Photos Purple Heart Award Ceremony October 5, 1942
On October 5, 1942 at Port Moresby, Walker bestowed the Purple Heart award to three officers and eleven enlisted men of the 703rd Ordnance Company, 8th Service Group for removing bombs and ordinance during an accidental fire that was burning in a bomb dump. In the early months of World War II, the Purple Heart award was bestowed for meritorious performance of duty and valor, in addition to wounds or death in combat. Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information.
In an award ceremony covered by war correspondents and Army photographers, Walker pinned the Purple Heart on each recipient. Several photographs of the award ceremony were published in U.S. newspapers.
An ACME photo of “Long Island Boy Honored For Courage” showing Private Martin J. Zimmermann, 32164390 of Ozone Park, Long Island receiving the Purple Heart. Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker is wearing a garrison cap and holding a swagger stick.
An Associated Press (AP) photos show “Three Hoosiers Decordated” including SSgt Sheldon D. Nearing, 06990267 of Hammond, Indiana receiving his Purple Heart, plus portraits of two other Hoosiers: Private Glenn V. Greenfield, 15084229 of Garrett, Indiana, and Private Oliver T. Beyer of Warsaw, Indiana.
Another Purple Heart recipient, SSgt Julius Schellenberg, 32114651 of Brooklyn, New York wrote about the award ceremony in his diary:
Diary of S/Sgt Julius Schellenberg, October 7, 1942
“Two days ago [October 5, 1942] I got the “Purple Heart”, together with the others who were with me in the ammunition dump. It was quite an impressive ceremony when the company fell out at one o’clock, dressed in their best and cleanest khaki uniforms. There seem to be all the war correspondents and newsreel men on the island. For them the whole company paraded and then we took our place, waiting for the General to arrive. We didn’t have to wait long. The command: “Present Arms” was given and the General dismounted from his command car. Then Capt. Welch read each man’s name and the deed he did. Singularly, we came up, in front of the company, as our names were called and General Walker pinned the “Purple Heart” on our chests. He spoke to each one of us, congratulating and shaking hands with us. Then he spoke to the whole company. Newsreel men were busy, taking our pictures. The newspaper men were swarming around us, getting our names, addresses and what not! It was something to write home about.”
Photos by George Strock, LIFE Magazine October 15, 1942
These photographs were originally captioned as “Decoration of 19th Bomb Group” and were released in February 1943. They were taken at Mareeba Airfield in Queensland, Australia. In attendance was Major General George C. Kenney (C.O., 5th Air Force), Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker (Commanding General, 5th Bomber Command, wearing sunglasses) and Lt Colonel Richard H. Carmichael (C.O. 19th Bombardment Group, holding cane). The men are from the 19th Bomb Group who flying combat missions since the start of the Pacific War from the Philippines, Java, Australia and New Guinea. The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) is being awarded to airmen who flew fifty missions or performed “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight”. Parked in the background are the group’s B-17E Flying Fortresses that were based at the airfield. Thanks to Steve Birdsall for additional information.
General Kenney Reports page 122:
“On the 15th [October 1942], on the way to Port Moresby, I stopped at Townsville and Mareeba and pinned over 250 decorations on that many proud chests. The ceremony at Townsville took nearly an hour and the one at Mareeba over two hours. By the time I got through, I had worn most of the skin off the thumb and forefinger of my right hand. It was a great show.”
Enlargements of Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker at the ceremony. Photos by George Strock, LIFE Magazine October 15, 1942
Afterward, these photographs were used to cover the Battle of the Bismarck Sea March 2-4, 1943 including coverage by Associated Press War Correspondent Murlin Spencer.
“Nemesis of Big Jap Sea Force” with the caption:
“Lieut. Gen. G. C. Kenney (center, first row), commander of Allied air forces in the Southwest Pacfici, with assistants, fliers, and plane crewmen of his organization. General Kenney directed and doubtless many of these men participated in the great air raid which whiped out the Jap convoy of ten warships and twelve transports trying to reach New Guinea. It was one of the great victories of this Pacific War. An American flying fortress forms the background for the photograph, made recently at an advanced bomber base, when many of the men shown were decorated for air exploits. To the left of General Kinney [sic] is Lietu. Col. R. H. Carmichael, and to the right of him Brig Gen. K. E. [sic] Walker. (Wirephoto)”
Spencer, Murlin. “386 Medals Awarded American Air Heroes at Australian Base – Maj. Felix M. Hardison of Washinton among those honored” The Evening Star, October 17, 1942.
“D. C. Flier, 249 Others Get Valor Awards” The Washington Post, October 18, 1942.
January 5, 1943 by 5th Combat Camera Unit [5th CCU]
These photographs were taken by a photographer aboard one of the six B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 43rd Bombardment Group, 64th Bombardment Squadron during the inbound flight to the Rabaul area over the target area. One of the aircraft visible is B-17F “San Antonio Rose” 41-24458 with General Walker aboard as an observer. These images are the last photographs of the bomber before it went Missing In Action (MIA). The original photos are part of the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) collection. Citation: RG 342 Series FH Roll 3A31155-3A31881