Nearly 70 years later, a campaign edges closer to properly honoring a decorated World War II war hero.
Clackamas, OR -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/14/2014 --Nearly 70 years later, a campaign edges closer to properly honoring a decorated war hero.
Robert D. Maxwell is Oregon’s only living WWII recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. He believes there is at least one more Oregonian, Lt. Col Leonard C. DeWitt, who deserves to share that honor. DeWitt served with the famed 41st Infantry “Sunset” Division of the Oregon Army National Guard during World War II.
In a letter dated January 31, 2014, citing Oregon House Joint Memorial 17 and other supporting documents, Maxwell urged Senator Ron Wyden to advance the initiative to upgrade DeWitt’s Distinguished Service Cross award to the Medal of Honor.
The letter to Sen. Wyden is one of several communications on behalf of Leonard DeWitt, and is part of a years-long campaign to bring about the upgrade, and recognize DeWitt in accordance with the intention of his commanding general in WWII.
During the 2013 session, the Oregon legislature passed the House Joint Memorial 17 (HJM17) in which the committee concluded that, “not awarding Leonard DeWitt the Medal of Honor for his actions against Japanese forces in New Guinea during World War II was a regrettable oversight.”
In 1944, the commanding general of the Sixth Army nominated DeWitt for the Congressional Medal of Honor stating he exhibited "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.” The nomination was downgraded to Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) when it came across General Douglas MacArthur’s desk.
In the letter to Sen. Wyden, Maxwell noted that DeWitt’s would be “the first Medal of Honor awarded to the 41st Infantry Division.” Despite having seen some of the fiercest combat in WWII, the 41st has never received the Medal of Honor.
Nearly 100 years after its formation in Oregon during WWII, the 41st ID is still active today.
Oregon’s Hall of Valor honors DeWitt and other veterans
In 2012, DeWitt was inducted into the Hall of Valor at the Oregon Military Museum in Clackamas. The Hall of Valor recognizes Oregonians who have received a Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross equivalent, or the Medal of Honor. The Hall of Valor will display the histories of these veterans at the new Brigadier General James B. Thayer Oregon Military Museum, now under construction in Clackamas at Camp Withycombe.
Alisha Hamel is part of the team heading up the educational and funding components for the new museum. She is the Executive director of the Historical Outreach Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to teaching Oregon’s rich military history, and honoring the memories of all American veterans.
Hamel has been an integral part of advancing DeWitt’s case to resolve on both a local and national level.
“I feel a personal responsibility to see this through,” said Hamel. “ I am one of many who has made it their goal to see that Leonard receives the honor he is due; the highest recognition this country can award.”
Leonard and Joanne, his wife of 37 years, live in McMinnville, Oregon.
About the Historical Outreach Foundation
The Historical Outreach Foundation honors the men and women who have served this state and nation in our armed forces, and provides a comprehensive educational resource for preserving and sharing Oregon's rich military history.
The HOF, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, drives the funding for the new Brigadier General James B. Thayer Oregon Military Museum. Through several education-based initiatives including school presentations, the Oregon Military Museum and the Veterans Database Project, and in partnership with Oregon’s World War II Memorial, the Historical Outreach Foundation is charged with showcasing Oregon’s rich military history and making it accessible to everyone.
To support the Historical Outreach Foundation, please go to www.historicaloutreach.com.