Local museum displays Purple Heart in honor of WWII Veteran

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On Wednesday, PFC Willis Steele Wilson will be welcomed home to the Duplin County Veterans Museum to honor his service and sacrifice to the country.

Officials will reunite the lost Purple Heart of WWII hero Private First Class (PFC) Willis Steele Wilson.

The event will take place at the Duplin County Veterans Museum at 119 East Hill Street in Warsaw.

The ceremony is open to the public.

When servicemen and women are wounded or sacrifice their life at times of war, the country awards them or their family with a prestigious award in the form of the Purple Heart.

As time passes, certain circumstances can lead to the medals being misplaced, lost, or even stolen.

PFC Willis S. Wilson was born on June 9, 1917.

He was the only child of Willis and Blanche (Steele) Wilson of Warsaw.

PFC Wilson grew up in Warsaw and by the age of 22 was the owner of a service station on the corner of Chelly and Main Street in downtown Warsaw.

On September 10, 1941, PFC Wilson enlisted in the Army and was assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division, as a machine gunner.

The 105th Regiment spent most of the early part of WWII training in Hawaii. The Regiment left Hawaii on 31 May 1944 and landed on Saipan on the 17th of June 1944, where it fought with the rest of the 27th Division for the first time.

The 105th Regiment was initially responsible for clearing the hilly and well-fortified southern point of Saipan, which was later found to have been held by over 1,200 Japanese defenders.

Following this, the Regiment joined the rest of the 27th Division, and the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions for what would be an extremely bloody assault on Mount Tapotchau, the island’s key defensive position.

Near the end of the battle, the 105th also bore the brunt of the largest Banzai charge of the entire war, its 1st and 2nd Battalions killing 2,295 Japanese.

As a result of this grisly fighting, three soldiers of the 105th were posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The 105th was detached to Army Garrison Force 244 on Saipan between the 15th and 30th of July.

The 105th arrived at Espiritu Santo on September 4, 1944, for rest and re-supply, and departed on March 25, 1945.

The 3rd Battalion assaulted Tsugen Shima off Okinawa on 10 April 1945 to safeguard the landing beaches on Okinawa itself.

The 105th landed on Okinawa on 12-13 April 1945 and was heavily engaged in an area known as the Kakazu pocket, which centered on a well-fortified ridge system. The Regiment’s action in Okinawa was its last serious duty.

On April 21, 1945, PFC Willis Wilson received a chest wound that severed his spine; five days later, on April 26, 1945, PFC Willis Wilson paid the ultimate sacrifice.

PFC Wilson was temporarily buried on Okinawa in Military Cemetery 2, but roughly 10 years after his death, he was disinterred and is now buried at Pinecrest Cemetery in Warsaw, his hometown.

PFC Wilson’s medal was part of a family’s estate and was turned in to Purple Hearts Reunited by a couple from Cadillac, Michigan.

They turned to Purple Hearts Reunited for help to ensure the medal made its way home.

When no direct descendants are found, Purple Hearts Reunited places medals in a “home of honor” such as a Museum or VFW, in order to honor the Veteran’s service and display the medal for years to come.

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