b. 19/10/1893 Dussen, Netherlands. d. 09/06/1987 Sierra Madre, California.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 09/11/1918 Mouzon, France.
World War I Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. As an immigrant from The Netherlands, Van Iersel was aboard a British vessel bound for the United States in February, 1917, when the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine. In the panic he rigged the boatswain's chair that lifted 27 British sailors to safety, and was awarded a civilian decoration in the name of King George V. As soon as he disembarked in New Jersey he applied for American citizenship and enlisted in the US Army. He served in France as a Sergeant in Company M, 9th Infantry, 2d Division. Van Iersel was awarded the CMOH for distinguishing himself at Mouzon, France, on November 9, 1918.
His actions were credited with saving over 1000 lives. During his WWI service he also received 14 additional decorations for valor, including two Croix de Guerre from France. Van Iersel became a US citizen in 1919, changed his first name to Louis, and eventually settled in Los Angeles, where he worked as a city engineer for many years. During World War II he was rejected for re-enlistment in the Army because of his age, but was accepted by the US Marine Corps and served with the 3rd Marine Division in the Bougainville Campaign. At the time of his death at age 93, Van Iersel was believed to be the most highly decorated surviving World War I veteran. He was interred at Arlington National Cemetery; there is also a cenotaph for him at Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery near his home in Sierra Madre, California.
While a member of the reconnaissance patrol, sent out at night to ascertain the condition of a damaged bridge, Sgt. Van Iersel volunteered to lead a party across the bridge in the face of heavy machinegun and rifle fire from a range of only 75 yards. Crawling alone along the debris of the ruined bridge he came upon a trap, which gave away and precipitated him into the water. In spite of the swift current he succeeded in swimming across the stream and found a lodging place among the timbers on the opposite bank. Disregarding the enemy fire, he made a careful investigation of the hostile position by which the bridge was defended and then returned to the other bank of the river, reporting this valuable information to the battalion commander.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
Section 42, Grave 1770
NO IMAGE AVAILABLE