World War II veteran receives long overdue medals

Palo Alto resident assisted by Rep. Anna Eshoo and staff

At a luncheon in Mountain View last November, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo overheard John Indergand talking about his service in World War II, mentioning how he had never received an Oak Leaf Cluster medal he was promised after his second combat injury. Later, Eshoo asked him about it and said that with some more information, she might be able to help.

In February, Indergand and his wife, Litsie, were called into Eshoo's Palo Alto office. There he was presented with a few wooden boxes, holding the Oak Leaf Cluster, a Purple Heart medal, a Bronze Star medal and a Combat Infantry Badge. Now Indergand, 89, wears them proudly on his tweed jacket.

Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) has assisted other veterans with similar inquiries before, each time embarking on a process that she called "enormously complex." This time, after collecting his service number and other documentation, her staff worked with the U.S. Department of the Army and the Human Resources Command, Awards and Decorations Branch, to obtain the medals.

"It's exciting to see the face and hear the words of the recipient," she told the Weekly. "It makes all the work worthwhile."

Born in 1924, John Indergand was drafted for service in World War II not long after graduating from Pasadena High School. He signed up for armored services, and after training in Kentucky and Missouri, he landed with the 7th Armored Division in Normandy, France, shortly after D-Day in June 1944. He had just turned 20.

His first combat injury occurred in September 1944 at Pont-à-Mousson in eastern France, when a bullet grazed his head, knocking him unconscious. General Joseph L. Collins, the area's commanding officer, awarded him and other patients there a Purple Heart. As his wound was not severe, he rejoined his division only a few days later.

The battle at Pont-à-Mousson against the German military -- whose skill and technology Indergand never hesitated to compliment -- was rough on the Americans, which might explain why few people hear about it today, Indergand said.

"The winning battles get celebrated a lot, and I approve of that, but sometimes they don't tell us about some of the battles like Pont-à-Mousson," he said. "Officially in the first 25 years, I never read any reference to it."

About 20 years ago, Indergand and his wife took a trip to Europe and revisited the agricultural town on the river Moselle. Seeing American tourists, some friendly locals began talking with them in a tea shop. When they learned he had fought there, they gathered round to thank him and brought them both tea and pastries, accepting no money.

His second combat injury, sustained during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, was much more serious. Near the Belgian town of Houffalize, he was leading some German prisoners to a waiting truck when a shell exploded nearby, launching a piece of shrapnel at his leg that broke bone and severed nerves.

After even more travails, he found himself recuperating in an English-estate-turned-hospital located somewhere outside of London, he believes. In February, General Walter Bedell Smith visited them, and because they had run out of Oak Leaf Cluster medals, Indergand and others were each given a slip of paper they could redeem for a medal back in the U.S. He later lost his paper.

After spending about five weeks there, he was shipped in a full-body cast back to Virginia and then flown around the country. He ended up in Letterman Hospital in San Francisco's Presidio. He spent many months there healing and began attending the University of California, Berkeley, along with other veterans. He met his future wife, Litsie (also a student in Berkeley), at Letterman Hospital where she had an office job.

Indergand went on with his life -- getting married, having two children, and working as a journalist and later in political management. He and Litsie lived in San Francisco, the Los Angeles area, Burlingame and other cities before eventually buying their current house in Palo Alto in 1981. Over the years, he didn't worry much about the medals he had been promised.

"For a long time, I didn't pay attention to this stuff," he said. "We kind of concentrated on it being after the war. I went around wearing blue suits and black shoes -- no brown."

Later in life, he began to study history more and today boasts a large collection of presidential biographies. In speaking about his experiences, which he did very openly, he revealed his encyclopedic knowledge of the battles he participated in and World War II as a whole.

Indergand said that he had opposed most of the wars the U.S. fought during his lifetime. However, he has developed an appreciation for the American military's efforts during World War II and his part in it. In that vein, he had begun thinking about claiming his medals when Eshoo pitched in and made it a reality.

"I'm very pleased now," he said about receiving them. "I'm happy to remember the good side of military service. There is an accomplishment to it, if the original purposes are followed through on."

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 24, 2014 at 8:12 am

> assisted other veterans with similar inquiries before, each time
> embarking on a process that she called "enormously complex."

Part of the problem is that there was a fire in 1973 in the Saint Louis National Archive, which destroyed millions of individual personnel records:

Web Link

A few minutes past midnight on July 12, 1973, a fire broke out at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in the suburbs of St. Louis. At risk was an untold amount of information about Americans who had served in the armed forces in the 20th century.

The center, known as the Military Personnel Records Center (MPR), held about 22 million personnel files of former members of the Army, Army Air Force, and Air Force who served between 1912 and 1963. The ire destroyed vast numbers of these unique records—and its immense impact on U.S. citizens, their rights, and entitlements continues to this day. ---

For some former GIs, this archive was the only source of records for their military service. In other cases, duplicates of some, if not all, of their records had been duplicated and stored in other locations. Finding these records takes a little time (sometimes 4-6 months), but ultimately the records can be made available to family members.

Good to see Mr. Indergand was able to finally receive his long overdue medal.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 24, 2014 at 10:10 am

This is a nicely written story. Thank you Mr. Indergand for your service. And thank you Rep. Eshoo for helping to complete the story and bringing it to our attention.

Like this comment
Posted by Holy Moly
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 25, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Better late than never, they say, but this poor man could have passed away before getting the proper recognition for his service!

Like this comment
Posted by Abe Mitchell
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 27, 2014 at 1:24 pm

The appreciation this generation hold should always be recognized, we the present generation have a considerable amount of thanks to offer the same. These people fought very bravely during W.W.2 to give us the freedom that we have today, and this is something that should never be forgotton

Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on May 27, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Thank you to everyone involved in this story. Representative Eshoo for making it happen, Sam Sciolla for this great piece, Veronica Weber for the lovely photo, and most of all to Mr. Indergand for his service to our country. Thank you, sir.

Like this comment
Posted by UC Davis Grad
a resident of Mountain View
on May 27, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Superb work by all involved here. There are times where the system does work as it should.

Like this comment
Posted by Arthur F. Adams
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2014 at 7:08 pm

I too served in Europe as an infantryman in the 78th Division. I was wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans during the battle of the bulge. Give me a call and let us swap stories. Art 321 4886.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

First Sunnyvale, then Australia: Mountain View's Le Plonc plots expansion
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,377 views

Juggling Renewables
By Sherry Listgarten | 27 comments | 1,818 views

Premarital and Couples: Living as Roommates?
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,352 views

Homestead Faire at Hidden Villa 4/27
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 535 views

A trial run
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 509 views


Vote now!

It's time once again to cast your vote for the best places to eat, drink, shop and spend time in Palo Alto. Voting is open now through May 27. Watch for the results of our 2019 Best Of contest on Friday, July 19.