On 19 September 2015, at 11am, the organization Purple Hearts Reunited presented a lost Purple Heart Medal of SSG Robert H. Podewils to the last remaining WWII veterans of the 307th Bomber Group and in return they presented the medal to the National WWII Museum in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, located at 945 Magazine Street New Orleans, LA 70130.
Staff Sergeant (SSG) Robert H. Podewils (SN: 12027987) was born in 1922 in New York City, NY to Harry and Theresa Podewils. He would later enlist on 19 May 1941 into the U.S. Army Air Corps as a Radio Operator. He served with the 372nd Bombardment Squadron, 307th Bombardment Group, 13th Air Force. On 10 December 1944, while on an early morning shipping strike from Morotai with Group Commander LTC Hinton flying, his aircraft, B-24 Liberator (SN: 4440929) went down into a hillside on Halmehara Island.
The crash explosions could be seen from the runway on Morotai. A concentrated air to ground search was conducted for a period of six to ten days to no avail. Units could not locate the plane or the crash site. Several years after the war their remains were found, returned to Zachary Taylor Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky, and buried in a common grave (Section E, Site 253). Their bodies were interned on 16 January 1950. SSG Podewils was an only child and has no remaining family.
For his sacrifice, his awards and decorations include the Air Medal, Purple Heart, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, WWII Victory Medal, and Aircrew Wings.
On board the aircraft that day was; 2LT Herbert N. Patrick (Pilot), LTC J.W. Hinton (Co-Pilot), 1LT Fred K. Harrison Jr. (Navigator), 2LT Robert M. Jones (Bombardier), TSGT Roy E. Hanan (Engineer), SSG George H. Westlund (Asst. Engineer), TSGT Henry J. Hritz (Radio), SSG Francis E. Shea (Gunner), SSG Thomas Wong (Armorer), SSG Leonard C. Bennett (Photo).
Purple Hearts Reunited was contacted by a Daniel J. Ferry in Hickory, N.C. who found the medal in his family home but doesn’t know of the Veteran or any relation. He asked the foundation to find SSG Podewils’s medal a home of honor.
During the ceremony, the 307th Group Historian Jim McCabe moderated a panel of surviving veterans as they shared memories of their collective 625 missions from April 1942 to January 1946. CDR Mark “Max” Anderson of the Purple Hearts Reunited Valor Guard presented SSG Podewils lost medal to these members and in return they donated the medal to the museum so that his medal will forever have a home of honor.