[August 7, 2017] The many stories of World War II bring us closer to the veterans of that war and to their families … and so it should be. One story involves a crewmember of the “Wongo Wongo” which participated in Operation Tidal Wave. The operation was the costliest mission in U.S. Army Air Force history within the European Theater.
Later referred to as Black Sunday, the mission lost 53 aircraft (out of 178) and 660 aircrewmen. There were five Medal of Honor and numerous Distinguished Service Crosses awarded to crew members of that strategic bombing raid. The mission was to destroy nine oil refineries around Ploiești, Romania as part of the air war to deny petroleum-based fuel to the Axis powers.
1LT Brian W. Flavelle was the pilot of the Wongo Wongo. His B-24 Liberator, along with the entire crew, was lost in route to the bombing target on August 1, 1943. For his service, 1LT Flavelle had earned the Silver Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart, and various campaign ribbons. The crew’s names appear on the Tablets of the Missing North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial Carthage Tunis, Tunisia.
But that is not where the story ends. Today, August 7, 2017 (Monday), in recognition of Purple Heart Day, the non-profit Purple Hearts United will host an unprecedented event on the steps of Federal Hall, New York City. Eight Purple Heart Medals from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq will be reunited with the Veteran or the Veteran’s family.
The Purple Heart Medal of 1LT Brian W. Flavelle, of the Wongo Wongo, will be presented to his family today. Like so many Purple Heart Medals, it was lost somewhere in the vast distances of time and space. It is not that uncommon for them to be lost during moves, misplaced and never found, some are actually stolen.
These medals are found in retirement homes, storage lockers, buried in the ground, turned into government agencies, and in old furniture and vehicles to name a few.2 If a Purple Heart Medal is lost (one that has been awarded for wounds or death suffered in combat during engagement with the enemy), Purple Hearts United organization can help (see link).
Recognizing the sacrifice that people give in defense of their nation is a noble undertaking. If you or anyone you know finds one of these medals, it is best to contact someone who has knowledge of federal rules on these medals so that the proper disposition can be achieved.
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- For a more detailed review of the actual bombing raid, see: https://www.revolvy.com/topic/Operation%20Tidal%20Wave