World War II Veteran Receives Purple Heart 74 Years Later
by U.S. Army Kevin Larson, Fort Stewart Public Affairs Office
May 22, 2018
On April 11, 1944, the “Kansas City Kitty”, a B-24 Liberator
bomber assigned to the 566th Bombardment Squadron of the 8th Army
Air Force out of Hethel, England, was shot down by enemy aircraft
over Germany during World War II.
On February 23, 2018 ...
nearly 74 years later, Edward H. Mims was presented the Purple Heart
Medal for the wounds he received in the crashing bomber that fateful
day when 20 years old. He and his wife, Sandi, reside in The
Villages retirement community located near Orlando, Florida.
February 23, 2018 - Staff Sgt. Edward Mims, 93, smiles and holds his Purple Heart Medal as well-wishers thank him for his service following a ceremony in his honor at the The Villages, a retirement community in Florida. Mims was awarded the medal nearly 74 years after being wounded in World War II while serving as a top turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber. Fort Stewart garrison command team Col. Jason Wolter and Command Sgt. Maj. Marty Conroy present the veteran his medal. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Kevin Larson, Fort Stewart Public Affairs Office)
“I’m thankful that I’m here,” Mims said. “It was unbelievable
that I was spared.”
Mims was the top turret gunner on the
bomber, serving alongside 10 men. Seven men, including Mims, bailed
out of the aircraft after it was hit by enemy fighter fire. One
man’s parachute did not open. Mims and the surviving five men were
captured and held as prisoners of war in Stalag 17B in Austria. He
spent 390 days in the camp, where 4,000 others were held. Mims was
liberated by U.S. forces on May 3, 1945, after enduring a westward
300-mile march after the stalag was evacuated in the face of
oncoming Soviet forces encroaching from the east. Being a POW
“wasn’t a picnic,” Mims said.
“It was something I didn’t want
to go through,” he said. “But most of us managed.”
Parent, a military veteran and resident of The Villages and Mrs.
Mims were instrumental in securing Mims’ Purple Heart.
had to follow procedures to make a request to change military
documents to include all military medals not yet awarded to him for
World War II action in Europe,” said Parent during the Purple Heart
Medal ceremony held in the Villages’ Eisenhower Recreation Center.
“After filling out all the paperwork…(he was) denied the Purple
Heart because the review board said they could not be sure his
injures were sustained by enemy action. You see, his military
records were destroyed in the St. Louis fire back in 1973.”
It took seven years of hard work and social media sleuthing to
ensure Mims was awarded the medal he deserved.
enough eye witness documentation to show that Sgt. Mims received
injuries from the fire that went up through his top turret position
and burned his face, head, and hands,” Parent said.
took the support of the Trump administration, Mrs. Mims said.
“I am overwhelmed and have abundant joy and appreciation that my
husband can be honored the way he should be honored,” she said.
Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield garrison command team Col.
Jason Wolter and Command Sgt. Maj. Marty Conroy presented the Purple
Heart to Mims in the community’s Eisenhower Recreation Center. It
was a fitting location for the ceremony, with its museum vibe,
showcasing artifacts from throughout the nation’s military history.
“This is long overdue,” Col. Wolter said. “Thank you for your
service and sacrifice.”
Although long overdue, Mrs. Mims said
her husband still endures the unseen wounds the war left behind.
“He has post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “He has
nightmares, continual nightmares, where he is in the plane. And
he’ll wake me and he says ‘would you please see if we’re on land or
in the sky.’ It’s an everlasting effect. For so long, he kept it in,
didn’t want to share it with his family. They kept on saying ‘Ed,
our children need to know what you and others have done for our
county. Talk about it.’ And he began to talk about.”
started to open up about his service about eight years ago, roughly
the same time Mrs. Mims bought tickets for him and her to fly in a
restored B-24 on Father’s Day. Mims eyes’ lit up and he chuckled as
Mrs. Mims described the experience.
““It was so barbaric and
so cold and smelled like gasoline,” Mrs. Mims said.
he was amazed people made an effort to restore a B-24.
just surprised,” he said. “I appreciated it.”
As part of the
ceremony, Parent asked for a moment of silence to honor the crew of
The names of the crew are:
Pilot, 1st Lt. Jack Wyatt, killed in action
Co-pilot, 2nd Lt. David Stiner, prisoner of war
Lt. Richard Gustafson, killed in action
Bombardier, 2nd Lt.
George Sherry, killed in action
Nose turret gunner, Staff Sgt.
Robert Tackett, killed in action
Radio operator, Staff Sgt.
Kenneth Hebert, killed in action
Ball turret gunner, Staff Sgt.
Donald Williquette, prisoner of war
Waist gunner, Staff Sgt.
Ralph Wetzel, prisoner of war
Waist gunner, Staff Sgt. Albert
Rieser, prisoner of war
Tail gunner, Staff Sgt. James Bradley,
prisoner of war
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