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WWII veteran from Dearborn gets medals 70 years later

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Dearborn — "Thank you," was all Henry Kroll could say Thursday to a room filed with people who came to celebrate honors he should have received 70 years ago.

Major Daniel Pearson, Commander of the U.S. Army recruiting company in Dearborn, left, presents Army veteran Henry Kroll with three medals from his time in World War II.

Kroll, a World War II veteran, received his long-overdue service medals after the Dearborn Historical Museum and his family advocated on his behalf.

Kroll was born and raised in Detroit before moving to Dearborn. He served in the artillery for the 106th Infantry Division, where he was one of 17 survivors of the 107 men in his battery and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Now he's a father of four and grandfather of nine.

No one disputes that he earned four bronze stars, but they were never presented to him, officials said.

The oversight was discovered by Matthew Graff, collections manager at the city's historical museum after he interviewed Kroll in May as a part of an oral history project to preserve World War II stories.

"The family brought it up after the interview and I had to tell (Jake Tate) the director of the museum because he's also a WWII veteran and I knew he had connections," Graff said. "It's an honor to present these to him and to see the amazing response from our officials."

Just before Kroll's 95th birthday on Monday, the museum, the Dearborn Vet Center and the Dearborn Army Recruiting Office worked together to process the paperwork needed for Kroll to receive the Would War II Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, Army Good Conduct Medal and a World War II Victory Medal.

Army veteran Henry Kroll, left, is given congratulations from family friend Roberta Kordish after receiving three medals from his time in World War II.

Attendees at the ceremony, held at Beaumont Commons, where Kroll lives, included Tate, Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad, Wayne County Commissioner Sam Beydoun and Dearborn Heights Councilman Bill Bazzi of the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council.

Haddad, whose father and uncles served in World War II, presented Kroll with a proclamation from the city recognizing his service.

"When I told my father I would be presenting this to you, he said 'you better bring my comrade a hat,' " Haddad said to Kroll. "History tends to be funny sometimes and we fear that (it) will often repeat itself, but I can tell you that it's not going to in this case. You will forever be the 'Greatest Generation,' and thank you for your service."

Army veteran Henry Kroll poses for a photo with Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad after receiving three medals from his time in World War II.

Kroll grew up on Lawton Street in Detroit, attended Western High School and remembers running cross country. He was drafted out of Detroit in November 1943 and so were his two brothers, his son, Michael Kroll said.

He quickly moved up to corporal and lost his hearing soon afterward due to eardrum damage from gunfire. He remembers being placed on guard duty during the Battle of the Bulge, when Allied forces repelled a German offensive in Belgium's Ardennes forest in December 1944 and January 1945.

"We seen mechanisms, half-tracks, and what have you, and we fired at one, did get one, and he came out of the like turret side of like a machine gun but before he could fire at us, our infantry had killed a guy and that's why it's so hard to talk about it," he told the museum, according to transcriptions.

"It went on for five days we were in retreat and we were strafed and stuck in a convoy. On the third day, I was so tired I slept right on top of, well it was a truck that pulled artillery piece."

Kroll returned home on Christmas Day in 1945. He worked as a mail carrier for 22 years and said he only got bitten by a dog once.

His children said Kroll didn't like to talk about his service or the war, only agreeing to do so when his granddaughters came along and continued asking questions, Michael Kroll said.

(From left) Henry Kroll was awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars, and a WWII Victory Medal.

Henry Kroll's eldest daughter, Christine DeYoung, shared a story her father recently told her.

"He was sent behind enemy lines to deliver a message to his (team) and in the process, his outfit left him behind and gave word to my grandmother that he was MIA," she said. "For three days, all he had was dirty water and the food in his pockets. ... thankfully, a general came through days later and picked him up."

Bazzi said he was grateful to stand beside a man who helped pave the way for others.

"I'm honored to be here. Dearborn is always recognizing veterans but we have so few from World War II left," Bazzi said.

"He just received these awards but he always had them."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_