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Face of Defense: Medal Comes After 66 Years

By Christopher Lagen
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., June 8, 2010 – World War II-era Coast Guardsman Harry Milton Daube, 88, the last living survivor of the sinking of the USS Leopold, was presented the Purple Heart Medal during a June 4 ceremony at his home in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

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Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Jensen pins a Purple Heart Medal onto the chest of World War II-era Coast Guardsman Harry Milton Daube, 88, during a June 4, 2010 ceremony at Daube’s home in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. Daube is the last living survivor of the sinking of the USS Leopold during World War II. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cindy Beckert
  

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Daube said he was “very pleased” to receive his Purple Heart, adding it was a “pleasant surprise.”

More than 66 years ago, then-Coast Guard Seaman First Class Daube served on board the USS Leopold, a 306-foot Coast Guard-manned Edsall class destroyer that was on escort duty in the Atlantic Ocean between the United States and Europe during World War II.

On March 9, 1944, the Leopold was escorting a 27-ship convoy off the coast of Iceland when it was struck by a torpedo launched from a German U-boat.

All of the Leopold’s 13 officers and 158 of her 186 enlisted men were lost. Daube and the 27 other survivors, all enlisted, waited on a life raft to be rescued after the Leopold split into two pieces and eventually sank.

After his return to the United States, Daube continued to serve in the Coast Guard, in New York, until the end of World War II.

Coast Guard officials blamed a paperwork problem on the delayed award.

“I accepted the delay” of the medal, Daube said, noting “we had lost all of the officers” and the Leopold’s personnel records as a result of the U-boat attack.

The World War II veteran said he has suffered poor circulation in his legs ever since the attack, due to “quite a few hours” of exposure in the icy water.

Daube accepted the Purple Heart at his home in the company of close friends and a few local Coast Guardsmen.

The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in the world in present use and the first American award made available to the common soldier. The Purple Heart was established by Gen. George Washington in Newburgh, N.Y., on Aug. 7, 1782.

The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the sitting U.S. president to any member of an armed force or any civilian national of the United States who has been wounded or killed in action.

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U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville

Click photo for screen-resolution imageWorld War II-era Coast Guardsman Harry Milton Daube, 88, the last living survivor of the sinking of the USS Leopold, was presented the Purple Heart Medal during a June 4, 2010 ceremony at Daube’s home in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cindy Beckert  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe USS Leopold at her June 12, 1943 launching in Orange, Texas. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval Historical Center   
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