Anthony Von Rycke was born on December 25th, 1919, to Poly and Coby Von Rycke in or around Prophetstown, Illinois. He attended Prophetstown High School and graduated in 1937. He enlisted in the Army two years later, in 1939. The United States was not yet at war during this time, so it is likely that Von Rycke anticipated a career in the military, rather than being called to service as the result of a declaration of war. He was stationed in the Philippines when the Japanese Empire destroyed the US fleet at Pearl Harbor, beginning a plan of conquest in the Pacific.
Anthony Von Rycke participated in a fierce defense of the Philippines, showing courage and loyalty in saving his friend during the fighting. Von Rycke and his best friend Raymond A. Pilkey, alongside ten other soldiers, were sent as a scouting party to ascertain the strength of the Philippines’ Japanese invaders. After a day and ten miles of searching for the enemy, the team’s leader ordered them to head back to friendly territory. It was at this moment that the scouting party was ambushed by a Japanese patrol four times their number. The US scouts made a fighting retreat, during which Pilkey suffered a machine gun wound to the shoulder. While the rest of the scouting party outpaced them, Pilkey recounts that Von Rycke never left his side:
My best friend, seeing I could never make our lines alone, stayed right beside me. He helped me at the risk of his own life. The others were soon far ahead of us, and we were soon alone with the Japanese all around us. For 12 hours Tony and I hid from the Japanese until they finally stopped searching for us. All this time he comforted me and cared for my wounds. After 12 hours we decided to try and make our lines, but I was too weak to walk. Only after I pleaded and begged him to leave me did he leave, with the promise to lead someone back to me.
Von Rycke then made his way back to US lines, and feverishly worked to gather patrols to find his friend. He led three separate patrols to save Pilkey, with each search party coming up empty handed as they were repulsed by the Japanese. Somehow, Pilkey managed to crawl back to the US lines on his own. Due to Von Rycke’s courage and loyalty, Pilkey survived to be sent to a hospital and survive the war.
Von Rycke himself was tragically not so lucky. After months of hard fighting, the Japanese had bloodied and cornered the US forces in the Philippines. The US and Filipino troops under General Wainwright were pushed back to Corregidor Island, where Wainwright tried to buy their lives by ceding the Island to Japanese General Masaharu Homma:
General Jonathan Wainwright, commander of the U.S. Armed Forces in the Philippines, offered to surrender Corregidor to Japanese General Masaharu Homma, but Homma wanted the complete, unconditional capitulation of all American forces throughout the Philippines. Wainwright had little choice given the odds against him and the poor physical condition of his troops—he had already lost 800 men. He surrendered on April 9, 1942, and all 11,500 surviving Allied troops were evacuated to a prison stockade in Manila.
It was in a Japanese prison camp that Anthony Von Rycke would ultimately meet his fate. On June 26, 1942, Anthony Von Rycke died of malaria.
Anthony Von Rycke’s legacy did not end in that prison camp, however. Years after the war, in 1948, Raymond A. Pilkey wrote a letter to his best friend’s family; in which he detailed the story related above. Battling inner demons after the war, Pilkey struggled for many years to write the Von Ryckes: “A man does many strange things and I am no exception. You wonder why I have waited so long to write you. Well, one of the strange things I have done was try to forget things I know now should never have been forgotten.” Not only did Pilkey honor Anthony Von Rycke by recording the story of his heroism in the Philippines; Pilkey also honored his best friend by giving his son the name ‘Anthony.’ In this way did Anthony Von Rycke live on in the memories and son of a best friend saved from the hell of war.
 “Letter Tells How Prophetstowner Saved Friend from Japs in 1942,” The Dispatch, December 10, 1948, p. 44, “Mrs. C. Von Rycke Of Prophetstown Dies in Moline,” The Daily Times, August 6, 1942, p. 27, “Prophetstown’s War Toll Heavy; Ten Dead, Four Missing,” The Dispatch, August 18, 1945, p. 13,