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Kev in Deva

US Medal of Honor - Sergeant Louis M. van Iersel

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Dutch-American Sergeant Louis M. van Iersel with his breast full of medals - including the Medal of Honor.

In the Great War, 135 soldiers got the Medal of Honor, the highest American military award.

Louis van Iersel was an American immigrant. He was born in the Netherlands and still had the Dutch nationality.

About 360,000 immigrants served in the American army in Europe. According to recent research by Martin Kraaijestein there were between 1,000 and 2,500 Dutchmen among them.

Van Iersel got his Medal of Honor when he was sent out at night to ascertain the condition of a damaged bridge at Mouzon in France.

The official report states that he "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."

Anybody got a better picture so the other medals may be identified??

Kevin in Deva. :beer:

post-950-1152129990_thumb.jpg

Edited by Kev in Deva

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I find him in a 1920 U.S. listing of decorations as

Ladiovous (!!!) Van Iersal, Sergeant, Company "M," 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.

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He was apparently born "Ludovicus", but changed it to Louis later on.

There seems to be only one photo of van Iersal, because this appears in every mention I can find with a photo.

It looks like the top row is the Medal of Honor, French Medaille Militaire, French Croix de Guerre and Italian War Cross.

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The Social Security Death Index shows:

"Louis Vaniersel," born 19 October 1893, died June 1987 in Sierra Madre, Los Angeles County, CA 91024. SS# 564-48-2104.

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He was apparently born "Ludovicus", but changed it to Louis later on.

There seems to be only one photo of van Iersal, because this appears in every mention I can find with a photo.

It looks like the top row is the Medal of Honor, French Medaille Militaire, French Croix de Guerre and Italian War Cross.

There appears to be another Croix de Guerre towards the bottom, next to a medal on a trifold, which is probably Montenegrin or Serbian.

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Here in color

IPB ImageIPB Image

Hallo Jacky & fjcp, :beer::beer:

thanks for the colour shots, looking at the weird and wonderful colours on the ribbons (artistic liscence one wonders?) I have tentivly identified some of the medals as follows:

First Row, left to right as you look at the picture:

1. USA, Medal of Honour (Chest award normal for this time?)

2. France, Medal of Military Merit.

3. France, Croix de Guerre.

4. Italy, Cross of War.

Second Row:

5. USA, Inter-Allied Victory Medal with 5 ? battle bars.

6. ? Belgium

7. ?

8. ?

Third Row:

9. ? Belgium, Croix de Guerre??

10. ?

11.? Belgium Commemorative Medal of the Campaign 1914-1918 ?

12. ?

Fourth Row:

13. ?

14. ?

Any suggestions appreciated guys :beer:

Jacky can you crop the medal area only on the uniform to show a close up ??

Photograph has to be after WW1 as General distribution of the American Victory medal began in June 1920!!

Kevin in Deva :beer:

Edited by Kev in Deva

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Hi Kev,

It's a dutchie..... :P:P:P

No better man for an award ;)

I can't crop the images,

Could only found them at this Webpage

Edited by Jacky

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I am sure the person who does the retouching means well, and the person (or people) responsible for the Home of Heroes site are doing great work, but those "color" jobs on photos look, frankly, ridiculous and only serve to distract since the colors are generally wrong and diffuse any detail to be found.

Regarding the decorations:

1st row:

1. Yes, the CMH was a chest medal at the time; also since it is a proper noun, you should probably use the American English spelling, Medal of Honor (no big deal, just a nitpicky idea).

2. Medaille Militaire (Military Medal), France

3. Croix de Guerre, France (can't tell what device it has)

4. Croce al Valore Militare, Italy

2nd row:

1. Interallied Victory Medal with maybe 5 bars.

2. another French Croix de Guerre with Palm

3. by the style of suspension, very possibly a British Military Medal.

4. not sure there is a medal there, it may be the way the fourrageres appear

3rd row:

1. another French Croix de Guerre with Palm

2. Montenegrin or Serbian medal.

3. probably a New Jersey World War I Service Medal

4. ?

4th row:

1. ?

2. ?

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I am sure the person who does the retouching means well, and the person (or people) responsible for the Home of Heroes site are doing great work, but those "color" jobs on photos look, frankly, ridiculous and only serve to distract since the colors are generally wrong and diffuse any detail to be found.

Regarding the decorations:

1st row:

1. Yes, the CMH was a chest medal at the time; also since it is a proper noun, you should probably use the American English spelling, Medal of Honor (no big deal, just a nitpicky idea).

Being English born and raised in the correct use of spelling, by my dear Mother, God bless her gentle soul, I will refer to it as Honour (and that a positive idea on my part :P ) and should not the C.M.H. be written and refered to as the "Medal of Honour" only as its correct title? Not sure where the habit came from of using the "Congressional".

Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong. :beer:

Kevin in Deva :beer:

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Well... My humble 2 cents concerning the way of pronouncing and describing is....

Write it as it is called in the country of origin ;)

"Medal of Honor"

But for the communication between members use the British English, as it is clearer, easier and sounds better :P Sorry, no offense to the Americans

However, It is clear that this man couldn't have 3 french Croix d'guerres, as he only served during World War I

I think the first is the french, because the medal before this croix is the medaille militaire.

the second and the third must be of another country, one is belgian and the other should be serbian!!

Because servi? did have a war-cross, monetegrin didn't *feel free to correct me if I'm wrong*

So

First Croix d'guerre is french,

the second is Belgian

the third is Serbian.

Edited by Jacky

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Well... My humble 2 cents concerning the way of pronouncing and describing is....

Write it as it is called in the country of origin ;)

"Medal of Honor"

But for the communication between members use the British English, as it is clearer, easier and sounds better :P Sorry, no offense to the Americans

However, It is clear that this man couldn't have 3 french Croix d'guerres, as he only served during World War I

I think the first is the french, because the medal before this croix is the medaille militaire.

the second and the third must be of another country, one is belgian and the other should be serbian!!

Because servi? did have a war-cross, monetegrin didn't *feel free to correct me if I'm wrong*

So

First Croix d'guerre is french,

the second is Belgian

the third is Serbian.

Jacky thanks for the post :beer: I feel you are right, with regards the French Croix de Guerre.

There was a French Croix de Guerre issued for the years 1914 -15, 1914 - 16, 1914 - 17, 1914 - 18 and I doubt it was allowed to wear all four at once :P

I still think he got a Belgian one though :P

Kevin in Deva :beer:

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Well... My humble 2 cents concerning the way of pronouncing and describing is....

Write it as it is called in the country of origin ;)

"Medal of Honor"

But for the communication between members use the British English, as it is clearer, easier and sounds better :P Sorry, no offense to the Americans

It is only "clearer, easier and sounds better" if you are already using British English spelling, so that is not dispositive. The point is, for common nouns like honor/honour, color/colour, etc., one should use British or American spelling as one prefers, but for proper nouns that refer specifically to something American, one should use the American English spelling. Thus, "Medal of Honor". And that naval base in Hawaii is Pearl Harbor, not Pearl Harbour. We have a Department of Defense, Britain has a Ministry of Defence, etc.

When translating from foreign languages, though, each may use his own spellings. Thus, I would translate Ministerul Apararii Nationale as Ministry of National Defense, while a British English speller would use Ministry of National Defence. And L?gion d'honneur can be either Legion of Honor or Legion of Honour.

However, It is clear that this man couldn't have 3 french Croix d'guerres, as he only served during World War I

I think the first is the french, because the medal before this croix is the medaille militaire.

the second and the third must be of another country, one is belgian and the other should be serbian!!

Because servi? did have a war-cross, monetegrin didn't *feel free to correct me if I'm wrong*

So

First Croix d'guerre is french,

the second is Belgian

the third is Serbian.

Multiple awards of the Croix de Guerre were common. The French custom was to wear the appropriate devices on the ribbon bar the way Americans would wear oak leaf clusters (Army/Air Force) or gold stars (Navy/Marine Corps). Sometimes, with lots of awards, this resulted in really long lengths of ribbon to support all of the palms and gold, silver or bronze stars. The most famous example of this is probably Marcel Bigeard, shown below. He has, after the British DSO, a WW2 Croix de Guerre and a Croix de Guerre T.O.E., each with a sh-tload of devices representing repeated gallantry citations.

During World War One, the US didn't have many medals, so our medal conventions were not strictly laid down yet. Thus, one would routinely see awards pinned all over the uniform like this, rather than in neat overlapping rows, and each individual award was often worn, rather than palms, stars and clusters. This was even more the case for discharged soldiers, no longer strictly subject to uniform regulations.

It is clear to me from the images that all of these Van Iersel is wearing are French. The Belgian CdG had a crown suspension. There is no Serbian CdG - besides orders, Serbia generally awarded its Bravery Medal, Milosh Oblich Bravery Medal, or Medal for Zealous Service. Montenegro, besides the Order of Danilo, granted its Bravery Medal and its version of the Milosh Oblich Bravery Medal.

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It is only "clearer, easier and sounds better" if you are already using British English spelling, so that is not dispositive. The point is, for common nouns like honor/honour, color/colour, etc., one should use British or American spelling as one prefers, but for proper nouns that refer specifically to something American, one should use the American English spelling. Thus, "Medal of Honor". And that naval base in Hawaii is Pearl Harbor, not Pearl Harbour. We have a Department of Defense, Britain has a Ministry of Defence, etc.

Sorry Dave :beer::off topic:

it goes against my nature to take a lesson in how to speak the Queen's English from a Colonial Kussin :P

and I am still not sure if 3 French Crosses of war would have been worn at the same time, if they were, then probably in a row, not here there and everywhere.

Kevin in Deva :beer:

Edited by Kev in Deva

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not sure if 3 French Crosses of war would have been worn at the same time

Hello Kevin,

I'm in total agreement with Dave on this when he writes "Thus, one would routinely see awards pinned all over the uniform like this, rather than in neat overlapping rows, and each individual award was often worn, rather than palms, stars and clusters. This was even more the case for discharged soldiers, no longer strictly subject to uniform regulations."

As in many instances in life, there's a huge difference between theory and practice and, thus also, between the official regulations on wearing medals and what is actually worn by veterans. If/when the good sgt. Van Iersel got his French CdG citations, I'm quite happy to believe he thought he was awarded the CdG once again but with a different ribbon device and would happily wear them in whatever order he thought suitable (e.g. chronologically, in his own sense of order of importance, ... etc.). We should - I think - not assume he was speaking French or knowing French regulations on that country's awards.

In cases like this, I wouldn't worry too much about the correct order of wear etc. I've seen too often that even active military personnel (including high ranking officers in the Belgian armed forces) wear their decorations in the wrong order or in a manner contrasting with official regulations ... So if they can't even manage to do things properly, how could a foreign veterans cope with those ?

My 2 (Euro-)cents worth :D

Cheers,

Hendrik

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The name of the US medal is the "Medal of Honor". If pedants wish to misspell it, so be it.

Much as it is the "Order of the Companions of Honour", not "Honor".

As Dave says, once you start translating names into English, you can spell things any way you wish since the name in English is, intrinsically, wrong.

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The British medal is the Sea Gallantry Medal (Foreign Services), which was awarded to Van Iersel for his actions while serving on the Danish merchant vessel s.s. Oluf Maersk:

On 2 February 1917, the schooner Little Secret, of Fowey, was in a sinking condition in the North Atlantic Ocean. In response to signals of distress the Oluf Maersk, approached the vessel and launched her lifeboat under the command of Mr. Godtfredsen and manned by the seamen named. After considerable difficulty the Little Secret was reached and her crew of five hands were takenon board the Oluf Maersk and convoyed to New York. Very considerable risk was incurred in rendering the services, on account of the heavy seas which prevailed at the time.

The seamen mentioned:

Mads GODTFREDSEN, Second Mate

Christian Bernhard NIELSEN, seaman

Niels Peter SIMONSEN, seaman

Luderus Matheus van Jersel, seaman

Source: The Sea Gallantry Medal by R.J. Scarlett (OMRS, 2010).

As can seen, the name of Van Iersel is misspelled in this book. I came across his decoration in a Dutch newspaper article from 25 June, 1925, which stated that Van Iersel, before joining the U.S. Army sailed in the merchant navy. During that period he saved the life of five persons and got awarded both British and U.S. Lifesaving Medals. So appearantly one of the unknown medals yet to be determined is a U.S. Lifesaving medal.

The article also mentioned that Van Iersel received, beside these medals and the Congressional Medal of Honor 14 medals and 8 honorable mentions, amongst which: the Distinguished Service Cross, the French Military Medal, 2 Croix-de-Guerres with palmes and stars.

Edited by ErikMuller

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Gents,

  Revisiting this thread. 

  From the attached excellent image (note the 2nd Infantry Division insignia on his helmet)  one may discern he was awarded three Croix de Guerre based on the two bronze palms and one star on the suspension ribbon.  To assist us in further determining what he's wearing in the earlier bemedalled pictures, I offer the following.  These excerpts are from James Marie Hopper's book, " Medals of Honor" with illustrations by John Alan Maxwell published in 1929.

"Now and then Louis Van Iersel is asked by some organization to come in his uniform as an example to the young.  He slips on his old uniform, and on it spreads his medals.  What medals?  First he places around his neck the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Then he pins on his breast a Croix de Guerre with star, a Croix de Guerre with palm, a Medaille Militaire, an Italian Merito di Guerra, a Montenegrin War Cross.  And beneath these he attaches the medal of the King of England for rescue at sea, and the medal of the New York Life Saving Benevolent Association for rescue at sea."

  ErikMuller's above reference to the Sea Gallantry Medal is further supported with this excerpt:

"On February 2, 1917, while an able seaman on the Olaf Mearks, a Danish freighter bound from Copenhagen to New York, he spotted at night four red lanterns.  The freighter was turned toward this distress signal, and at dawn found the schooner English Secret, torpedoed and sinking in the heavy seas, with five men of the crew of sixteen still clinging on.  Louis, with two comrades, volunteered to man a boat in the cold heavy seas.  They saved the English sailors and the King of England gave Ludovicus a medal and five pounds in gold, and the Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York gave him a medal. All this before Ludovicus went to war"

The below information was found in the book, "History of Passaic and Its Environs. Volume III" by William W. Scott published in 1922: 

"1. Congressional Medal of Honor, November 9, 1918.  2. Medaille Militaire, November 9, 1918.  3. Croix de Guerre with palm, Soissons, July 18, 1918.  4. Croix de Guerre with palm, Champagne, August 19, 1918.  5. Croix rle Guerre with silver star, St. Mihiel, September 18, 1918.  6. Montenegro Medal, Paris, July, 1919.  7. Life Saving Medal from England, February 2, 1917.  8. Life Saving Medal from New York, February 2, 1917.  9. Medal from Governor Edwards, June, 1920.  10. State Medal.  11. Medal from Paterson for enlistment.  12. Honorary member Spanish American War Veterans.  13. French Fourragere, 2nd Division, 9th Infantry." 

 FWIW, van Iersel is also believed to be the first non-U.S. citizen to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Regards,

slava1stclass

L. van Iersel.jpg

Edited by slava1stclass

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