Scars and French Honors

This is one of six stories that David T. Daniel has added from his time in the Army during World War II

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6


After discharge I closed my mind to everything that happened for three years. I never looked up an old army friend nor did I join any of the Veterans’ organizations.

Things do pop up and bring about a stir in the past. Sometime, probably 10 years into civilian life when I was working a crossword puzzle, one question was “When did the Germans break through our lines and cause the Battle of the Bulge?” The answer was December 16, 1944. I now confirmed I was wounded on the 15th and in the hospital on the 16th. This field hospital was abandoned before it was overrun by the Germans. I checked an old atlas and was able to identify the hospital location and the breakthrough point. It was approximately 35 miles from my battle point. How could this be? How could I have been picked up and deposited 35 miles away? Another great mystery!!

Here is another event which leads down the military lane. While taking my annual physical n 1961, I, for some reason was scanned with an x-ray machine. A dark spot was noted in my buttocks, so doctors decided to operate at Yale New Haven Hospital. I am in the recovery area near the nurses’ station when the assistant surgeon revealed that they removed an odd shaped piece of material about the size of a large marble, with string wrappings. It was sent to a laboratory and the diagnosis was it was a piece of metal. He asked, “How can a piece of metal get into your fanny?” I told him about my war experience in 1944. He said, “Oh my God, for 17 years you have been carrying round a chunk of shrapnel!” The senior doctor arrived and seeing that he had a nurse audience said, “Young man, you must have been running like hell, because you go shot in the arse.”

My next post military experience is difficult to believe. Living in Rhode Island in 2000, I ran into an old pal who was associated with D.A.V. (Disabled American Veterans). He thought I should get some disability when I revealed my neck pains which had caused continuous treatments. Applying by mail to the Veterans Office in Providence, I received a letter stating that there was no record of my military service. My heart wasn’t in the application, but now my ire is erupting.

I learned that in 1973 a large warehouse in St. Louis had burned and records of all World War II Army and half of the Air Force records were destroyed. I still have a copy of a letter to that fact. Of course, I had copies of my discharge papers, but all hospital records were gone. I had 6 medals but no Purple Heart. How could that be if I was wounded??

The answer to that question was really an interesting one. It was fox-hole gossip that each morning the Captain (Company Commander) would complete a daily report listing all killed and wounded and in doing so would recommend the Purple Heart awards, including those posthumously. I was missing, so I was omitted. I never gave this a thought.

I reminded the Veterans Administration that shrapnel was removed from my body in 1961, but I didn’t apply for a Purple Heart. After numerous meetings, etc., I was awarded $102.00 per month and with inflation that is now $129.00.

Here is by far the most interesting post war reminder.
In early 2007, I received a letter from the D.A.V. of Connecticut. In addition to the letter, a brochure was enclosed which explained “The Legion of Honor Medal” which is the French highest military honor. Excerpts from the brochure are attached:

"Legion of Honor Medal

U.S. veterans who helped in the liberation of France during WWII could be eligible to receive the French Legion of Honor Medal, previously issued only to WWI Vets. The French Government has asked the Secretary of VA for assistance in identifying qualified U.S. veterans for medal consideration, to be reviewed and approved by the Legion of Honor Committee in Paris, France. French consulates in the U.S. will distribute approximately 100 medals each year."

I wondered how it is possible that maybe 2000 (100 x 20 years) could be chosen from a possible one million. It is probable, however, that now, 65 years later, at least half have passed away.

I learned with amazement that this Paris Commission had complete histories of all battles with most of the information coming from war correspondents and historians. There was even mention of morning reports which had to be voluminous.

The Commission obviously studied the major victories and the units involved and in so doing pared down the total to a small unit such as a platoon. In this way, individuals could be identified.

The D.A.V. gathered from me all my discharge records and completed an application. I heard nothing for two years.

By phone I was invited to come in October 2009 to the French Consulate in New York City for the award. I, along with 6 permitted guests, witnessed a beautiful ceremony, with wine and goodies afterwards. Fifteen of us from the Northeast and mid-Atlantic out of the total 100 nationwide were here.

David T. Daniel
Southbury, CT ©2013

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