Louis Van Iersel Post Officeby Representative Judy Chu
Posted on 2016-05-23
CHU of California. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the
life of Sergeant Louis Van Iersel, a decorated veteran of both World
Wars, by offering a bill to designate the U.S. Post Office in the city
of Sierra Madre, California, the Louis Van Iersel Post Office.
Sergeant Van Iersel was the true embodiment of an American hero. An immigrant from the Netherlands, his acts of heroism began even before he sat foot on American soil. On his voyage to the United States in 1917, he assisted in the rescue of 27 shipwrecked British soldiers torpedoed by a German vessel.
On the very day he arrived in the United States, Mr. Van Iersel registered for the draft and enlisted in the Army. He didn't speak a word of English, but he learned while working in the Army kitchen. He was eventually assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division and was deployed to France at the end of World War I.
It was in France that Mr. Van Iersel showed extraordinary heroism time and time again. He first gained notice when he and a comrade braved German gunfire to carry 17 soldiers to safety. He was then promoted to sergeant, when he led a small reconnaissance patrol and found enemy trenches. It was there that he was able to use his native language of German to infiltrate them and convince the officer in charge to surrender 60 German soldiers.
From there, Mr. Van Iersel increased his efforts to gain information on German troop movements. In one particularly treacherous situation, Mr. Van Iersel braved heavy fire to swim across the icy Seine River. He overheard German soldiers discussing a heavy artillery barrage that would have wiped out the whole American battalion.
With this critical information, he swam back across the river and reported his findings, enabling the American troops to take cover before the attack began. Because of his actions, he saved 1,000 American lives. For all his efforts, he was awarded dozen of medals, including two military medals, the French Croix de Guerre and the American Medal of Honor. These are the [[Page H2928]] highest honors that both countries can bestow.
At the end of the World War I, Mr. Van Iersel moved to the city of Sierra Madre, California, in my district. He became a citizen, got married, and started a family. But then World War II broke out, and Mr. Van Iersel knew he could not sit idly by. He and his three sons all reported to the Army to enlist and to serve their country. But Mr. Van Iersel was turned away, because the Army told him he was too old to serve.
While he would not let this stop him, undeterred, Mr. Van Iersel talked his way into the Marine Corps. He served with the 3rd Marine Division in the Pacific, and safely returned home in 1945.
Mr. Van Iersel passed away at the age of 93. But as a longtime resident of Sierra Madre, Mr. Van Iersel exemplified the American Dream, raising his family after he left military service, volunteering with his local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, and remaining an active member of the community.
I encourage you to honor his extraordinary legacy and vote ``yes'' on H.R. 4761.