O'Fallon Progress

O’Fallon sailor awarded Purple Heart for wounds at Pearl Harbor

Brian Keller is the O’Fallon Historical Society president.
Brian Keller is the O’Fallon Historical Society president. rkirsch@bnd.com

After his recovery from injuries sustained at Pearl Harbor, O’Fallon Township High School graduate Robert Mertz was assigned to another ship and saw action elsewhere, including the Aleutian Islands.

Near the end of 1943, he ended up in the port at Boston, Mass. It was there that the boatswain’s mate second class was awarded the Purple Heart for Pearl Harbor. The chaplain of the warship on which he was stationed made the presentation. The citation read, “During the attack of Pearl Harbor you received multiple small shrapnel wounds on left arm, right leg and foot which required 65 days of hospitalization. In the name of the President of the United States and by direction of the Secretary of the Navy, the Purple Heart is hereby awarded to you.”

Mertz, who did survive the war, was the first O’Fallon casualty (non-fatal) of World War II and was the only O’Fallon son injured at Pearl Harbor.

75 years ago, Jan. 1, 1942

One of the social events of the close of the year is the 37th annual New Year’s Eve ball to be given by the O’Fallon Fire Department at Community Hall (today’s Katy Cavins Center) Wednesday evening, December 31st. There will be dancing from 8:30 p.m. in the old year to 4:30 o’clock a.m. in the new year. Music will be provided by George Carr and his orchestra.

50 years ago, Dec. 29, 1966

The Christmas holiday season was saddened for two O’Fallon families when their pet dogs were poisoned, one of them fatally. A boxer owned by the Schutt family of 13 Vanderbilt died. Another dog, a collie owned by the Wellinghoff family of 17 Vanderbilt, became quite ill but was recovering. Col. Schutt said another neighbor who also owns a dog had been threatened for letting her animal loose. He said the anonymous caller told the woman, a widow of a man killed in Vietnam, that her dog would be poisoned.