MP Soldier Recognized For Efforts In World War II
by U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Audrey Hayes
January 15, 2019
“I remember the night and the trip to Carentan. You’ll remember
that no one was on the road, except for the five of us in the horse
drawn carriage. There is one thing that has stayed with me over the
forty years, it was the fact that we never knew each other’s names,
nor did we ever see one another’s faces.”
That is an excerpt
from a letter that Walter “Rookie” Pruiksma wrote about an event
that took place a few nights after the mighty invasion of Normandy,
France, during World War II.
He dubbed it his “Mission of
Mercy,” when he volunteered to escort an injured French woman and
her two children to a hospital, 12 miles through war-torn land, by
horse and buggy.
Seventy-four years later, Pruiksma, now 95
years old, and a resident of Brick, New Jersey, was recognized, not
only for his heroic acts that night, but also for his contribution
as a Military Police Soldier during World War II.
Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at the Manasquan First Presbyterian Church
in Manasquan, New Jersey, Pruiksma received the Order of the
Marechaussee medallion in Silver. Maj. Gen. Phillip M. Churn, the
assistant to the chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Reserve matters,
presented him with the medallion, which is awarded by Military
Police Regimental Association.
October 13, 2018 - Walter
Pruiksma received The Military Police Regimental
Association’s Order of the Marechaussee in Silver, during an
award ceremony in Mannasquan, New Jersey for the time he
served as a Military Police Soldier during World War II. He
volunteered to escort an elderly French woman on a 12-mile
night journey to the hospital due to an injury she incurred
nearly a week earlier when a German threw a grenade into her
home. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Audrey Hayes)
The Marechausse was established in 2000 and is the highest honor
an MP can receive. It recognizes exceptional dedication and
contribution to the MP Corps over an extended period of time.
Pruiksma was drafted into the United States Army in September
1943. The following February, he boarded a ship and sailed to Great
Britain with his unit, D Company, 783rd Military Police Battalion.
Four days after D-Day, D Co., along with C Co. from the 783rd,
arrived on Utah Beach, Normandy, France. They were the first MPs on
the battle-ridden shore. Their mission was to set up traffic control
points, process prisoners of war and establish the Red Ball Express
— a highway that was used to move an endless supply of cargo to Gen.
Pruiksma’s company set up its headquarters in
Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Normandy, and established a traffic control
point. But, it was two days later, June 12, 1944, when his most
memorable event — the Mission of Mercy — occurred.
French boy came to his post late at night and asked an officer if
someone could help him transport his mother to a hospital.
She was injured on D-Day, when a German Soldier threw a grenade into
Pruiksma recalls the officer saying, “I’m not
going to assign anyone for this mission. But, I will take
Pruiksma said he thought of his mother and how
he would want someone to help her, so he volunteered. Then, Cecil
Morris, another MP from his company, said he would go, too, to help
pull security during the trip.
At 1:00 a.m., Pruiksma, Morris
and the French boy, along with his sister and injured mother,
boarded a small, two-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage and began their
mission to the hospital in Carentan — 12 miles away and in no man’s
land. Pruiksma knew which direction Carentan was because he watched
the glow of the city burning the night before.
thing I could hear was the sound of the horse’s hooves and iron
wheels hitting the cobblestone,” said Pruiksma. “The streets were
When they reached the scorched town,
Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were watching from windows
and doorways as the carriage rolled by, not stopping them to
investigate where they were going.
When they reached the
hospital, Pruiksma saw a church across the street. In front of the
church building were two piles of dead German and American Soldiers
that reached five feet high.
They quickly jumped out of the
carriage and rang a bell at the hospital. A pegged-leg French man
hobbled to them and opened the gate.
Nurses, or perhaps nuns,
Pruiksma said, received the injured French woman and were so
thankful for his and Morris’ service. After a couple of minutes,
they got back on the carriage and headed back to their headquarters.
Just like that, it was over.
Although, it was a sliver of
time compared to the rest of his duration in the war, this mission
remained his most memorable.
“You know, I never talked about
any of this for nearly 40 years,” said Pruiksma. “I left all that
stuff on the boat.”
Until one day, he had an urge to know
with whom he shared the lonely, dangerous road to Carentan.
“It was like a book, but without the last chapter,” said Pruiksma.
He started to write letters inquiring about the injured French
woman and the pegged-leg man. He sent one to a church in
Saint-Marie-du-Mont and another to the town’s mayor.
newspaper of Saint-Marie-du-Mont published an advertisement with
Pruiksma’s inquiry about the family he helped, but no one responded.
A couple of years later, Pruiksma tried again. This time, he
sent a letter to the mayor of Carentan. And, this time, the mayor
replied. The letter included the names of the people he escorted to
Carentan, 40 years prior.
Pruiksma and the daughter of the
injured French woman — whose name he now knew as Madame Andree
Tourraine — wrote letters to each other explaining what they
remembered of the events that night.
“Upon learning your
name, I finally feel like I began to read the last chapter and the
story is coming to a completion,” Pruiksma said in a letter to her.
Pruiksma wasn’t officially recognized for his selfless service
during the war, until 2016. The French government awarded Pruiksma
with the Legion of Honor, the country’s highest recognition.
And now, two years later, the Military Police Regimental Association
is bestowing their highest honor upon him, as well.
proud to have served as an MP,” said Pruiksma. “When I was in France
and Belgium and Holland, it didn’t matter what other [national] army
I was working with. They knew I was authority when I had my MP
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