Lieutenant Edouard Victor Michel Isaacs: Medal of Honor Sailor who Stole Intel From a German U-Boat and Escaped a Prison Camp

 July 14, 2023

The extraordinary saga of Lieutenant Edouard Victor Michel Isaacs, a Medal of Honor recipient, serves as an exemplary narrative of audacious bravery and resourcefulness during World War I.

Assigned to the ill-fated USS President Lincoln, Isaacs was held captive when the vessel was torpedoed by German U-boat U-90 on May 31, 1918.

As a captive, Isaacs demonstrated remarkable ingenuity by gathering valuable intelligence about the submarine's operations and personnel.

Despite several unsuccessful escape attempts, a successful breakout was accomplished in October 1918, leading Isaacs and fellow officers to the safety of Switzerland.

The intelligence amassed by Isaacs played a significant role in informing the Allied war strategy.

Later, Isaacs served a decade in Congress, passing away in January 1990 as the last World War I Medal of Honor recipient.

This article explores Isaacs' daring escape and the strategic impact of the intelligence he garnered from his imprisonment.

USS President Lincoln's Fate

On May 31, 1918, the USS President Lincoln, a converted German passenger liner serving as a troop transport ship, was torpedoed by a German U-boat, leading to the capture of Lt. Edouard Victor Michel Isaacs.

The ship had successfully completed four transatlantic voyages prior to this fateful encounter. The German submarine, U-90, was responsible for the attack, which resulted in the vessel's sinking.

Lt. Isaacs, assigned to the USS President Lincoln, became a prisoner of war, seized by the Germans on board the U-boat. This unfortunate incident marked the commencement of an extraordinary series of events involving Lt. Isaacs, who would eventually escape, gather valuable intelligence about the enemy, and earn the Medal of Honor for his bravery and resourcefulness.

Isaacs' Imprisonment and Observation

Captured by the Germans and taken prisoner aboard the U-90, Isaacs meticulously observed and recorded the submarine's operations and crew dynamics.nnOver time, he accumulated a wealth of intelligence on the enemy vessel.nnStriving to remain inconspicuous, Isaacs carefully noted the submarine's tactical maneuvers, weaponry, and crew routines.nnThis painstaking task required a high level of attention to detail and mental fortitude, especially under the perilous conditions of captivity.nnAs part of his covert mission, Isaacs also studied the layout of the U-boat, which proved to be crucial in his eventual escape.nnDespite his precarious situation, Isaacs displayed exceptional resilience and resourcefulness.nnHis actions demonstrated a remarkable dedication to duty, making a significant contribution to the Allied war effort.

Successful Escape and Contributions

After enduring months of grueling captivity, Isaacs managed to make a successful getaway in October 1918 alongside a group of officers, subsequently reaching Switzerland. This escape was not the first attempt but was the culmination of several daring bids for freedom, including a bold swim across the sea and a leap through a train window.

Once in Switzerland, a neutral territory, Isaacs immediately relayed the intelligence gathered from his time on the German U-Boat to British and American naval officers. This detailed information significantly contributed to the Allied understanding of German submarine operations.

Following the war, Isaacs served in the US Congress for a decade, further contributing to his country. His death in 1990 marked the passing of the last World War I Medal of Honor recipient.

Frequently Asked Questions


Edouard Victor Michel Isaacs' brave actions during World War I exemplify the unwavering spirit of a true soldier. His ingenuity in gathering intelligence from a German U-boat and subsequent daring escape from a prison camp not only demonstrates exceptional courage but also significant contributions to the Allied war effort.

Isaacs' legacy continues to inspire, serving as a testament to the valor and resilience of those who risk their lives for their country.

How did Isaacs' experience and intelligence gathering on the U-boat contribute to the Allies' understanding of German U-boat operations?

Isaacs' observations on the U-boat yielded critical intelligence about its operations and crew, enhancing the Allies' knowledge of German naval strategies, ultimately contributing to their capacity to counteract and mitigate U-boat threats.

Can you provide more details about Isaacs' multiple escape attempts and what challenges he faced?

Details about Isaacs' escape attempts are sparse, but they involved daring feats such as swimming across the sea and jumping through a train window. He faced numerous challenges, including physical exhaustion and the constant threat of recapture.

What was Isaacs' role and influence during his 10-year service in Congress?

During his decade-long Congressional tenure, Isaacs significantly influenced military and veterans' affairs, utilizing his personal experiences and Medal of Honor recognition to advocate for improved conditions and rights for service members and veterans.

How did Isaacs' actions and Medal of Honor recognition impact his later life and career?

Isaacs' Medal of Honor recognition, a testament to his heroism and intelligence-gathering skills, likely enhanced his credibility and reputation, impacting his subsequent political career in Congress and his contributions to naval strategy and policy.

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