The service and sacrifice of Jewish Americans contributed greatly to the American war effort in World War II. More than 500,000 Jewish Americans served in the US Armed Forces during the conflict.
As The National WWII Museum’s Senior Curator and Director for Curatorial Affairs Kim Guise points out, for Jewish Americans assigned to units in the European theater, there was “added motivation and also added risk should they be captured. Many Jewish Americans had extended family in Europe whose whereabouts and fates were unknown. Some were drafted or volunteered for service after having fled Europe and were driven by revenge to return to the countries of their birth in American uniforms to fight for democracy and against fascism.” Isadore Siegfried Jachman (1922-1945) was one of those service members. He risked—and sacrificed—everything in the struggle against fascism and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism.
Born in Berlin, Germany, in December 1922 as Isaak Siegfried Jachimowicz, he and his parents immigrated to the United States and quickly transitioned into a new life (he would eventually have two siblings). The story of Jachman’s family mirrored that of countless immigrants to the United States: His father, Leib, and mother, Lea, hailed from Poland, still a newly independent country at the time. They settled in Baltimore, Maryland, and applied for citizenship and a change of name. Leib became Leo; Isaak became Isadore; and the family name Jachimowicz became Jachman.
Over the next several years, the Jachmans certainly would have followed the terrifying developments in Germany, capped by the horrible news that the arch-antisemite, Adolf Hitler, had become chancellor in January 1933. A torrent of frightening news about Nazi measures against German Jews came rapidly and unceasingly.
In 1939, Isadore Jachman graduated from Baltimore City College High School. Then he spent a year studying physical education at the University of Baltimore and worked for his father at a grocery store.
Like millions of other Americans, World War II profoundly shaped Jachman’s all-too-brief life. But it did so in ways that so many others in the United States did not have to face. According to the US Department of Defense, at least six of Jachman’s family members, aunts and uncles, perished during the Holocaust.
Jachman registered for the draft in Baltimore in late June 1942. Five months later, he volunteered to serve in the US Army. Upon completing basic training, Jachman remained in the US. Eager to fight against the Nazis, he volunteered to join the paratroopers.
After training, Jachman was assigned to Company B, 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division. The 17th, nicknamed the “Golden Talons,” had been activated in the spring of 1943. Under the command of Major General William M. Miley, the unit shipped out for the European theater in late summer 1944. It was not until that December, however, that Jachman, by then a staff sergeant, and the 17th Airborne Division would see combat.
They were much needed. Hitler’s Ardennes Offensive had surprised the Americans. As US forces stymied the German advance, Jachman and the 17th first saw action on Christmas Day, 1944. His name would be forever linked to the Battle of the Bulge.
Just 10 days after entering combat in Belgium, and only a few weeks after his 22nd birthday, Jachman fell in battle on January 4, 1945. He was mortally wounded defending the town of Flamierge from a German attack, bravely leaving his cover under heavy fire to take on two enemy tanks alone.
In the summer of 1950, more than five years after his death, the Medal of Honor was conferred on Jachman. His Medal of Honor Citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at Flamierge, Belgium, on 4 January 1945, when his company was pinned down by enemy artillery, mortar, and small-arms fire, two hostile tanks attacked the unit, inflicting heavy casualties. S/Sgt. Jachman, seeing the desperate plight of his comrades, left his place of cover and with total disregard for his own safety dashed across open ground through a hail of fire and, seizing a bazooka from a fallen comrade, advanced on the tanks, which concentrated their fire on him. Firing the weapon alone, he damaged one and forced both to retire. S/Sgt. Jachman's heroic action, in which he suffered fatal wounds, disrupted the entire enemy attack, reflecting the highest credit upon himself and the parachute infantry.”
Jachman is in very special company as one of only three Jewish American men to receive the Medal of Honor for their actions during World War II, alongside Ben L. Salomon and Raymond Zussman. Jachman’s family later donated his medal to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. A statue in Flamierge recognizes Jachman’s sacrifice while fighting to save the village. He is buried in Adahs Israel Congregation Cemetery near Baltimore.