Eastern Iowa WWII veteran finally gets medals - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Eastern Iowa WWII veteran finally gets medals

Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) presents Zane Thorpe with the Purple Heart Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) presents Zane Thorpe with the Purple Heart

It was a ceremony more than 60 years in the making. Thursday morning, a World War II veteran from Eastern Iowa was awarded the medals he never received, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Zane Thorpe was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, while serving in the US Army in 1944. He earned a total of six medals but received none of them until now.

Thorpe's son, Monte Thorpe, said the exact reason for this is unknown, but the general thought is that there were "thousands and thousands of soldiers maybe that earned awards, they just did not have enough awards back then."

Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) presented Zane Thorpe, now 89, with his six awards: the Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal and European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.

Braley handed Thorpe the Purple Heart, "which signifies the extraordinary sacrifice that you made for us," he said.

Thorpe's Bronze Star came as a surprise to his son. It's a medal awarded for acts of bravery or heroism, but its exact story for Thorpe is unknown.

"Apparently, the grand fire that destroyed most of the military records...I don't know if I'm ever going to find out the full story of why he earned it," Monte Thorpe said, "and, unfortunately, Dad's a few years beyond where he can probably voice the stories that would go with it."

There are clues, however, in the stories Thorpe has told in the past.

His friend Betty Lloyd told the story, "there was a soldier that was shot. He picked him up and carried him to safety."

Monte Thorpe said, in July, a family member started the process of obtaining the overdue medals.

"The legion said, we can do a nice ceremony if you can find his discharge papers," Monte Thorpe said.

As it turned out, however, that was not so simple.

"Dad lost his home in July in flood," Thorpe said.

That didn't stop Monte Thorpe from happening upon the discharge papers while combing through the remains of his father's destroyed house.

"I found them, just by luck, stuck in some mud," Thorpe said.

It was enough to prove his father's military service.

"I can't imagine going through what he went through, landing on those beaches under heavy enemy fire, walking step-by-step through the woods, never knowing when somebody's going to be shooting at you," Monte Thorpe said.

"World War II generation," Monte Thorpe wondered, "How can we thank them enough for everything they did?"

This ceremony was a start.

"Very proud of him," Thorpe said.

Zane Thorpe served as Private First Class in the US Army during World War II. He enlisted in 1943, was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge in Dec. 1944 and honorably discharged in 1945, after V-E Day.

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