I was recently contacted by Mr. William Burd, a 77-year-old veteran and American Legion member, who had the original Purple Heart from his cousin, Thomas H. Evans, who fought in World War II, with the pictures and original certificates. He had no one to pass it on to and wanted to know if he could donate it to some organization.
I asked him to send it to me and I would investigate it. When I received the package, I was very surprised that all the contents were in good shape. The Purple Heart was in the original tube from the War Department, dated 31 December 1944, along with the original medal set and certificate, and included two pictures of the soldier.
It appears the soldier died at the Battle of the Bulge on 25 December 1944, from artillery fire on the one day there was supposed to be a cease-fire. As the adjutant of Post 58 in Fountain Hills, Ariz., I contacted the War Museum in Bastogne, Belgium, to be told they were interested in seeing these items. The museum paid to have the documents shipped to Bastogne, where it is now on permanent display front and center in the museum. If you ever go there, I encourage you to look for Thomas Evans and this story.
These historical documents and the story of Mr. Burd's cousin might very well have never been told, were it not for our post being willing to take this investigation on and not ignore it.
There was even a poem written about this incident and this soldier.
CHRISTMAS PRESENT 1944
Above the town of Trois-Ponts we sat
On the first sunny day in a week.
It was Christmas day in the Ardennes
Up to now, things had been pretty bleak.
I rose slowly from my ice-rimmed bed.
And I returned my boots to my feet.
Men were stirring this side of the hedge
On the other, tombstones were replete.
The hedge had been our shield of defense.
I had dug my slit trench at its base.
The enemy crept beyond the town.
And the Captain showed his smiling face.
"Good morning," he said. "Have a cigar."
"No," I said: "It's too early for me."
I thought of saying: Merry Christmas.
"A beautiful day, Barger," said he.
I went over to the nearby spring,
But first I had to break off the ice.
I thought I would make some hot coffe.
I was sure that would be pretty nice.
We sat around, smoked, drank and we ate.
It was good to feel the wintry sun.
It seemed things were unusually quiet.
Life at the front is never much fun.
Then out of the sky came our own planes.
The P47's flew in so swift,
Four strafed the enemy way below.
Each giving a five hundred pound gift.
The last plane mistook some of our men
For en'my on our side of the hill.
He dropped his bombs directly on them,
What was left was practically nil.
But these men were one of our own squads
They were fixing their Christmas Day meal.
Eight of them were killed in a flash!
An event we will never conceal.
These were our good buddies in their prime
And every Christmas since that day
I cannot but remember that time
And I think of the pride they did pay.
I've dedicated this poem to these eight men: Kenneth R. CRAIG, Edwin G. DAVIS, Thomas H. EVANS, John L. GRANT, Leland C. HELLER, Donald H. OLDS, Harold V. SCHRAMM and Bernard J. SCHROEDER.
All killed in action December 25, 1944.
By Allan C. BARGER, Port Orchard, Wash.