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November 11, 2012

Combat engineer's records yield posthumous Bronze Star

Combat engineer's records yield posthumous Bronze Star

CHAMPLAIN — A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in the case of one World War II veteran, many photographs helped to bring him a posthumous Bronze Star.

Paul G. Rivet died of lung cancer in 1965; he had never pursued receipt of the promised recognition of his bravery.

But while he never talked much about his war service, said his son Leo, he left behind candidly captioned pictures, now yellowed with time, depicting wartime life as a first sergeant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Company “A,” 405th Engineer Water Supply Battalion.

Rivet further detailed his five years as a combat engineer with daily journal entries.

Also tucked away among his collection is a copy of a three-page letter dated “6 April 1944,” written by Capt. John I. Anderson and recommending Rivet for a Bronze Star medal.

But Anderson later died in combat, Leo said, and nothing ever came of the commendation.

RECORDS BURNED

Leo said his decision to pursue the honor for his father is simple.

“He never got the medal he was supposed to get. He was sick, and he never really pursued it,” he said, on the table before him a large stack of detailed writings and photos his father left behind. 

“I just wanted to straighten the record.”

When Leo first looked into obtaining the medal in 1996, he learned his father’s records were among 80 percent of documents destroyed by fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis on July 12, 1973.

“After hearing that, I really wasn’t sure what to do,” he said.

But thanks to Paul’s personal archival efforts coupled with a keen sense of journalism, Leo was able to gather enough information to make an attempt to get the medal.

“We were really lucky he kept a good track of everything,” said Leo, who was 10 when his father died.

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