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Posted 09 Apr 2001   For week ended April 06, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 05Apr01

By Robert Frame

A Hero has Moved on

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA -- I lost a good friend this week. William T. "Bill" Arruda was a member of our high priests group here in Lincoln, Neb. 73, a quiet, retired lawyer raised in a small Rhode Island community, Bill was active in church and especially U.S. veterans affairs.

Believing him to be suffering from only pneumonia I visited with Bill thrice in the previous six weeks, in both a hospital and an assisted living facility. Gone to AZ for two weeks I was not aware the doctors had discovered that shrapnel wounds Bill has carried with him since D-Day and the Normandy aftermath had left scar tissue which had finally given way to lung cancer.

When I heard upon return that he was "back" in the hospital I immediately planned to re-visit my friend, with whom I'd had many a pleasant chat. He had a humble view of himself and a strong faith in manifest destiny, describing Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" as "understated, if anything." Before I saw him again, Bill passed quietly away last week-end.

Today, April 4, the Lincoln Journal Star ran a front-page article on Bill, under headline: "Veteran of Normandy invasion dies." You see, they'd interviewed him 7 years ago as who they thought was "the second-most decorated U.S. veteran of World War II" surpassed only by the famous Audie Murphy, and that because Murphy had only one more significant medal than Bill's 28 medals, awards and citations: having been awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor.

Why do I say, "they thought" ?

Well, the news article correctly stated: "Arruda went ashore with the 4th Infantry Division at Utah Beach in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1844. He was wounded eight times during 59 days of combat in France and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross as well as two Silver Stars and four Bronze Stars. ... Arruda was one of the teen-age soldiers who turned up in dispatches filed from European battlefields by journalist Ernie Pyle. "He started calling me 'Lil' Abner", Arruda said in a 1994 interview."

This afternoon former LDS Bishop, Cliff Bracken, told me what Paul Harvey would call "The rest of the story:" what the article did not mention. Many years after the war, the government contacted Bill and offered to award him The Medal of Honor for his own combat heroism. "Naaww, I don't need it; I've got enough" he characteristically replied, according to Bracken. Asked why the War Department waited so long, Bracken said Arruda didn't say, but pointed out, "You know Bill was quite swarthy, and the Army frequently falsely assumed his name was Mexican. While policy later changed, in those days they weren't awarding that medal to minorities." (The surname is common to both Hawaii and Portugal.)

I winced. Here was a brother worthy of an entire chapter in "The Greatest Generation," by Tom Brokaw, who may have privately felt that if skin color affected the award of the nation's highest honor, he "didn't need it." But rather than say so, he quietly turned it down.

In any event, both I and America lost a good friend this week. All should grieve and pay homage.


See also:

Veteran of Normandy invasion dies
Lincoln NE Journal-Star 4Apr01 P2
By Don Walton: Lincoln Journal-Star


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