Returned: 21 May 2015 Location: Worcester VT
Just before Memorial Day 2015, Purple Hearts Reunited facilitated the return of a long-lost Purple Heart medal to the cousin of WWII veteran PFC Paul M. Pike, of Worcester, VT. On Thursday, 21 May 2015, a small ceremony honored PFC Pike at the Worcester Village Cemetery on Route 12 in Worcester, VT 05682. At the event, a younger Paul Pike, named for his cousin, was surprised with the presentation of the lost medal, which was previously in the possession of Audrey Richardson, a member of the Worcester Historical Society. Richardson contacted PHR and made arrangements for this commemorative ceremony to take place in conjunction with the annual Memorial Day program of the Worcester School’s 5th and 6th grade classes.
Paul Pike was born on 02 December 1921, to Mr. and Mrs. Pliney Pike of Worcester, VT. Pike graduated from Montpelier High School in 1940 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in Rutland, VT on 26 October 1942. He did his basic training at Fort Bragg, NC, and was also stationed at Fort George Mead in MD and Camp McCoy in WI. Pike (SN 31199612) served in WWII with the 290th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division. PFC Pike was killed in action on 20 January 1945 in the Grande du Bois area of the Ardennes in Belgium. According to accounts of the battle…
The 290th saw every type of resistance. In the Grande du Bois area of the Ardennes, Germans were dug in the deep snow and accounted for many casualties with small arms fire. Snow filtered into the tops of American boots. Clothing became soaked, there was no opportunity for change. Many casualties resulted from frostbite and trench foot. Against nature’s white background, ODs were obvious targets. Still, no one thought of anything but going forward. The 75th had fought with the finest divisions in the American Army. It had engaged the best in the Hitler fold and had emerged victorious, an integral part of the Allied team. Green at the outset, but veterans at the finish, men of the 75th never will forget those cruel, freezing days during January, 1945. Nor will any ever forget the glorious fight and the spirit of their comrades. In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared that “this would ever be a famous American victory,” and that the eyes of the world would long gaze at the heroic men who had fallen there.
The last letter Pike’s parents received, dated 14 January 1945, instructed them not to worry if they did not hear from him, as he would be “on the line.” PFC Pike was awarded a Purple Heart posthumously, as well as a Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, and Combat Infantry Badge.
The ceremony was a surprise for PFC Pike’s cousin Paul Pike, who was named after the WWII soldier. The idea to surprise Pike, who is 68, came from medal discoverer Audrey Richardson and the Worcester Historical Society. Richardson wrote to Purple Hearts Reunited for help with the ceremony, explaining that the “Purple Heart was given to my mother by Paul’s mother when she entered a nursing home and upon her death it has been kept by me.” In addition to students from the 5th and 6th grade classes of Worcester School, the presentation will be attended by PHR founder Zachariah Fike, Richardson, Worcester Historical Society President David Book, Paul Pike, and the Montpelier American Legion. The event is open to the public and the media and will commemorate PFC Pike’s service and sacrifice.
This return was generously made possible by a grant from the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, as well as sponsorship from Tenasone Investments and Dynapower Corporation.
Read more about this unique return ceremony:
Burlington Free Press >> Purple Heart Reunited with Namesake Vermonter
ABC News >> Vermont Man Becomes Keeper of Cousin’s Purple Heart