The U.S. Post Office in Sierra Madre will be dedicated Tuesday in honor of Louis Van Iersel, a Medal of Honor recipient in World War I who also served in the Marine Corps in World War II.
Born Ludovicus M. M. Van Iersel on Oct. 19, 1893 in Dussen, Netherlands, Van Iersel enlisted in the U.S. Army the day after he immigrated to the U.S. in 1917.
Van Iersel was initially assigned kitchen duty because his inability to understand English meant he couldn’t be drilled. He learned English in four months and was assigned to the battlefield.
As a member of Company M of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division,Van Iersel was part of a reconnaissance patrol in Mouzon, France in 1918, sent out at night to ascertain the condition of a damaged bridge.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, Van Iersel volunteered to lead a party across the bridge in the face of heavy machine gun 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 way and sent him into the Seine river.
In spite of the swift current, Van Iersel swam across the stream and found a lodging place among the timbers on the opposite bank.
Van Iersel disregarded the enemy fire, 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 information to the battalion commander.
In 1919, Van Iersel became a naturalized citizen, was discharged from the Army and changed his name to Louis Van Iersel. He then returned to the Netherlands, married Hendrika de Ronde in 1920, then returned to the U.S., settling in California in 1921.
Van Iersel joined the Marine Corps in 1943 — he was rejected by the Army because of his age — with his three sons. Van Iersel served with the 3rd Marine Division in the Bougainville Campaign.
Van Iersel and his wife settled in Sierra Madre in 1946 and worked for the Los Angeles City Engineering Department. He died in 1987 at the age of 93 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
“Sgt. Louis Van Iersel痴 life was the true example of the American dream,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, who introduced the bill to name the post office in Van Iersel’s honor.
“For the lives he saved, and the lives he inspired, Louis Van Iersel deserves to be recognized and remembered here in the city he called home.”
—City News Service
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