In early March of 2015, Purple Hearts Reunited sent a Purple Heart to a Pine City, MN resident, the grand-niece of World War I veteran PVT Thomas H. Bell. In 1918, PVT Bell was killed in action in France. The Marine was never awarded a Purple Heart, as the award did not yet exist at the time. However, Purple Hearts Reunited is now honoring PVT Bell’s service and sacrifice with the award of a Purple Heart.
PVT Thomas H. Bell (service number 117351) served in the United States Marine Corps with 43rd Company (F), 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment during World War I. PVT Bell and thirteen of his comrades were KIA during an intelligence mission at the Battle of Belleau Woods (Bois de Belleau) on 08 June 1918. This was a battle that cost many U.S. lives, occurred between 1 June and 26 June near the Marne River in France, and became a key component of the lore of the United States Marine Corps. German troops continually bombarded the Marines with explosives and gas, as well as large-caliber minnewerfers. PVT Bell was buried on the field of battle in France, then later disinterred and reburied at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA on 4 September 1921.
Upon the request of PVT Bell’s family, Purple Hearts Reunited arranged for the creation of an engraved medal for the WWI Marine, and mailed the medal to Ms. Kathy Marenchin, PVT Bell’s grand-niece, in Pine City, MN. Though Purple Hearts Reunited typically returns medals that have previously been lost or stolen, the organization was glad to be able to present Marenchin with an appreciable token of her great-uncle’s WWI service. The family did not request the Purple Heart after 1932, when the medals were awarded retroactively for combat-wounded WWI veterans.