraine, Germany. His mother was Mathilda Geuth who hailed from Philadelphia, although her family line was traced from Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.

Izac attended Werntz Preparatory School in Annapolis, Maryland. He joined high school at South St. Paul, Minnesota and later the School of the Assumption in Cresco, Iowa. He finally graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1915.

Interestingly, Izac married Agnes Cabell, the daughter of General De Rosey Carroll Cabell, the day after his graduation from the Naval Academy. His wife died in 1975, fifteen years before he passed on.

His first job was on the battleship, USS Florida (BB-30). He worked hard and was promoted from ensign to lieutenant on the junior grade. With his promotion, he sought a more challenging job—the Naval Transport Services. It was while he worked here when his daughter Cabell was born. With his performance, he was transferred to the Troop Transport USS President Lincoln in mid-1917. Izac made five successful trips to Europe and back using this US Navy ship from October 18, 1917.

But then on this fateful day, May 31, 1918, the USS President Lincoln was sunk by the German Submarine U-90 and Izac captured alongside others as a prisoner of war.

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Escape from Prison

The Germans did not know that Izac had a German origin. The family name, Izac, had been changed to Isaacs by an immigration officer when his father, Balthazar entered the United States in the 1850s. So the captors, while transporting Izac and other prisoners to Germany never knew that he (Izac) understood everything they said about submarine movements. Izac was very keen eavesdropping on the soldiers conversations. Without showing any interest in what was said, Izac learned a lot of things about how the Germans used their submarines to attack their enemies.

Now with the new information, Izac felt he must get back to the United States. Of course, he had to see his daughter and wife, but he now had to give the information he had gathered to the US Navy.

While being transported in a train from the sea to the inland prison, Izac jumped off a window of the fast moving train. He was injured, from the fall as well as from gun shots. This was just but the first of many other attempts that he made to escape.

But on October 6, Izac succeeded in escaping from the prison camp. He broke his way through barbed wires. To help others to escape with him, he allowed the soldiers on guard to see him. When they started to concentrate on him and shoot at him, some of the other prisoners escaped in the confusion. They walked through the mountains in South Western Germany. They ate only raw vegetables. Finally, they got to the Rhine River and could not cross. Izac and a few others swam during the night although they were very close to the German lookouts. From there, they moved to Switzerland and arrived there on October 13. From there, they traveled to London.

Quickly, Izac passed on the secret information to Admiral Sims. Unfortunately, the war was almost over and Sims was not interested in the information. However, Izac was awarded the Medal of Honor because for his bravely in collecting the information and escaping from the prison.

Edouard Izac: Captured On A U-Boat – The German Speaker Gathered Vital Information About The Enemy’s Sub-Marine Operations

He went back home but had to retire in 1921 because he had had severe wounds which he got while in prison in Germany. He got further awards like the Croce di Guerra al Merito from Italy and the Cross of Montenegro.

Once back home, Izac lived in San Diego, California – and considering the accounts of wounds received while a prisoner of war in Germany, he had to retire. Later, from 1922 to 1922, he was engaged in newspaper work and writing. As a retiree, he was made a lieutenant commander.

Later Life

Edouard Izac: Captured On A U-Boat – The German Speaker Gathered Vital Information About The Enemy’s Sub-Marine Operations

Izac tried his hand in politics. And even though he was an unsuccessful candidate during his early career as a politician (1934 candidate to the Seventy-fourth Congress, and a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1940 and 194), he was later elected to the 75th Congress as a Democrat in 1937 and to the four succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1937 – January 3, 1947). He loved farming and kept cattle in Gordonsville, Virginia. He later relocated to Bethesda, Maryland after losing his reelection bid to the Eightieth Congress in 1946.

As a Congressman in 1945, he joined a group of eleven senators and congressmen on a tour to Europe where they inspected and wrote reports on concentration camps in Buchenwald, Dachau and Nordhausen, Buechenwald.

Edouard Izac: Captured On A U-Boat – The German Speaker Gathered Vital Information About The Enemy’s Sub-Marine Operations

 

He died in 1990 in Fairfax, Virginia. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He was the only living person who had acquired the Medal of Honor in the 1990s. At his death, he had five children, nineteen grandchildren and twenty five great grandchildren.

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