TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - As Toledo and the nation observes Veteran's Day , it brings to mind a trip I took to Italy a couple of years ago. One of my goals was to visit the grave of a former Toledo Policeman who was killed in action during the last months of the war in Europe. In fact, he was the only Toledo Policeman killed in action while serving during World War Two. Lt. Jacob "Jake" Chandler, died in February of 1945 in the Arno River region of Italy as he was trying to rescue a wounded fellow soldier. It is reported that he stepped on a land mine.
He died a hero.
Chandler's body now rests at the Florence-American cemetery south of Florence, Italy and if you have never visited such a solemn place it is an experience you are not likely to forget. It's similar to Arlington National Cemetery, a sprawling and manicured field of white crosses, row on row. It's a sight that gives a new perspective and vision to the scope of war death and sacrifice. It steals your breath and touches your heart.
So it was here, Plot H, Row 13, Grave 17, that I found Patrolman Chandler's final resting place. Almost at the very top row at the top of the hill. A simple white marble cross, among the thousands of others just like it, marking the graves of those Americans who gave their last ounce of courage to their country.
Prior to his service in the Army, Chandler had been an outstanding student at Scott High School and then, after graduation in 1937, he attended the University of Toledo, where he also was regarded as an outstanding student in both scholastic and athletic endeavors. In 1941 after graduation, he joined the ranks of the Toledo Police Department. During his time with the department and on the street as a patrolman, the records show he was well-liked and respected.
But against the boiling backdrop of World War Two, the nation was in need of more men to serve and fight the war. By 1944, Chandler put his police duties in Toledo on hold, took off the blue uniform and donned a new khaki one as a part of the US Army.
Chandler was to become a soldier in the infamous and historic 92nd Division, the famed "Buffalo Soldiers"; a division made up of the nation's African-American soldiers. Jake quickly rose to become an officer, a second Lieutenant and was assigned to F company of the 370th Infantry. A unit that by the end of 1944 was making its way up Italy's western coastal areas in a long and grueling campaign against the remaining Germans and Italians.
In February of that year, the division encountered heavy German resistance in the area south of Genoa, and west of Florence near the Arno River and the Cinquale Canal. The February weather was brutal and kept air cover to a minimum. Forward progress was slow. The 92nd took a pounding, scores of Americans were killed and wounded under the machine gun fire and bombardments. Thus it was here, where Lt. Jake Chandler of Toledo on February 9th tried to rescue a comrade, only to step on a landmine. He would never return to Toledo, and was buried at the American Cemetery in Florence where few of his family or friends would ever get to visit.
I felt honored to have visited his grave two years ago and on this Veteran's Day I am grateful for the sacrifice that he and so many others have given to this nation.
Jacob Chandler was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions
If you are interested in learning more about Lt. Chandler, you can visit the Toledo Police Museum on Kenwood Blvd. where they are featuring a special exhibit on this special Toledoan.