ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. --
Maj. Gen. James A. Jacobson, Air Force District of Washington commander, hosted a Purple Heart award ceremony July 14, 2017 at the U.S. Air Force Memorial, Arlington, Va.
Jacobson presented the prestigious award to 2nd Lt. John Pedevillano for wounds he incurred during a forced march as a World War II prisoner of war in Germany.
“It is an honor for me to host this event on behalf of the Secretary and the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force,” said Jacobson. “This event affords us the opportunity to remember, to learn and in some cases re-learn the exploits of this great Airman and his extraordinary generation.”
In attendance were members of the media, Airmen assigned to AFDW, the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and U.S. Air Force Band as well as more than 15 of Pedevillano’s family members. Dr. Gordon Sumner, Greater Washington D.C., Chapter 353, Military Order of the Purple Heart, was one of the special guests.
Pedevillano, a former B-17 bombardier pilot, and his crew assigned to the 306th Bomb Group of the “Mighty Eighth” Air Force were shot down during a bombing mission in airspace over Nazi Germany on April 24, 1944.
According to his family, even while injured, Pedevillano saved the lives of his badly-wounded waist gunners by securing their parachutes, pushing them out the side windows and pulling their cords.
Pedevillano evaded capture for a few days before being caught. For more than a year, he was a prisoner of war in Germany. He spent most of that period in Stalag Luft III, located about 100 miles east of Berlin. The Luftwaffe (air force)-run prisoner-of-war camp was built to detain Allied Air Force personnel. The camp is best known for its two prisoner escapes, as portrayed in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950).
Pedevillano’s application for the Purple Heart, submitted by his family, was approved exactly 72 years to the month of when he and other POWs were liberated in April 1945 by Gen. George Patton’s 3rd U.S. Army.
“This award rightly belongs to wounded warrior, 2nd Lt. John Pedevillano,” said Jacobson. “Thank you, John, for answering your nation’s call, indeed the world’s call, and for charting a course that set the standard for today’s Airmen.”
Clutching a rosary and speaking through tears, Pedevillano reflected on how love of country, his Christian faith and patriotic duty to enlist in the military were integral parts of his youth.
“The greatest things in my life were this country and my wife, Gloria, of 64 years,” said Pedevillano.
(Editor’s Note: Per U.S. Army regulation, 600-8-22 Ch. 2, Par. 8, the Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces who, after April 5, 1917, has been wounded, killed, or has died from wounds while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services.)