The North Bend Eagle


Purple Heart arrives 94 years later thanks to son's persistence

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 11/7/12

Hugh Wilson was 20 years old when the war in Europe started in 1914. By April 1917, the United States entered what was to become known as World War I. Three months later, Wilson enlisted.

Purple HeartJohn Wilson is proud to display his father Hughie Wilson's Purple Heart earned in a World War I battle.

Being one of four boys in the Exeter farming family, it seemed like the thing to do. After basic training in New Mexico, he was assigned to Company M of the 125th Infantry Regiment and sent to France. On Oct. 8, 1918, Wilson received a gunshot wound in his arm. Doctors marked his arm for amputation, but without their knowledge Wilson removed the tag ordering the amputation. The arm eventually healed and he went back to his unit.

After the war, Wilson returned home where he married and worked as a barber, then a farmer. He had four children to whom he seldom mentioned his WWI injury. Hugh Wilson died in Dec. 28, 1970.

North Bend resident John Wilson, a Korean War veteran himself, was reading an article in the Sept. 2010 VFW Magazine about the history of the Purple Heart. The award was originally established by George Washington in 1782, but fell out of use after the Revolutionary War. In 1932 it was reinstated for meritorious service or for being wounded in military action. In 1942 it was changed so that it was given only to troops wounded or killed in action. Another feature caught John Wilson’s eye: there were statue of limitations on retroactive awards.

Wilson knew his father Hugh was eligible for the award, though he had seldom mentioned anything about it to his family. A fire at the National Personal Records in St. Louis in 1973 destroyed about 80 percent of the records for Army personnel discharged between 1912 and 1960. Among the missing records were those of Hugh Wilson.

Not deterred, John Wilson set about locating family records of his father’s military service and combat wound. With the help of his siblings, Ann Hall of Milford, Hugh Wilson of Exeter and Alice Plettner of Columbus, he was able to gather enough material to support the claim for his father’s Purple Heart. On Hugh Wilson’s discharge paper it says “G.S.W. [Gun Shot Wound] Gesnes (France) Oct. 8, 1918.” Wilson also gathered his father’s enlistment record that he had brought home and VA hospital records that talked about scarring from the injury.

Clayton Snover steered Wilson to the Dodge County Veteran’s Affairs office where he filled out the “Application for Correction of Military Record” to get his father a Purple Heart.

Wilson started this process shortly after reading the magazine article. On May 23, 2012, Private First Class Hughie Wilson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart “for wounds received in action on 8 October 1918” by the Department of the Army Review Boards Agency.

John Wilson received the medal and has shared it with his siblings and extended family. For now he has no particular plans for the award other than keep it as part of the Wilson family history - even if it is 94 years late.

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