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World War II veteran receives overdue medals

John Martin, an Oklahoma City resident, survived 30 missions as a gunner on a B-24 while serving in Europe during World War II.
by Matt Patterson Published: July 8, 2013

The board initially declined to approve the Good Conduct Medal, but it was later granted after more documentation was submitted, along with a note from Thomas.

“I showed them the missions he had flown on and what he did, and I wrote at the bottom, ‘If this doesn't qualify for good conduct, I don't know what does,'” Thomas said.

Even after approval, Thomas was told the Air Force did not have money to provide the medals. Undaunted, family and friends chipped in to have them made locally.

The Purple Heart may prove more elusive. Martin was wounded when his canopy was shattered by fire from a German fighter, but he is the sole survivor of two aircrews. There are no witnesses to his injuries, something Thomas said is necessary to receive a Purple Heart.

The fact he survived 30 missions is a miracle in itself, Thomas said. Bomber crews were only supposed to fly 25 missions, but five more were added after he completed what was supposed to be his last flight. The life expectancy for aircrews during the war was about 11 missions, Thomas said.

“So many of these guys didn't survive,” he said. “They didn't make it. It's amazing he made it as long as he did.”

Martin said he would display the medals in his home, along with the rest of his war memorabilia. He was joined by his wife at the ceremony Sunday. His son, Jack, led a slideshow of photos from each era of Martin's life.

He said he was especially grateful for Thomas' work on his behalf.

“He's a fine fellow,” Martin said.

“He's done quite a bit for me, and I appreciate it. As I said before, today was the first time I've ever gotten to shake hands with a general.”

by Matt Patterson
Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun....
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