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A century after being wounded, Massachusetts soldier awarded Purple Heart

A Purple Heart medal

WILLIAM FRYE/U.S. ARMY

By ETHAN FORMAN | The Salem News | Published: November 23, 2018

PEABODY, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — On Sunday, Nov. 11, the exact day of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the "war to end all wars," the family of U.S. Army Pvt. John Pavlo ended their wait to receive his Purple Heart.

A Veterans Day breakfast at City Hall included a special Purple Heart ceremony in which the city's former longtime plumbing and gas inspector, Arthur Pavlo, and his wife, Maria, posthumously accepted the medal on behalf of Arthur's father, nearly 50 years after the elder Pavlo's death.

"It think it's terrific," Arthur Pavlo said, in a later interview. "I will tell you, Mayor Ted Bettencourt is doing a terrific job recognizing the veteran men and women of Peabody."

John Pavlo was born in Greece in 1893. He emigrated to the United States, and then later fought and was wounded in World War I in France on Oct. 13, 1918, during a series of battles that brought an end to the war.

He took part in the bloodiest battles ever fought by the U.S. military, in which 26,277 soldiers were killed in action and total casualties were more than 120,000. John Pavlo was one of those wounded.

He served from April 27, 1918, to April 21, 1919, according to military records. Those records show he was living at 19 Union St., and was 25 years old when he was inducted into service.

He was shipped overseas in July 1918. The newly bestowed certificate accompanying his purple heart showed Pvt. Pavlo served in "Company E, 2D Battalion, 167th Infantry."

When he came home from the war, John Pavlo became a leatherworker at Espindle Company, which made shoe stock, such as heels, and he also worked at the A.C. Lawrence Leather Company.

In all, John Pavlo raised four children, said Arthur Pavlo, who has two older surviving sisters. Another sister was killed in an infamous train wreck in Swampscott in 1956.

But John Pavlo did not talk about fighting in World War I, reflected his son in a recent interview. Arthur himself has three grown children and nine grandchildren.

All he knows is his father was wounded in the leg in France. But he does remember his father was proud to be an American. Their childhood home on Paleologos Street had a flag pole in the yard, and his father used to raise and lower the flag every morning and every night.

Arthur Pavlo, 76, who also served in the Army in the military police from 1962 to 1965, ran his own plumbing business for 29 years before he became a city inspector and retired a few years ago after 18 years with the city.

He was thankful to Veterans Services Department Director Steve Patten and his staff for getting the medal for his father from the government.

Pavlo said he joked with Patten: "You are the only one to call Washington and get through."

Unintentional oversight

The reason John Pavlo, who died in 1970, never received the Purple Heart while he was still alive was due, in part, to the fact that the award had originated at the end of the Revolutionary War and wasn't actively issued again until the 1930s.

The Badge of Military Merit was established on Aug. 7, 1782 by Gen. George Washington, but fell into disuse. It was revived by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Army chief of staff, starting in 1931.

When it was revived by executive order of the president on Feb. 22, 1932, it could be retroactively awarded to those wounded during World War I.

However, it was not uncommon for World War I veterans to go without claiming the honor, Patten said.

Compounding the problem was a fire in July 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, which destroyed many of the records of those who served in the Army in World War I, Patten said.

When Patten first saw John Pavlo's records, it showed he was "wounded slightly" less than a month before the end of the war.

When he asked Arthur Pavlo if his father had received the Purple Heart, Arthur said no. Patten then sent the records to the Army Review Boards Agency in Arlington, Virginia, for review.

Wounded in France

John Pavlo's military records show he took part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the largest operation of the American Expeditionary Force during the war. It involved 1 million soldiers, according to various online sources.

The bloody offensive was part of the final Allied push to end World War I, and it was fought between Sept. 26, 1918, until the end of the war that Nov. 11.

John Pavlo was in the pivotal Battle of Saint-Mihiel, just two weeks prior to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which itself had three phases. It appears Pavlo was wounded during the second phase of the offensive, which ran from Oct. 4 to Oct. 28.

Records show John Pavlo was wounded on Oct. 13, 1918.

Patten said records also show Pavlo was taken to Camp Hospital No. 33 AEF for treatment.

Arthur Pavlo said he came into possession of some of his father's military records after his mother's house had a small fire. He and his sisters also split up some their parents' other possessions.

Earlier this year, Arthur Pavlo was cleaning out his cellar when he came across his father's military papers. He called his sisters and got more of his father's records from them.

On April 2, Arthur Pavlo took them to show Patten, who later sent them off to Arlington, Virginia. He finally heard back from the government in July, leading to Bettencourt presenting the award on Nov. 11.

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©2018 The Salem News (Beverly, Mass.)
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