Over There: Ernest Izan

A series profiling American Jewish service in the First World War

Ernest Izan

Gallantry from the Sanitary Detachment

Ernest Maltravis Izan had come to New York from London as a 12-year old in 1907. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Izan was following his father’s footsteps by studying chiropody. He enlisted on June 6th from Middletown, New York. Izan initially served with the 71st Infantry of the New York National Guard. Izan was soon transferred to the 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division and promoted to Private First Class.

On May 10, 1918, he left Hoboken aboard the troop transport USS President Lincoln. He arrived in Brest, France on the 23rd. Because of his training in chiropody, Izan was assigned to the Sanitary Detachment of the 106th. The Sanitary Corps had been created as a part of the U.S. military buildup for World War I. It provided non-physician support to the Medical Department. The primary duties of the sanitary detachments often involved preventive medical procedures, but they also assisted with caring for wounded soldiers. Izan was one of those on the front lines. His responsibilities included the removal of wounded among shock troops and attacking forces.

Izan was twice commended for meritorious services in special orders from Major General John O’Ryan.

For courage and initiative while attached to a British raiding party in the vicinity of Mt. Kimmel, Belgium, July 29, 1918. Becoming separated from the rest of the detachment, this soldier crawled forward to the enemy wire, avoided capture by the sentinel who challenged him, and secured the effects from the body of a dead enemy soldier for the purposes of identification, returning to our own lines.

On September 27th, 1918, the 106th Infantry received orders to clear the strongly held German outposts known as The Knoll, Guillemont Farm, and Quinnemont Farm near Ronssoy, France. Izan was cited for gallantry in the battle when he continued to remove the wounded despite serious danger from enemy fire:

For gallantry and determination in continuing the effective removal of wounded after all but two of the eight stretcher bearers of his party had been killed or wounded; this in the battle of THE KNOLL – GUILLEMONT FARM – QUINNEMONT FARM, France, September 27, 1918.

On October 15th, Izan joined the ranks of wounded himself. At Busigny, the home of 27th Division headquarters, a shell exploded next to Izan on the road. Shrapnel struck him beneath his right eye. He was sent to Casualty Clearing Station #48 and from there to a base hospital.

Izan returned home aboard the USS Leviathan departing from Brest on February 26, 1919. He would work in a variety of fields and live in locations across the country for the remainder of his life. He died in Miami, Florida in 1967.