A Great Escape
The Story of Edouard Izac’s Escape from a World War I German P.O.W. Camp
by Jeff Smith
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During World War I, the Germans captured almost 4500 Americans. Forty-four made at least one attempt to escape. Only four escaped re-capture. Edouard Izac, who later became a U.S. Congressman (and one of four Americans chosen to inspect the German concentration camps after World War II), graduated from the Naval Academy in 1915. Three years later he served on the U.S.S. President Lincoln, which transported supplies and soldiers to Europe. When a German U-boat sunk the Lincoln, the Germans wanted to take the highest ranking officer prisoner. Even though he wasn’t – the ship’s Captain stripped off his stripes and wore a bos’n’s cap – Izac volunteered. On his way to Germany, he gathered strategic intelligence the Allies had to have. So he committed himself to escaping, for himself, but more importantly, to relay the information to the high command. He tried several escapes. In one, he dove off a moving train. When captured, the soldiers beat him senseless – because he had tried to make them look bad. At Villingen, after other attempts failed, he succeeded in breaking out, with bullets flying past his ears, and snuck through forests and on the banks of rivers, stealing his food from the fields, and almost freezing at night. He and a partner swam across the Rhine river, almost drowning, and reached safety in France. For his efforts, Izac was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery.
- San Diego Reader Books, January 2014
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