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Charles Wolf, a World War II Army veteran, receives his long-overdue campaign awards from Brig. Gen. Mark Spindler, the deputy director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, during a ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center, May 6, 2016.

Charles Wolf, a World War II Army veteran, receives his long-overdue campaign awards from Brig. Gen. Mark Spindler, the deputy director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, during a ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center, May 6, 2016. (Wyatt Olson/Stars And Stripes)

Charles Wolf, a World War II Army veteran, receives his long-overdue campaign awards from Brig. Gen. Mark Spindler, the deputy director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, during a ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center, May 6, 2016.

Charles Wolf, a World War II Army veteran, receives his long-overdue campaign awards from Brig. Gen. Mark Spindler, the deputy director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, during a ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center, May 6, 2016. (Wyatt Olson/Stars And Stripes)

Jill Eilert looks at her 92-year-old father, Charles Wolf, as he realizes he’s the subject of a surprise medal ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center, May 6, 2016.

Jill Eilert looks at her 92-year-old father, Charles Wolf, as he realizes he’s the subject of a surprise medal ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center, May 6, 2016. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

During his three years in the Army in the Pacific during World War II, Charles Wolf earned citations for the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Philippines Liberation Ribbon and the World War II Victory Medal. Seventy years later, on May 6, 2016, he finally received the medals.

During his three years in the Army in the Pacific during World War II, Charles Wolf earned citations for the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Philippines Liberation Ribbon and the World War II Victory Medal. Seventy years later, on May 6, 2016, he finally received the medals. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

PEARL HARBOR VISITORS CENTER, Hawaii — A 92-year-old Army veteran who never received his campaign medals from World War II was surprised with the awards Friday during a ceremony near the USS Arizona Memorial. Like millions of other servicemembers returning home from the war, Charles Wolf just wanted to get on with his life — and, after earning enough points for discharge in 1946, that’s what he did. He started a dry cleaning business in New York City and retired at age 70. Wolf kept his discharge papers and award citations for the campaigns he’d been a part of as a hospital medical technician in New Guinea. But where, his daughter Jill Eilert had asked him, were the actual medals? “Oh, we just never got the medals,” he told her. “It wasn’t that important at the time.” He was finally awarded those medals Friday, 70 years later, after an Army officer’s promotion ceremony at the busy tourist site. They include the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Philippines Liberation Ribbon and the World War II Victory Medal. “I didn’t know anything about [the ceremony],” he said afterwards. “If I’d known, I might not have come.” Eilert interjected: “That’s what I was afraid of!” The medals were presented by Brig. Gen. Mark Spindler, deputy director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. “I’m pretty sure, sir, that you don’t need these medals given to you to remind you of the brothers you served with side by side,” Spindler said to Wolf during the ceremony. “You don’t need these medals to know what you did, what you saw, and what your commitment and sacrifice did for all of us.” Wolf was drafted in 1943, attended medical corps training and was assigned to the 54th General Hospital in New Guinea. “We took care of casualties from the Philippines invasion,” he said. “Then we packed up and got ready for the invasion of Japan, but the war ended so they didn’t need us. That was a relief.” He served in occupied Japan for six weeks before going home to New Jersey. Eilert worked behind the scenes to see that her father was issued the medals, which she had placed in a shadow box for the ceremony. Wolf had long talked of making a trip to see the war relics on Oahu. Eilert said the park service enthusiastically agreed to host the medal ceremony after a family trip was planned. “The monument is humbled and honored to host this recognition as we preserve, interpret and commemorate the history of World War II in the Pacific,” said Patricia Brown, the park service’s representative, at the ceremony. “We are deeply grateful to you, Mr. Wolf, for your sacrifice and service to the nation so many years ago.”olson.wyatt@stripes.com Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.
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