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Weathermen Who Died In World War II Posthumously Awarded Purple Hearts


In the Second World War, more than 100,000 people died in the Battle of the Atlantic. The U.S. Coast Guard ship Muskeget was one of the vessels that sank. A hundred-twenty-one men were on board. It was September 1942. The ship was sailing towards the southern tip of Greenland. Four U.S. Weather Service men were on board. They were assigned to collect and transmit weather information which was used to guide American ships.

JEREMY ADAMS: The weathermen that were assigned to the Coast Guard (unintelligible) Muskeget - they were civilians, and they were serving alongside their military shipmates.

SHAPIRO: That's Captain Jeremy Adams of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. After the tragedy, the families of all the military personnel who lost their lives on the ship received the Purple Heart. But the lost weathermen did not.

ADAMS: I don't want to say it fell through the cracks but, you know, blame it on the fog-of-war.

SHAPIRO: Today, in a ceremony here in Washington, D.C., that was rectified.


LOUIS UCCELLINI: We cannot overemphasize the importance of the sacrifices made by these four men - Luther H. Brady, Lester S. Fodor, George F. Kubach and Edward Weber.

SHAPIRO: That's Dr. Louis Uccellini of NOAA. The families of these weathermen received the Purple Hearts today because of the efforts of a man named Robert Pendleton. He's a retired mapmaker, and he had found a German U-Boat captain's diary that spoke of the sinking of the Muskeget.

ROBERT PENDLETON: Once I found that the U-Boat had sunk the ship, then, automatically, it made these civilians that were on board people they owed Purple Hearts to. And the NOAA looked at it, and they decided, yes, OK, now we can give them their Purple Hearts.

SHAPIRO: Before today's ceremony concluded, eight ship's bells rang out.


ADAMS: Those eight strikes of the bell signified the end of the watch. Our men have been relieved. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this transcript, the closing quote was mistakenly attributed to Louis Uccellini. In fact, the person speaking was Capt. Jeremy M. Adams of NOAA.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.