World War II veteran Parley Belnap says it’s nice to get a Bronze Star from the government - even if it’s 50 years late.
For his bravery in northern Italy during the war, Belnap received the medal last week in a ceremony at his home.
Receiving the medal is wonderful, he said. On the other hand, “It’s 50 years late.”
Military officials said only seven men in Idaho received the Bronze Star, given to soldiers who went “above and beyond” the call of duty. To qualify, a soldier must receive the Combat Infantry Badge, the Purple Heart and must have been in combat with the enemy on foreign soil.
Walt Jackson of the national Veteran of Foreign Wars, who organized the ceremony, said the award was given now because military officials have decided that not enough awards were presented in proportion to valor demonstrated during the war.
During the winter of 1944-45, Belnap and his company assigned to the 361st Infantry, 91st Division, were sent to Italy. They spent a miserable winter.
Belnap’s division, named “The Powder River Division,” had a motto: “A mile wide …an inch deep, and they ran up hill all the way.”
Belnap spent about a year in northern Italy and three months of that on front battle lines. Part of front line duty was night patrol in what Belnap calls “no man’s land,” between friendly forces and German lines.
While in combat, Belnap said, soldiers didn’t have time to get scared. Yet, after the fighting was over, they showed a lot of emotion.
“After it’s all over, you just get sick and scared, and you felt like you’re gonna throw up. We’d sit there and shake … and cry a little bit and tell your buddies about it, and hug each other.
“There’s nothing else to do.”
Around midnight on April 16, 1945, a mortar shell hit Belnap, leaving the thumb on his left hand hanging by the skin and filling his shoulder with shrapnel.
His M-1 rifle protected him, taking the impact of the blast.
“His M-1 rifle was blown to pieces,” said daughter Cathy.
Belnap spent three weeks in an Army hospital in Naples, Italy, then was sent to a military hospital in Washington before being returned to Mink Creek.
During the war, Belnap was given several awards, including the Purple Heart.