Amid takeover of his native country, soldier fought for family, homeland

Amid takeover of his native country, soldier fought for family, homeland
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Isadore Jachman, who received a Medal of Honor posthumously, poses for a photograph in his uniform. Photo credit U.S. Army

Thousands of American soldiers who volunteered to fight the Nazis had plenty of reasons to partake in one of the most perilous missions ever fought. But perhaps few had more than Army Staff Sgt. Isadore Jachman — one of three Jewish men to receive the Medal of Honor for actions during World War II.

Jachman was born on Dec. 14, 1922, in Berlin. His parents immigrated to Baltimore when he was 2 and expanded their family further, having another boy and a girl.

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Jachman graduated from Baltimore City College High School in 1939. According to a September 1950 article in the Texas Jewish Post, he spent a year studying physical education at the University of Baltimore before the United States' entrance into World War II changed the trajectory of his life.

In November 1942, he paused his studies and volunteered for the Army.

As a German Jew, Jachman still had plenty of family in Europe, so there was no question where his loyalties lay — with his adopted home, not with the Nazi party that had taken over his native country. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, at least six of Jachman's aunts and uncles were killed during the Holocaust.

After basic training, Jachman was posted stateside, but he eventually volunteered to serve as a paratrooper so he could fight the Nazis. After the appropriate training, he was sent to Europe to fight with the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 17th Airborne Division.

Amid takeover of his native country, Soldier fights for family, homeland
Soldiers with the Army's 17th Airborne Division walk ahead of a military vehicle on a snow-covered road near Houffalize, Belgium, in January 1945. Photo credit U.S. Army/Pvt. George H. Mallinder

Jachman's unit was part of the massive force fighting back the Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge over the frigid winter of 1944-1945. If it hadn't been for his bravery toward the end of that long and bloody battle, his company might have been completely wiped out.

On Jan. 4, 1945, Jachman was with Company B in Flamierge, Belgium, when they were suddenly pinned down by heavy fire, including artillery, mortar and a barrage of fire from two enemy tanks that quickly inflicted casualties on his unit.

Jachman saw his comrades were in desperate need of something that would help them. Instead of staying where he had taken cover, he jumped up and ran across open ground, despite the gunfire. He grabbed a bazooka from a fallen soldier and moved toward the tanks, which had begun concentrating their fire on him.

Jachman managed to fire the bazooka, damaging one of the armored vehicles before both tanks turned away from the fight. His bold move disrupted the enemy's attack, which saved Company B from complete decimation.

Unfortunately, Jachman was fatally wounded during the attack. He was 22 years old.

Posthumous Honors

According to the Texas Jewish Post, Jachman was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. In June 1950, it was presented to his parents by Army Lt. Gen. Leonard Gerow, the commander of the 2nd Army, during a ceremony at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Jachman was buried at Adath Israel Anshe SFard Cemetery outside of Baltimore.

Currently, the 326th Army Maintenance Battalion's armory in Owings Mills, Maryland, carries on his name. His Medal of Honor is being cared for at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C.

Jachman's heroic story lives on in the small town of Flamierge, too. After the war, villagers put up a statue that depicted an unknown American soldier who bravely stood and fought for their village. Army records later established that the immortalized soldier was Jachman. His name was eventually added to the statue.