Wisconsin native awarded Legion of Honor medal for World War II service
THORP, Wisc. -- Seventy years after constructing makeshift traps that alerted his fellow soldiers to attacking German forces, Thorp native Anton "Tony" Jacks was honored Tuesday for saving lives during a mission in World War II.
Jacks, 93, was awarded the Legion of Honor medal, which France created to honor U.S. soldiers who fought for freedom on French soil. Jacks received the medal from U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston, during a ceremony at the American Legion in Thorp.
On Aug. 29, 1944, while Jacks' unit was asleep in a farmhouse and he was standing guard, he set up a series of booby traps consisting of grenades and shrapnel constructed from stove parts and other materials.
At about 7:45 a.m., a German unit advanced toward the farmhouse. The invaders detonated three of the booby traps; the explosions alerted the U.S. and French troops that enemy soldiers were nearby. The German troops, although greater in number, eventually withdrew from the area, with 21 dead and an unknown number injured.
Thanks to Jacks' ingenuity, his U.S. unit didn't suffer a single casualty.
Duffy called Jacks an uncommon man whose quick thinking and engineering skills used to create the bombs saved numerous American lives.
"This is one (site) where we all come together to say, 'Thank you,' " Duffy said. "It's that heroism we are now recognizing."
Along with the medal, Duffy presented Jacks a copy of the congressional record that describes what he did to deserve the award.
Jacks enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and was eventually promoted to sergeant. He was a jackhammer specialist, an expert machine gunner and a demolition expert. He was honorably discharged in October 1945.
Diane Covyeow, Jacks' daughter, said she began working on obtaining the award for her father about five years ago after he completed an Honor Flight that sends veterans to Washington, D.C., to see a World War II memorial. She contacted lawmakers from this part of the state to start the process and learned in May he would receive the medal.
"We're pretty proud," Covyeow said of the award. "It's well deserved."
Joanne Jacks, Anton Jacks' daughter-in-law, said he sometimes shared tales of his time as a World War II soldier with family members. His saving his comrades by setting up traps that caught German soldiers by surprise was the best of those tales, she said.
"It just all makes us very proud," Joanne Jacks said. "This means a whole lot to him."
Anton Jacks was born in Thorp, and except for a brief stint living in the Chicago area in the 1940s, has resided near his hometown for his entire life. He farmed until he retired in 1983, when his sons took over the family farm.