WW2 US First Infantry Division D-Day Purple Heart Medal

first division purple heart 2 watermarkThis D-Day Purple Heart grouping is an excellent example of how research can make the history behind these artifacts come alive.  I was contacted by the daughter of this Veteran who said that she had this Purple Heart and some photos of her father.  She did not have much info regarding his service.  She did know that he had retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and she thought he had been wounded in Normandy.

I talked with her for awhile and learned that her parents had got a divorce when she was very young.  Her father had remarried and moved away from the area.  She told me that because of this, they had not been very close.  She also mentioned that he unfortunately had passed away many years ago.  She said that this medal had just been sitting in a drawer for years and she did not know what to do with it.  She thought it was important for it to go to someone who would appreciate it and take care of it.  Thus, she decided to entrust it to me.

After I acquired the medal, I started researching it.  Initially, I did not have a lot to go on.  I had some basic info like his name, birth date, and where he lived prior to going into the service.  Unfortunately, his first and last names where very common names in that period.  This made it much harder to find anything as I had to sift through hundreds of people who had similar names during WWII.  It took a while, but I started to piece together the history of this Veteran and how he acquired this Purple Heart.

I had a bit of luck and found a series of newspaper articles from his hometown newspaper.  Even after he moved away from the town, they continued to write articles about him for several decades after he had left, because his mother and other family members still lived there.  Those articles had photos of him, so I was able to compare those photos with the ones I got from the daughter and positively confirm that I had the right match.

Through the newspaper articles I learned the story behind this Purple Heart.  He had been an officer in the famed US First Infantry Division, also referred to as the Big Red One, during WWII.  He was wounded on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, while serving with them.  This Purple Heart was awarded to him for that wound.  Luckily, he later recovered from his wound and continued to serve with the First Infantry Division for the rest of World War Two.  He eventually was given command of one of the battalions of the 16th Infantry Regiment, which was part of the First Division.  After the war, he stayed in the military and had a distinguished career.  He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the early 1960s.

Although it is hard to see in the photos, the medal itself is an earlier Purple Heart with the number on the rim of the medal.  In the two photos pictured, he is pictured in uniform after the War in the studio photo on the left.  In the photo on the right, he is the furthest officer on the right of the photo.

A couple of things are interesting about the photo on the right.  It was taken in March 1944, just prior to D-Day.  He is wearing what appear to be paratrooper jump boots.  Also, for a jacket, he is wearing what we military collectors commonly refer to today as tanker jackets because of their use by members of the armored forces during WWII.  Both jump boots and tanker jackets were very popular with regular infantry officers during WWII, who seemed to acquire them when ever possible.

Paramarine Bracelets Made From Japanese Zero Aircraft Aluminum

paramarine japanese zero bracelet 3 watermarkThese WWII bracelets combine two of my interests.  First, they were made by hand by a WWII USMC Paramarine and I really like Paramarine related items.  Second, they are made out of pieces of Japanese aircraft aluminum and I enjoy collecting pieces of Japanese WWII aircraft.

The Paramarine who made these was a member of the 2nd Paramarine Battalion. The first bracelet commemorates his service with that unit.  When I got it, it was flattened out like shown, to make it easier to display.  The second bracelet still retains the original bracelet shape, but the Veteran never added anything to the front of it.

Both bracelets were made out of Japanese aircraft aluminum.  They both retain their original green Aotake paint on the reverse side.  Aotake paint was used by the Japanese during WWII for corrosion resistance on metal on aircraft.  It has a very distinctive metallic/shiny appearance and can range in color.  I have seen green, blue, greenish blue/bluish green, and yellowish green colors of Aotake paint on Japanese aircraft parts.

The Marine added an inscription to the back of one of the bracelets.  It is a little hard to see in the photos, but it says Japanese 0, shot down in Vella LaVella, 10/1/43.  I did a little research and there was a Japanese air attack on Vella Lavella on October 1, 1943.  It was conducted by Val dive bombers of the 582nd Kokutai and A6M Zeros of the 204th and 201st Kokutai.  One Val dive bomber was recorded as shot down during this attack.  I don’t know if any of the Zeros were recorded as lost.  These pieces of Japanese airplane are apparently from this Japanese air attack.

After the Paramarines were disbanded, this Marine went on to become a member of the 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division.  He landed with the 27th Marines on Iwo Jima and was later wounded during that battle.  Please note that we have blurred out his name on the bracelet for privacy.

Fourth Marine Division Iwo Jima Stretcher Bearer Commendation

Fourth Marine Division Stretcher Bearer Document

This commendation was given to a WWII member of the 4th Marine Division for his brave service as a stretcher bearer during the battle of Iwo Jima.  He was a member of the Headquarters Battalion, Fourth Marine Division from April 1944 to the end of the war.  He was a member of the Division Band.  Members of the band were often used as stretcher bearers in the Marines, once the unit went into combat.  Please note that his name has been blurred out for privacy.

Being a USMC stretcher bearer was extremely dangerous work in the Pacific Theater during World War Two.  The Japanese did not follow the Geneva Convention protective rules regarding wounded troops and the people attending to them.  Instead, Japanese soldiers during WWII were taught that stretcher bearers were one of the first priority targets to eliminate.