When you ask George DePuydt about his involvement in World War II and his Purple Heart, he's quick to tell you, "I wasn't no hero."
How did George get a purple heart? His son Peter DePuydt writes:
Maybe Mr. DePuydt downplays his own role because he remembers the men who didn't make it.
One of George DePuydt's own crewmembers (shown in the photo in the previous post) died during the war: Harold Uhlrich. George and Harold were good friends.
I'll let Pete tell the rest of the story:
During the years he often mentioned his friend Harold Uhlrich, but on this occasion he told me something I had not heard before.
When Harold died, he left behind a wife and a baby daughter who was 2 years old. My dad said that at the end of the war he had wanted to go to see Uhlrich’s family and tell them what had happened to him. But Dad had been away from my mom for 3 years, plus he didn’t have a job or a car. Remember, in those days there were no freeways either, so road trips could really be time consuming. However, I think the main goal was to try and get on with life. My dad never made the trip to Dubuque, Iowa to see Uhlrich’s family.
So I filed that away in the back of my mind, until the fall of 2004, when I started wondering about whether I could help my Dad complete that trip. So, to make a long story somewhat shorter, I did a little Internet sleuthing, and by luck (or Divine intervention?), Uhlrich’s daughter was found in Arizona. She was thrilled to see the picture and wanted to talk with my Dad. I called him and he said he would be happy to speak to her, so they had a nice telephone conversation, from what I was told. She did not meet with him in person. She called me after talking to my Dad, and said they never knew much about the circumstances of Harold’s death.
From what my Dad tells me, here is the story. They could see some Germans off in the distance from a ridge where their tank was parked. Harold got out of the tank with a pair of binoculars to get a better look, when he was shot by a sniper in the upper leg of the groin area. The bullet severed the artery. The tank crew tried to stop the bleeding while a medic was called on their radio. They took Harold away to a field hospital, and later found out that he died. At least his family learned that he wasn’t alone, and people who cared about him were there at his moment of truth.
So, in closing, I once mentioned to my Mom that these World War II pictures look like they are from the History Channel, and she replied “that’s because they are!”
Today's soundtrack: "America the Beautiful", performed by the USAF Singing Sergeants.
Who more than self the country loved
And mercy more than life!