The Bridge to Victory: How a WWII Combat Medic Became a Champion for Inclusivity in Sports and Education


In “The Bridge to Victory,” we embark on a journey through the remarkable life of Jay H. Dakelman, a WWII combat medic whose heroism on the battlefield seamlessly transitioned into a lifelong commitment to education and sports. This blog delves into his dual legacy, exploring the profound impact he had both during and after the war. The biography is divided into two parts: Jay’s harrowing experiences as a combat medic and his pioneering role in sports and education.

Part I: The Bridge to Victory in War

Jay H. Dakelman: A Hero on the Front Lines

Jay H. Dakelman served as a combat medic with the 86th Pontoon Division of the First Army Corps of Engineers during WWII. This unit played a critical role in building pontoon bridges that were vital for the movement and success of the American Army in Europe. Jay’s bravery and dedication earned him numerous medals, and his experiences on the front lines were both harrowing and heroic.

The Indispensable Role of the 86th Pontoon Division

The 86th Pontoon Division’s contributions were crucial in five major battles. These makeshift bridges allowed for the rapid advance of troops and equipment, often under heavy enemy fire. Jay and his comrades faced unimaginable challenges, yet their camaraderie and determination never wavered. Their story is one of resilience and extraordinary bravery.

The Aftermath of War: A New Chapter Begins

After the war, Jay returned home, ready to start a new chapter. Transitioning from military service to civilian life was a significant change, but it marked the beginning of his impactful journey in education and coaching. Jay’s experiences in the war shaped his approach to teaching and mentoring, instilling values of discipline, leadership, and perseverance.

Part II: The Bridge to Victory in Education and Sports

From War Hero to Beloved Coach

Jay began his career at Highland Park High School as a Physical Education teacher and coach. His military discipline and leadership skills translated well into his new role, where he quickly became a beloved figure. Jay’s dedication to his students and athletes was unwavering, and he strived to bring out the best in everyone he worked with.

Visionary Approach to Athletics

Jay’s innovative strategies led to an impressive record of championships. He developed a robust athletic program that emphasized not only physical fitness but also teamwork, dedication, and personal growth. His visionary approach transformed Highland Park High School into a powerhouse of athletic success, creating a legacy of excellence that lasted for decades.

Advocate for Women’s Sports and Inclusivity

One of Jay’s most significant contributions was his advocacy for women’s sports and inclusivity. He was a pioneer in promoting opportunities for female athletes at a time when such initiatives were rare. Additionally, Jay championed higher education opportunities for students of color, breaking new ground and fostering an environment of equality and respect.

Recognition and Legacy

In 1982, Jay was recognized as the National Athletic Director of the Year, a testament to his enduring impact. His influence extended far beyond Highland Park, inspiring coaches, athletes, and educators across New Jersey and beyond. Former students and colleagues often recall Jay’s relentless dedication and the profound effect he had on their lives.


“The Bridge to Victory” captures the dual legacy of Jay H. Dakelman, illustrating how his wartime experiences shaped his approach to education and sports. His story is one of courage, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to excellence and inclusivity. Jay’s life serves as an inspiration to all, reminding us of the power of dedication and the enduring impact one individual can have.