Hollister man recalls some of the hardest fought battles in
Richard Edvenson flipped through a binder of newspaper clippings
in plastic sleeves, his eyes bright blue through thick eyeglasses.
The white haired man has kept the yellowing clips about World War
II battles and lost lives for 61 years, though he rarely talked
with family or friends about his own experience.
Hollister man recalls some of the hardest fought battles in WWII
Richard Edvenson flipped through a binder of newspaper clippings in plastic sleeves, his eyes bright blue through thick eyeglasses. The white haired man has kept the yellowing clips about World War II battles and lost lives for 61 years, though he rarely talked with family or friends about his own experience.
It wasn’t until two weeks ago, when Edvenson received a package from Richmond, Va. that he opened up about his time in the military. The package arrived after a year’s search for a purple heart. Shrapnel hit the former military man, who served in active duty during World War II and the Korean War, during the Battle of the Bulge while American troops were under siege in Belgium.
“I never talked about it,” Edvenson said. “The men had all been through different things. A buddy had been in North Africa. I hadn’t been through any more than he had.”
After his days of service, Edvenson and his wife, Gertrude, moved from Iowa to California in a search for better employment, eventually settling in Hollister in 1954.
Edvenson has remained an active member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars. He and his wife, Gertrude, can be seen around Memorial Day, putting up American flags in honor of Veterans. She is part of the VFW Auxiliary group, a group for spouses or family members of veterans.
As he neared his 80th birthday, Edvenson wanted to make sure his records were in order because veterans with purple hearts receive priority for some VFW services, including admittance to the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, in Napa Valley.
He started his search with the local VFW. He found that his military records had burned in a St. Louis, MO fire in 1974.
“My records, along with others, burnt up,” Edvenson said. “I sent in a copy of local papers, a letter I wrote to my parents that I had been wounded and my copy of records.”
Drafted into the army in 1944, the Iowa native signed up for paratrooper service because it paid $50 more a month than other divisions and he received $100 for joining. He entered basic training at Camp Roberts in California and then went to Georgia for paratrooper training. He learned how to parachute and fly gliders for the 101st Airborne.
Edvenson arrived in Europe on his birthday, Dec. 6, just 19 years old and went right into the Battle of Bulge.
“You knew what you had to do,” Edvenson said, of entering battle. “You got shelled. You were scared, but there’s not much you can do about it.”
When he arrived, the troops were poorly outfitted for the European snow.
“The worst part was the weather,” Edvenson said. “We went in without winter clothing. It was the worst weather in years.”
He flipped through a photo history book of the war, pointing out places he had been and the sights he had seen, including the Belgian city where he was wounded.
“In Bastogne, the lieutenant came back from being in the hospital and they started shelling us,” he said. “It’s like getting too close to fireworks on the Fourth of July.”
The lieutenant’s fingers were blown off. Several others were injured and taken to a hospital.
“I was what you called walking wounded,” he said. “The others were put on a jeep, but there was no more room for anyone else. I didn’t want to go back to the hospital because it was getting shelled.”
The injury wasn’t recorded in military documents and Edvenson still needs to turn in more paperwork before the purple heart he received two weeks ago becomes official. The military took “morning reports,” a sort of roll call but not had been taken when he was injured.
“Morning reports were unheard of on frontline duty,” Edvenson said. “That might be alright for basic training, but you can’t do it in battle.”
When Edvenson received his package from Virginia two weeks ago, he expected to find just a purple heart inside. Instead he found a medal for his occupation of Germany; a Belgian Fourragere, a rope ornament that adorns military dress uniforms; a presidential unit citation and most surprising – a bronze star.
The medal is awarded to soldiers for heroism or for meritorious service. It is one of several high honors given for military service. Since receiving the medal, Edvenson has pulled out his army patches, medals and clips to share with his family, including a grandson who never heard him talk about the war.
His experience has prompted him to offer advice to other veterans, young and old.
“For other soldiers who may not have all their records, they should take time to establish that they are veterans,” Edvenson said. “They need these papers sent in to verify previous service.”
And some, like Edvenson, who had an honor coming his way for 61 years, may be surprised by the results.