Found: 2012 Returned: 18 January 2015 Location: Greenville, IL
A Purple Heart medal that was once donated to the BG Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum in 2012 finally returned home to its rightful owners. On 18 January 2015, Purple Hearts Reunited conducted a public ceremony to return a Purple Heart to LTC Louis H. Cotton’s family. The event took place at the Bradford Community Room in Greenville, IL. PHR was responsible for the original 2012 donation of the medal to the Pratt Museum in KY, and the media coverage that ensued led the Cotton family to come forward.
LTC Louis H. Cotton was a Field Artillery Officer and Alpha Battery Commander within the 377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (PFAB), 101st Airborne Division during WWII. He went on to become the S-1 (Personnel Officer) and eventually was assigned the position of Battalion Executive Officer just before D-Day, 06 June 1944. He was wounded in the leg by enemy fire as he parachuted that day into Normandy. After his recovery, Cotton became the 7th Army G5 (Operations Officer) before leaving the war in 1945. He retired in October 1963 as a Lieutenant Colonel. LTC Cotton’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart (WIA: 06 JUN 1944), Good Conduct Medal w/ 3 Bronze Stars, American Campaign Medal, American Defense Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal w/ 4 Bronze Campaign Stars, WWII Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal with German and Japan Clasps, Presidential Unit Citation w/ 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, French Croix De Guerre, Parachutist Badge, and Glider Badge.
Andrew Keasler, a retired USMC Gunnery Sergeant working as a Public Affairs Officer in the Defense Attaché Office of U.S. Embassy London, was sorting the mail on 07 July 2012 when he noticed a mysterious plain envelope with no return address. Inside he found only a Purple Heart medal with the words “Major L. H. Cotton, 0-346404, June 6, 1944, 101st Division, 377 Parachute F.A. Bn.” engraved on the back. After a search of Embassy records for the name produced no results, Keasler turned to the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) for assistance in locating LTC Cotton. Purple Hearts Reunited founder Zachariah Fike was called in. After a genealogical search did not reveal any living family members, the medal was donated to the Pratt Museum in August 2012.
On 05 December 2014, one of LTC Cotton’s grandsons reached out to the MOPH to ask about the medal, having searched online for his grandfather’s name and found the Purple Hearts Reunited website and his grandfather’s story. The commemorative ceremony in Greenville was open to the public and approximately 100 people showed up to pay their respects to the service and sacrifice of LTC Cotton. Greenville Mayor Allen Gaffner spoke, as well as the town pastor. The medal was presented to LTC Cotton’s son, Air Force LTC(R) Louis H. Cotton Jr.