Local News

Wednesday, Mar 27 2013 07:18 AM

Purple Heart found in Bakersfield returned to Texans

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    By Courtesy Ken Hooper

    Folks at VFW Post 97 in southeast Bakersfield were amazed when a man walked in off the street and turned in a box containing a Purple Heart. The rear of the medal was dated Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day.

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  2. 2 of 2

    By Courtesy Ken Hooper

    Folks at VFW Post 97 in southeast Bakersfield were amazed when a man walked in off the street and turned in a box containing a Purple Heart. The rear of the medal was dated Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day.

    click to expand click to collapse
By Californian staff and wire reports

TYLER, Texas -- A 1941 Pearl Harbor victim's Purple Heart found along Union Avenue in Bakersfield has been returned to his East Texas family thanks to a teacher and his students.

Ken Hooper is a history and archives instructor at Bakersfield High School. Hooper was on hand Tuesday in Tyler for the presentation to survivors of Robert A. Bates.

Kris Wilson of Edom says the medal will help her uncle's memory live on.

Relatives say the USS Arizona sailor's Purple Heart was likely given to his mother but lost after she died in 1945. The medal was found last month by a trucker near Veterans of Foreign War Post 97 in southeast Bakersfield and turned into the post.

"Something like this is very precious to us," Bill Potter, senior vice commander of Post 97, told The Californian earlier this month. "We want to make sure the medal is returned to the family."

The medal, in addition to bearing the name Robert A. Bates, also has an abbreviation believed to signify the rating "pharmacist's mate," and the letters "USN," meaning Bates had served in the United States Navy.

Hooper's students doing computer research also learned some casualty lists wrongly spelled Robert Bates' first name -- as Tobert. They also found that Bates was aboard the USS Arizona when it was sunk.

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