Long-gone GIs belatedly earn medals

April 07, 2010

They died in prison camps in Germany, Japan and Korea.

Now, decades later, 28 New Hampshire men will each posthumously receive a Purple Heart, a prestigious military decoration.

The state's four federal legislators announced Tuesday that family members of the World War II and Korean War veterans will soon receive the medals. Three Nashua natives and a Lyndeborough native are among those who will be recognized.

"It's the one medal you don't want to get. You either got a wound or got killed," said Allan Gavan, a member of the New Hampshire Chapter of American Ex-Prisoners of War who helped secure the Purple Heart medals.

"But having made that sacrifice, whatever the right word is, it's probably the most honorable medal because you've given everything," said Gavan, himself a prisoner of war in World War II.

"To be prisoners of war, they died from starvation. They died from beatings. They died from disease. They died from beheading."

Several of them died in the Bataan Death March, a 60-mile trek in which Japanese captors tortured American and Filipino POWs who collapsed or refused to walk after being denied food and water.

Several years ago, the American Ex-Prisoners of War organization started its search of family members for 61 New Hampshire POWs.

"It was no small feat," Gavan said in a telephone interview from his Center Harbor home. He received the help of two genealogy experts in tracking down the relatives.

"We had all the names but had to find the next of kin," Gavan said. "A lot of them died 60 years ago. Many were not married, and their mothers and fathers are dead."

Siblings and children of the 28 veterans were eventually found. Many of them will attend a ceremony Saturday at the state Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen to receive the medals.

Last summer, the organization found family members of 35 of the 61 POWs. About 20 families attended a ceremony in August at the Veterans Cemetery to receive the soldiers' medals.

That left more than two dozen families still left to be found. To find family members of the 28 veterans, the two genealogy experts and local historical societies and libraries sifted through marriage licenses and other records, Gavan said.

The offices of U.S. Sens. Judd Gregg and Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Reps. Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter helped break bureaucratic red tape to get the medals, Gavan said.

Sixteen of the 28 served in World War II and 12 served in the Korean War.

They include three Nashua natives:

Roland J. Maynard, an Army private first class who was captured in Belgium. He was last reported on Jan. 2, 1945, in Germany, with the notation "executed or shot while attempting escape." Maynard was born in Nashua on June 5, 1924, son of Joseph and Leontine (Dube) Maynard. He enlisted in Manchester on July 14, 1943.

Aurel N. Tremblay - a private first class in the 24th Division, 19th Regiment - was taken prisoner in Korea on July 30, 1950. He was reported murdered in a tunnel near Sunchon, North Korea, on Oct. 20, 1950. He was born in 1927.

Paul H. Jordon, an infantry captain, was reported missing in North Korea on Nov. 2, 1950, and declared dead April 30, 1951.

Lyndeborough resident Philip Botsford also will be recognized.

Families in New Hampshire, Georgia, Maryland and Texas will receive the Purple Heart medals. If those family members can't attend Saturday's ceremony, medals will be hand-delivered to them, Gavan said.

"This is something well-deserved," said Griffin Dalianis, commander of Gate City Chapter 7 of the Disabled American Veterans, a civilian aide to the secretary of the Army and a columnist for The Telegraph.

"As they say, ‘Some gave some and some gave all.' These guys gave all."

By:  Albert McKeon
Source: Nashua Telegraph