WWII Soldier’s Medals Presented to Family in Montana



KALISPELL, Mont. (Tribune News Service) – John T. Mulder had just graduated from Oregon State College when he joined the United States Army in 1942. A basketball player from the small town of Raymond, Washington, he is became a second lieutenant in the 405th Infantry Regiment as well as a platoon commander for the mortar section of his company. Then he went to Germany.

Mulder, who was passing through Jack, disappeared behind enemy lines during an offensive near the German town of Beeck on November 24, 1944 – five days after the birth of his son Mark in Portland, Oregon.

Now 76 years old and living in Kalispell, Mark Mulder has spent decades learning about his father, who was pronounced dead a year after his disappearance. He knows that his father died in this battle, at the age of 24. But as with the tens of thousands of American soldiers who fought in World War II, no one knows for sure where Jack Mulder’s remains are buried.

On Tuesday, Mark Mulder closed a chapter in what he calls a “quest” to record his father’s legacy.

In a small, late ceremony at the Kalispell Army National Guard Recruiting Center, Governor Greg Gianforte presented the Mulder family with eight Jack’s war buttons, badges and medals, including a Bronze Star for heroism and a purple heart for his ultimate sacrifice. The family also received a Gold Star Medallion from the State of Montana for losing a relative in the war.

Gianforte said Mulder “pushed back the Nazis determined to spread evil across the world.”

The Colombian newspaper recorded a case of Mulder’s bravery in 2011, when his name was added to the Clark County Veterans’ War Memorial in Vancouver, Washington.

“When the American troops were immobilized by a machine gun, Lieutenant Mulder attempted to order mortar fire on the German position. But the American tanks had rolled over the telephone wire, severing Mulder’s link with his mortar squad. “, the newspaper reported. “So Mulder ran about 100 yards to the tanks, and one of the crews detonated the German machine gun.”

Another soldier later wrote to Mulder’s widow, Sybil: “One thing you can always know, and your son can be proud of, is that there has never been a better soldier or officer. finer than Jack Mulder.

Mark Mulder, a Marine Corps veteran whose eyes briefly filled with tears during Tuesday’s ceremony, traveled across Europe, visited US military installations, and looked at old photos, letters , journal entries and official documents in order to learn the history of his father and locate his remains.

“It’s a quest,” he said. “It’s something that I really love to do.”

But Mulder said he didn’t really question his father’s medals until about two and a half years ago, when he was on the phone with an official in the repatriation branch of past conflicts. the army at Fort Knox.

“She said to me, ‘Do you have your father’s medals?’ and I said, ‘No, but I’d love to have them,’ “recalls Mulder.

He said former Governor Steve Bullock will present the medals before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts those plans. He wasn’t sure exactly why the medals hadn’t been delivered to his family a long time ago.

“War is a mess,” he observed.

Meanwhile, Mulder continues to work with the Army Repatriation Branch and Defense Accounting Agency POW / MIA in hopes of locating his father’s remains.

He relies on details such as his father’s height – Mark is 6ft 4in, just like Jack was – as well as dental records and diary entries from other soldiers in his father’s unit. He said he found an entry suggesting his father was lying in a trench near the battlefield that claimed his life.

If Jack Mulder is ever found, Mark intends to give him a proper burial at the Margraten American Cemetery and Memorial in the Netherlands.

It is a place that Mark has visited many times, a place where his father would be honored year after year by the Dutch. And he said that is where several of his father’s comrades are buried, including his commander and a lieutenant with whom he shared a tent on the Cherbourg peninsula in France.

“I just feel like he belongs to the people he served with,” he said.

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(c) 2021 the Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Mont.)

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(Timothy R. Koster / US Army)


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