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Family works to find records allowing grandfather to receive Purple Heart

By Dave McCann | Posted - Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:21pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — A ceremony at the capitol Friday afternoon marked the end of a hard-fought struggle for one Utah family to finally receive their grandfather's Purple Heart award.

Brad Anderson worked for a year and a half to have his grandfather, Private Walter Herbert Anderson, posthumously awarded for his service and sacrifice as a World War One veteran.

"I know that he would have a hard time accepting this award if he were alive because of the man he was," Brad said.

Almost 100 years ago, Walter joined the 91st Infantry Division to serve his country in the first World War. During the battle of Meuse-Argonne, chlorine and mustard gas damaged his eyes and lungs — injuries that eventually claimed his life.

In 2012, Brad, with the help of Senator Mike Lee's office, set out to find the military records to prove that his grandfather died as a result of his war injuries.

"Trying to track down records for this can be a daunting task," Lee told Brad.

Brad enlisted the help of Military and Veteran Affairs representative Wendy Johnson in finding the proper documentation and records.

"I could prove that his division were in chemical warfare in the three battles that had chemical warfare, but I couldn't prove that he had been gased," Johnson said.

During the investigation, Johnson was told by three different sources that the records regarding Private Anderson's division had been destroyed in fires.

"So we found the morning reports, we found his name on the morning reports, and then that gave us more hope because we knew if your name was on a morning report, you did not report to work because you were injured," Johnson said.

Johnson finally found the records they needed, and after one and a half years of research, authorities cleared Private Walter Herbert Anderson to posthumously receive the Purple Heart award through his family.

Soldiers who suffered injuries from chemical warfare in World War One were not recognized as being eligible for the Purple Heart until years later. It is estimated poison gas caused almost 75,000 casualties during World War One.

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