Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Great Uncle's Medals

A few year's ago, Bay City had a major flood.  Some of the things saved during that flood was the medals from my great uncle.  Before that, I remember seeing his grave in Cadillac and my dad pointing out that he died in World War II.  After some research I was able to put together a few details of his service in the war.  I do want to thank my dad for his help.
 This is the cluster of medals that I have.  The one at the top is the Purple Heart.  He recieved that after being killed in the war.  My dad said that he was on an aviation fuel barge that was attacked by Japanese aircraft during the Guadalcanal campaign.

After a little more digging, I found his name on a list of casualties in the National Archives.  He was an Electricians Mate 3rd Class in the Naval Reserve.  My dad did a little more digging and found out that he was attached to the Naval Construction Batallion 6 (Seabees in more popular vernacular).  Unfortunately, I don't have too many more details than that.
 The Purple Heart is a military decoration that is awarded (not sure if that is the right term) to anyone killed or wounded in action after 1917.  It is the oldest United States military award and was originally established by George Washington (hence his bust on it).  Originally it was designated as the Badge of Military Merit and was only awarded to three Revolutionary War soldiers.

The award was never abolished but never re-proposed until after World War I.  In 1931, the current design was proposed by General Douglas MacArthur.  The shield above the medal is George Washington's coat of arms.  Multiple awards are indicated by oak leaf clusters in the Army and Air Force or stars in the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.  During the early period of World War II it was also awarded for meritrious action.  The first one was awarded to Douglas MacArthur.

With the establishment of the Legion of Merit, the award was only given for wounds or deaths in combat.  In 1985, this was expanded to include friendly fire.  An interesting tidbit is that 500,000 Purple Hearts were manufactured in anticipation of the Invasion of Japan.  These medals are still being used to this day because that number has not been exceeded in subsequent actions.

Over 1,000,000 were awarded in World War II.  Almost 120,000 for Korea and a little over 350,000 for Vietnam.  607 were awarded during Desert Storm.  A little over 7,000 for the Afghanistan War and 35,000 for Iraq.
 The Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal was created in November of 1942 and designed by Thomas Hudson Jones.  It was awarded to any US Serviceman that served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater from December 7, 1941 to March 2, 1946.  The late date was because President Truman did not declare the war officially over until then.
 The American Campaign medal was awarded to any service member who served in the United States for a year during the war.  It was also created in November of 1942.  It was designed by the same person as the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal.
The last one is the World War II victory medal.  The front depicts Nike with a broken sword which represents the defeat of the Axis powers. She has her foot over Mars' helmet which depicts the end of the conflict and the sun behind her represents the dawn of peace.  The medal was created in July of 1945.  It was awarded to any service member who served during World War II.

As I said, I wish I had a little more history about my great uncle but here is some history on the medals.

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