By Paul Dickinson
After 60 years, the late T'it'q'et-born Joe Paul has been formally recognized for his World War II heroism by the United States Army.
Paul's family and friends gathered in the Úcwalmicw Centre July 9 as American Legion representative Nils Dahlgren, with the aid of local Canadian Legion representative Noel Baker, presented Paul's sister, Jenny Frank, with the medals and pins Paul earned during his service as a rifleman in the U.S. Army.
Paul was born in 1922; he left home at the age of 15 to escape residential school. In 1940, at the age of 18, Paul joined the U.S. Army and fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and northern Europe.
As a Private First Class of the U.S. 3rd Army, Paul was under the command of famed General George Patton. Paul was wounded during the Sicily/Italy campaign, earning him the first of two Purple Hearts.
His commanding officer recommended him for the Bronze Star, the third highest U.S. military commendation, for valour in combat during the Rhineland campaign.
He was injured Dec. 19, 1944, in an explosion during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and was sent home.
After Paul passed away on July 1, 2001, Jenny Frank's son-in-law, Arnold Adolph, wanted to have Taps played at Paul's funeral.
"No one had a copy of the tune," Adolph recalls. "I contacted the 247 branch of the American Legion in Blaine, Washington, and Nils (Dahlgren) said he would come up and present the flag to Jenny."
Dahlgren attended the funeral and presented the family with the Stars and Stripes and a copy of the song. While he was there, it was discovered that Paul never received his medals.
During the next few years, Dahlgren painstakingly researched military records and compiled a list of the medals Paul had won. He then contacted the U.S. Army and managed to have the medals released.
In all, Dahlgren presented nine different pieces to Paul's family. The first was the Honourable Discharge pin, given to all World War II servicemen at the end of the war.
"They returned from fighting and received a pin for their efforts," Dahlgren told the family. "Servicemen called it a ruptured duck,' and I think they still do."
Paul was also awarded a rifle expert badge, denoting his skill as a sharpshooter during training.
Two medals, the World War II medal and the American Service medal, recognized Paul as a World War II veteran. Dahlgren explained that one medal with three stars confirmed Paul was in three American campaigns North Africa, Sicily/Italy (also known as the Middle East campaign), and Europe. He also received a medal for good conduct.
"The good conduct medal means he never did anything he wasn't supposed to, or at least that he never got caught," Dahlgren said with a laugh. "He had to mind his P's and Q's for a good three years, which was pretty hard to do."
Yet the honour that would have pleased Paul the most, Nils said, was his Combat Infantryman's Badge, a large pin depicting a silver 1776 rifle on a blue field with a laurel wreath around the outside.
"That badge is the most coveted of all army badges," Dahlgren said. "Only a foot soldier who was actually in combat could get this award. If Joe were here, he would be the most proud of this one. It would be worn on his uniform above all the others."
"It's such an honour to receive these for him," said Frank. "To think Joe was so well-treated and so highly thought of by the Americans, there are no words."
Dahlgren said tracking down the medals was a labour of love.
"Joe deserved them," he said simply. "He earned them. I felt his family should have them. This presentation is both sad and uplifting."
Adolph thanked Dahlgren and Baker for their efforts, and said the presentation was "a nice closing to the memorial."
"We all knew Joe had done exceptional things," said Adolph. "We're very fortunate and very grateful to Nils for his diligent work. It was wonderful to have him come up and complete this whole process."
Bridge River Lillooet News Jul 22th 2005.USLCES Home page.