Army's special delivery

Thanks to fellow veteran Mickey Pitre, Harold Tor finally receives awards for his service in World War II, including his Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.

June 22, 2011|By Michael Miller,
  • Harold Tor, a World War II veteran, shows off his medals that he received after more than a half century at his home in Huntington Beach on Monday.
Harold Tor, a World War II veteran, shows off his medals… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

The box arrived on Harold Tor's doorstep in February, nearly 66 years after he left the United States Army with a war won, an arm missing and his 18th birthday still ahead of him.

Tor, an 11-year member of American Legion Huntington Beach Post 133, removed the package's contents and arranged them carefully in a frame over black velvet. He identified each with small printed labels: the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the medals commemorating his marksmanship and the liberation of the Philippines.

The nearly two dozen medals, badges and insignias now hang in Tor's study. When he sees them, he remembers the adventures he had in the Pacific during World War II — and the man who helped him get his official recognition decades later.

Mickey Pitre, the post's service officer, died of a stroke June 12 at the age of 83. Two years before his death, he connected Tor with the National Personnel Records Center, which arranged the delivery of the medals.


According to Tor, it took a year and a half to complete the process. But it was all worth it when the package arrived.

"It was quite a thing to receive," Tor said.


A box of history

When Pitre, pronounced "pee-tree", learned that Tor, who enlisted at 16 and served in the Pacific until after the war ended, had never received most of his medals and ribbons, he gave him the person to contact at the records center in St. Louis.

Randolph Geary, an archives technician for the records center, said he handles about 16 requests a day for records of World War II and Korean War veterans, and one or two requests for medals. If the center receives the latter, it consults records about which medals the veteran earned, then gives the Army or other branch the go-ahead to ship the medals.

As World War II veterans become fewer, many posthumous requests come from next of kin.

"There's a lot of family members asking for medals," Geary said.

After World War II, the shortage of copper and brass due to the war effort meant that many veterans who earned combat honors never got them in physical form, Tor said.

The 84-year-old had accumulated his own collection over the years, ordering equivalents of many of the medals he'd earned from a catalog. It wasn't until Pitre encouraged him, though, that he sought an official delivery from the Army.

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