‘Complete surprise’: World War II veteran awarded medals 72-years later

Matt Saintsing
November 12, 2018 - 11:56 am

Photo Courtesy of Steve Bailey

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Earl Bailey, a 94-year-old World War II veteran, waited a lifetime to see the Army ribbons and medals he earned but never received. 

With the help of his family and a few elected officials, Bailey was honored by his church and finally able to see and hold his awards after waiting 72 years. 

“It was a complete surprise,” Bailey tells Connecting Vets. “I didn’t expect anything near like what happened, but it was nice.” 

Photo Courtesy of Steve Bailey

The Tri-County Assembly of God church in Fairfield, Ohio, honors all the congregation’s veterans every Veterans Day, but Bailey didn’t expect to see this: his Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, and the Distinguished Unit Citation, all presented by Army Lt. Gen Claude Kicklighter (Retired).

Bailey served in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II, a rugged and treacherous area, where he helped pilots run supplies to units fighting in Asia, offering a hand with everything from loading planes to from keeping the pilots’ schedules. 

“It was very dangerous to fly because you had the rough country under you,” says Bailey. “If you went down, even if you bailed out there was a slight chance you’d get out.” 

Most of the planes were converted B-24 bombers, he says, adding after the war, he read around 500 American aircraft didn't return. 

Bailey’s daughter, Norma Apgar and Grandson Steve Bailey made the day possible, thanks to the help of Rep. Mark Turner (R-Ohio) and Dayton lawmaker Niraj Antani who helped deliver the awards.

Photo Courtesy of Steve Bailey

“We didn’t let him know anything,” says Apgar, adding Bailey didn’t receive any of the awards at the time since metal was a hot commodity during the war. 

Bob Frymire, the executive pastor of the church, says calls the story “inspiring.” 

“And can be tremendous encouragement to other military families,” he adds. 

After leaving the Army in 1946 after three years, Bailey worked for a paper company in nearby Middleton, Ohio for more than 44-years retiring in 1987.

    Contact us about this article or share your story at gethelp@connectingvets.com.