Granddaughter's research yields Bronze Star for WWII hero
The family of a New Jersey World War II-era veteran received a posthumous Bronze Star commending the heroic actions of their relative, Technician Fifth Grade John F. Morgan Jr., during an awards ceremony Feb. 18, in Denville, N.J.
Picatinny Senior Commander Brig. Gen. Jonathan A. Maddux presented the award to Morgan's son at the Franciscan Oaks Senior Living Facility.
On the night of Sept. 24, 1944, Morgan was in Vechel, Holland, when a large force of enemy infantry and tanks severed vitally important wire communications between division headquarters and a parachute infantry regiment.
It was paramount that the wire communication be reestablished. Despite enemy fire, intense darkness and unfamiliar roads and terrain, Morgan and his fellow Soldiers laid wire around the flank of enemy positions, restoring communication before daybreak.
In a memorandum dated Nov. 3, 1944, and signed by Col. R. D. Millener, chief of staff of the 101st Airborne Division, Morgan and six other men in the Signal Company, as well as six men in the 327th Glider Infantry unit, were to be commended for their heroic actions.
Although Morgan received a copy of the paperwork, he never received the award. He inquired about the memorandum while recovering from illness at a hospital at Camp Upton, NY.
A letter came back in October 1945, from the assistant adjutant general of the 101st Airborne Division, stating that they had no records of Morgan receiving the award. No explanation was given, and Morgan never pursued the matter.
Morgan passed away in 1992 at age 71. His family said he never really spoke about the war. He never received an award, and his family didn't know that he should have received it.
That was, until last autumn, when 16-year-old Lora, Morgan's granddaughter, was researching her grandfather's military service during World War II and stumbled across Millener's memorandum.
With some intuitive investigating, Lora discovered that two months after the letter was dated, Millener had been killed in action at the Battle of the Bulge. The mystery of what became of the paperwork may never be known.
During that time, servicemembers were issued a serial number or service number for identification rather than using their social security number.
Lora discovered several inconsistencies with her grandfather's service number, which could explain why the adjutant's office had no record of Morgan earning an award. After Lora's discovery, her father and Morgan's son Richard contacted New Jersey Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen's office, which then contacted the Secretary of the Army.
Nearly 70 years after Morgan's heroic action in World War II, the Army finally presented the hero's award. The Morgan family requested that a military officer present the posthumous award to Morgan's wife Mary at the Franciscan Oaks Senior Living center where she lived
However, she passed away just a few days before the ceremony. The Morgan family ultimately chose to continue with the award presentation at the senior living center. Before a room full of Mary's friends and family, Maddux presented the posthumous Bronze Star medal to Richard on behalf of the United States Army in recognition of his father's service.
Morgan in turn presented the medal to his daughter.
"If it were not for Lora, we would not be here today. In a way, she earned this medal," he said.
The Morgan family doesn't know if the other 12 men had received their awards.
Lora will continue her research with the aim of helping to make other families aware of the heroic actions of their relatives in uniform during World War II.
Article by Eric Kowal (AMC), Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs Office