World World II veteran Robert Flannigan of Monette has been out of the Army for 58 years. He, like so many other young men and women in the 1940's, left his home to serve his country.
He was surprised to learn recently that he was awarded a Bronze Star medal. The paperwork must have crossed at the ending of World War II and he never received the medal, he said. The medal was sent to him from the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command in Philadelphia, Pa.
He found out quite by accident about the medal. After talking to an old Army friend, Flannigan decided to request his military personnel service records from the National Record System in St. Louis. He received a letter from Anitra Bass, archives technician, informing him of the medal.
"I am proud to get the medal, but I really don't feel deserving," Flannigan said. "I had a lot of friends that did not get to come home -- they are the heroes of World War II."
Flannigan has requested information on who submitted him for the medal, but after all of these years he is not sure if that information will still be available.
Flannigan, a retired business owner and former mayor of Monette, was a young, married college student in 1942. He was going to school at Arkansas State College (now Arkansas State University) when he enlisted in the Army Reserve. He was allowed to finish the year and then went to active duty. He took basic training at Camp Roberts in California. He trained in communications. He then was on active duty attending Texas A&M for further schooling.
He was assigned to the 103rd Division at Camp Howze, Texas, and reassigned as a medic with the 928 Field Artillery. He received more training before being shipped overseas.
The 103rd Division (15,000 troops and 3,000 support troops) landed at Marseilles in southern France, crossed into Germany and turned down toward Austria and met with the 88 Division below Brenner Pass (between Austria and Italy). The 103rd were the first troops in the 7th Army to set foot on German soil, Flannigan said.
The 103rd Division engaged in 34 battles from the time they went into combat until the Germans surrendered on V.E. Day.
Flannigan was one of 11 medics assigned to a battalion.
Flannigan recalled one incident when the medics were told by their commanding officer that there was one R&R (rest and recreation) pass for Paris. It was suggested that they draw straws, but all of the crew said to give it to Flannigan.
When he explained that he did not have any money the men began to say, "Here, I have $20, I have $5," etc.
Flannigan said they gathered the money and sent him on R&R.
"That was the kind of men I served with. They were unselfish," Flannigan said.
Flannigan recalls that while he was in Paris, President Roosevelt died.
"Not one of us on that subway that day could remember who the vice president was," Flannigan said. "You have to remember, most of us were not old enough to vote."
Flannigan was transferred to another division (45th) that was enroute to the Pacific for the Japanese invasion when the atomic bomb was dropped and the Japanese surrendered. The troops returned to the States.
Upon returning to the States, Flannigan was given leave to see his wife and baby. He explained that discharges at that time were made on the point system. When he went home on leave he did not have enough points for discharge. He came with the intentions of returning to his unit which was in Texas. While he was home, the number of points for discharge dropped and that put him eligible for discharge. Instead of going to Texas, he was allowed to go to Fort Smith and collect his discharge papers.
More than likely, if he had returned to his unit, he would have received the medal.
He admits that he was much more interested in getting home to his family than medals.
"I was walking through a small town in France and we were waiting to go into Japan when I thought to myself, if I ever get home, I'll never leave again," Flannigan said.
He has kept to his word and made Monette his home.
After the war, Mitchell Lee of Monette came into Flannigan's store and the two veterans started talking.
"I knew that he had been captured and was a POW. We began to talk and found out we were in the task force together. He talked about the date he was captured and I remembered that night, well," Flannigan recalled.
Another Monette veteran, Dan Hurst, said he saw Flannigan going by in a vehicle in Austria right after the war ended.
"He said he yelled at me, but I never heard him," Flannigan said.
"There were 16 million people in the military in World War II, I read where the last count there are four million still living," Flannigan said. "There may be more veterans out there that unknowingly have medals. I would never have known if I had not requested my military records."
The Bronze Star Medal is awarded for heroism or meritorious service.