Monday, July 15, 2013

Military Monday (July 15, 2013) -- Return of a Purple Heart

[This post is unusual in that I am going to post it today and again this coming Sunday as part of my "Samaritan Sunday" series.  It does not involve any ancestor or relative of mine.  The piece was first prepared for a Samaritan Sunday post, but I believe it deserves as wide an audience as possible -- so I thought posting it as a Military Monday post might bring it to the attention of more blog followers (via Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers) than just posting it in my Samaritan Sunday series.]

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Robert Bates was one of the sailors aboard the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and thereby brought the U.S. into World War II.  He remains entombed in the ship to this day.  The only thing of his that was returned to his family after his death was his Purple Heart -- but that medal had gone missing about 71 years ago.   

As anyone who has visited the Memorial at Pearl Harbor knows, the Arizona is still there and even after all these decades oil can be seen leaking up from the wreckage of the ship (2.3 quarts per day).  The Arizona remains the final resting place for many of the 1,177 sailors (out of a crew of 1,512) who were killed as a result of the attack on December 7, 1941.  The wreck of the ship was designated a national shrine in 1962.  The ship is considered a war grave and any survivors of the attack that sunk the ship are entitled, if they so desire, to have their ashes placed within the ship with their shipmates.  Anyone who ever served on the Arizona at times other than on December 7, 1941 is entitled to have his ashes scattered in the water above the ship. 

It is believed that Robert Bates' Purple Heart was presented to his mother.  She died in 1945 and following her death the medal was lost -- that is until a truck driver in Bakersfield, California found the medal on the side of a road with other items.  Since the items were found near a VFW Post, the driver gave it to the VFW.  

The next step in the medal's journey was when Ken Hooper, a history teacher, was contacted. He and his archives class set about trying to identify the person to whom the medal belonged.  In March of this year in Tyler, Texas relatives of Robert Bates had the medal hand delivered to them by Good Samaritan Ken Hooper.

Read here the full story of how a string of Good Samaritans contributed to the return of Robert Bates' long-lost Purple Heart to his family!

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The depiction of the Purple Heart is an image in the public domain because it is a work of the United States Government and is a United States Military Award.  See, 

For more information on the history of the battleship Arizona (BB-39), see

USS Arizona Memorial aerial photograph has been released to the public by the United States Navy.  See,
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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