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    A Purple Heart for death by sniper fire

    Bill Dienna

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    Yesterday at the flea markets I found a complete posthumous U.S. Purple Heart from World War II. It was cased, within its white protective box, with the enclosure card from the Secretary of War. It was officially hand-engraved to Private John Kurland, a soldier in the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry division. What made this decoration even more noteworthy was the fact that within the box was a letter to Kurland's Mother, written on May 17, 1945, from the Lt. Col. of the regiment. Within the letter he writes to provide "additional details" of Mrs. Kurland's son's death. In a rather lengthy letter he notes that her son was courageously taking part in an assault on an enemy position in Dessau when he was "killed instantly" by a German sniper. He informs her that he was buried in an American military cemetary with a Catholic Chaplain presiding.

    Kurland does not appear on the rolls of the American Battle Monuments Commission, so he did not remain buried overseas.

    This is the first Purple Heart that I have ever owned where there was a direct attribution of a death to a "sniper", as opposed to simply "killed by enemy fire". While many soldiers I think often attributed a solitary shot to a "sniper", in this case the letter was written some time after the soldier's death, and it seems to reflect a specific effort to provide further details for Kurland's mother, I suspect in response to an inquiry from her. For that reason I tend to think that in this case the action report and witnesses almost certainly identified an actual sniper as having been present and responsible for the death of Private Kurland and perhaps others as well.

    I will try to post a photo or two later.

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    One of the best places to start is the First Division Museum at Cantigny:


    It contains links to other good 1st ID sites such as:

    The Society of the 1st Infantry Division


    18th Infantry Regimental Association


    Edited by ehrentitle
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    • 3 weeks later...

    Wow Bill,

    That sounds like a powerful set you found! I am suprised that a family would allow something like that to out of family hands.


    I agree .. but I can only repeat what I have actually seen from my own experience. My wife's grandmother died some years ago. She had her KIA husbands medals (July 1944). When it came time to split everything up .. the family vultures came diving in ... the whole set was split up and everyone got a bit and piece. I'm sure 95% of them had no idea what they got. It wouldn't surprise me if 1/2 the stuff has already been sold off by the money grubbing bastidges. Only the ones that care about keeping these groups together or treasure their value, never get them :mad:

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    • 2 weeks later...

    Well, not always.... I spoke recently with my cousin regarding his Dad's stuff. He was with Patton from North Africa right through the end of the war. My cousin said "ain't never happening".... My Uncle and 4 of his brothers all fought WW2. I have another Uncle's bible that he was given in 1941 and carried in his pocket until the day he passed. Beat to hell, missing one cover, front cover beaten out of a shell casing. pretty powerful stuff..... They were a great bunch of guys who didn't bring home a single souvenir. just lots of memories, most bad. They were in the thick of it.

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