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VA returns Donnybrook native's World War II medals...

Two medals that were awarded to the mother of a Donnybrook Soldier after his death, have been returned to the family after spending several years in a storage closet in Helena, Mont.

7/10/18 (Tue)

Two medals that were awarded to the mother of a Donnybrook Soldier after his death, have been returned to the family after spending several years in a storage closet in Helena, Mont.

2nd Lt. Arthur Blackwood was killed in action in southern France on Sept. 15, 1944 during that country’s liberation from Germany.

As a result, his mother became a Gold Star Mother, but was also given her son’s Silver Star and Purple Heart that were awarded posthumously for his heroic actions against Nazi Germany.

Rob McAlpin is an employee of the VA in Helena where the medals were found by Kenny Fenstermacher, another VA employee.

McAlpin said Fenstermacher didn’t know what to do so he contacted McAlpin who went into action to get the medals back to someone in Blackwood’s family.

McAlpin put a post on Facebook asking for anyone who might have known Blackwood or known of him to respond.

He began getting answers within a couple of hours, but that’s not the end of the story. McAlpin wanted to make sure whoever was contacting him was related.

Mick Kurimski is a nephew of Blackwood living in Sigourney, Iowa who eventually received Blackwood’s medals. That happened only after a chain of emails and phone calls over several months that convinced McAlpin that Kurimski was indeed a relative of Blackwood.

“It was good to see them get back to the family after they were found here in Helena,” McAlpin said. “It is believed they were given to a family member who lived in the area and later gave them to the VA.”

According to Kurimski, the family isn’t completely certain that’s how the medals wound up in the Montana VA facility. However, it’s as good a guess as any.

“We are not exactly sure how the medals ended up at the VA,” Kurimski said. “Arthur’s sisters could remember their mother receiving  the medals. She passed away several years ago and they were supposedly passed on to other family members and possibly ended up in a divorce.”

According to Kurimski, the medal retrieval began last year a short time after McAlpin put out his request for positive feedback.

“I was lucky enough to make a connection via Facebook and,” Kurimski said. “I have a fairly extensive family tree that helped a great deal.”

After he received the Silver Star and Purple Heart, Kurimski made up a shadow box that included both medals, a summary of what they were about, a U.S. flag and a photo of Blackwood’s tombstone.

In addition, Blackwood earned the Combat Infantry Badge, the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

“My mother Myrtle Blackwood/Kurimski (Arthur Blackwood’s sister) has the shadow box proudly hanging in her living room and stops to gaze at it often,” Kurimski said. “I am now trying to put the pieces together on the specifics surrounding Arthur’s service and death.”

There doesn’t appear to be a confirmation of exactly where Blackwood was killed or officially how it happened. The general consensus is that Blackwood was shot while he was parachuting behind enemy lines.

Blackwood was 24 years old at the time of his death, which was the same week France was liberated by the Allies after being occupied by the Nazis for nearly four years.

However, information that is certain is that Blackwood was born in 1921 to Samuel and Hannah Blackwood who lived on the original homestead in Ivanhoe Township just east of Donnybrook.

His sister Hazel Maxine (Blackwood) Rostad, passed away in 2015. Michelle Rademacher of Berthold is her daughter and Jim and Curt Rostad of Minot are her sons.

Rostad said he has a photograph of his uncle Arthur that was originally given to Hazel, as well as the original death notice that was provided by the U.S. government.

“The picture and telegram regarding Art hangs in our dining room and they are two of my most treasured possessions,” Rostad said. “I had received word last winter  of Art’s medals to be received, but my mom’s sister (Myrtle Kurimski) is in Iowa and after contacting her, my cousin in Iowa (Mick Kurimski) received the medals.”

It is also known that Blackwood is buried in the Epinal American Cemetery in Dinoze, France. His gravestone is in Plot B, Row 34, Grave 48. He was apparently the only Soldier from Renville County who died overseas and his body wasn’t returned to the United States.

He was one of 16 million Americans to serve in World War II and was one of 405,000 American fatalities.

After entering the Army in 1942 at Fort Lewis, Wash., Blackwood became a member of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment which was part of the Algeria, French, Morocco Campaign in 1942, the European, African, Middle East Theatre and Sicily Campaign in 1943 and the southern France campaign in 1944.

On March 8, 1944, Blackwood received a citation from his superior officer that described his heroic action during that battle.

The citation stated, “Near Campo Morto, Italy, he left a position of cover, ran and crawled 125 yards across an open field under machine gun fire, then despite shell bursts hitting not more than 20 yards away, stood in full view of the enemy and relayed such accurate fire by means of hand and arm signals that a German self-propelled gun was knocked out on the fourth round.”

It is also rumored in the family that 2nd Lt. Blackwood took out a couple of German tanks, but The Kenmare News hasn’t been able to confirm that.

A number of requests to the Army, the 7th Infantry, the VFW, North Dakota Veterans, Fort Lewis and the American Legion didn’t turn up any positive information regarding the destruction of German tanks.

“It’s a heartwarming story filling us with emotional pride for Arthur’s ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Kurimski said...  Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!