Dedicated Members Of The Public Work Together To Return WW2 Medals To Soldiers Descendants

Battle of Anzio, 1944.
Battle of Anzio, 1944.

A Purple Heart certificate owned by an American soldier killed at Anzio in the Second World War is being returned to his family in Michigan after a long trip from Jerusalem.

Robert Mathis served with the US Army’s 36th Combat Battalion when he died.

His medal was discovered for sale in a used map store by Army Lt. Col. Matthew Yandura who advised the store owner it wasn’t appropriate to offer it for sale.

An investigator soon thereafter started tracking down Mathis’s relatives. A relative of Mathis, Allyse Denmark, said she received a message last summer through Twitter from a retired army officer inquiring if she was related and informed her about the document.

He forwarded a number of documents, explaining it was Robert Mathis. A photo of the Purple Heart certificate was part of the documentation along with an explanation that it was found by Yandura who had kept the certificate for many years.

“It’s astonishing,” added the 48-year-old Allyse from Atlanta r.  She learned more about the family history and great-uncle Robert whom she knew little about.

Mathis was born Reuven Matusevitch in 1912 to Lithuanian parents. Sometime around 1939, he followed other family members and siblings when they immigrated to the United States.  Both his parents, his wife and child, died during the Holocaust, Denmark said.

He joined the Army and was posted to Anzio dying in action in 1944.  He was 31 and is interred at a cemetery in the Detroit area.

Learning about his death and biography left Denmark with a sense of sadness despite the passage of time.

What Robert must have felt as he traveled to fight the same enemy that had persecuted his family is extraordinary, she said.

She assumes that after Mathis’ death, the Purple Heart medal and certificate was taken to Israel by another family member who moved, Desert News reported.

A ceremony, open to the public, was recently held at the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus in Farmington Hills, northwest of Detroit.

A new replacement Purple Heart will be presented to the Robert Mathis family.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE