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Posthumous purple hearts awarded to two Berlin servicemen

This photo of Austin J. Pineau ran in the Berlin Reporter after he was reported captured by the Italians in West Africa. Pineau died 18 months later in the POW camp. (click for larger version)
January 19, 2011
BERLIN Twenty-two New Hampshire soldiers who lost their lives in prisoner of war camps are being posthumously awarded Purple Hearts. Two of the men receiving the honor hail from the City that Trees Built. Austin J. Pineau and Robert Clare Falardeau, both World War II casualties from Berlin, are among those being honored.

Nineteen of the soldiers served in World War II and three served in the Korean War. Last year, twenty-eight purple hearts were posthumously awarded and similar to last year, there will be a ceremony held this April at the state's Veterans' Cemetery to present the purple hearts and honor the POWs.

In a press release announcing the awards last week, Senator Jeanne Shaheen said, "These men gave their lives for America. Today, America recognizes their service and bravery. These medals are proof that while these soldiers are gone, their sacrifice is not forgotten."

Allan Gavan is an 85-year-old World War II veteran and ex-Prisoner of War who is leading the American Ex-POWs New Hampshire Chapter's efforts to see the fallen soldiers recognized. "This is most welcome news," he said.

Austin J. Pineau

Orphaned as young children, Pineau and his sister, Mary Ann Pineau, were raised by their Aunt, Julia Arsenault. Pineau was born in 1907 in Berlin, attended the Angel Guardian School as a child and graduated from the Milan School. He enlisted in the Army in 1927.

On June 17, 1944, Pineau died at the age of 36 in an Italian POW camp as a result of injuries he had sustained in action. He had been a POW for 18 months and was a staff sergeant at the time of his death.

Pineau had been posthumously awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in combat that was accepted by his aunt and it is kept at the Moffett House in Berlin.

Robert Clare Falardeau

Born in Berlin on July 23, 1921, Robert Clare Falardeau was the son of Ovide H. Falardeau (a manager at the Brown Paper Company) and Velma Brown Falardeau. Falardeau went by his middle name of Clare.

In 1940, Falardeau graduated from Berlin High School. Throughout his youth, he was prominent in church activities and the Young People's Society of the Mount Forest Methodist Church. Falardeau was a musician and a member of an orchestra which played at many functions in Berlin and the North Country.

Falardeau and four friends, Robert Small, Robert Noyes, Donald Welsh, and Paul Bernier, were the first Berlin boys to enlist in the armed forces from their class and Falardeau's enlistment date for the Army Air Forces is Nov.15, 1940. Falardeau was stationed at Savannah Air Base, in Savannah, Georgia prior to being transferred to Philippine Islands in Nov., 1941.

Of that group, Private Small went MIA, Private Noyes became a Japanese Prisoner, Corporal Welsh was given a medical discharge after seeing considerable action overseas, and Private Bernier was stationed in the New Guinea area.

Robert Noyes came back alive and died of cancer at the age of 73 at Mass General Hospital. During World War II, Noyes was held for 41 months in the Philippines and in Japan. After he was liberated, he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

There isn't information about Robert Small available and it is not immediately clear whether he was found or not. There was no information available for Donald Welsh or Paul Bernier, but they were not reported MIA or POW, so at a glance it would appear that both made it home.

Private Falardeau went MIA in May of 1942 after the fall of Corregidor in the Philippines. According to his nephew, Bill Roth of Centennial, Colorado, Falardeau died during the Bataan Death March.

During the March, American and Filipino soldiers were forced to walk through the tropical heat with no food and minimal water. If they were unable to go on — and some times for no reason — the Japanese soldiers would behead, disembowel, beat, or otherwise kill the soldiers. Some soldiers who were not directly killed by the Japanese died of starvation, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and disease. Out of the 72,000 soldiers who began the March, it is estimated that only 54,000 made it to the POW camp.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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