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The Purple Heart and six other medals for Manuel Aldecoa, a Boisean Basque pilot who died fighting against the nazis

04/10/2015

Family picture, from left to right: Richard Wilson, Dolores Totoricaguena, Preston Glaisyer, Benedicta Aldecoa, Patty Ely, John Wilson, Delphine Aldecoa, Jeanne Wilson, Joel Glaisyer, and Senator Mike Crapo (photo Gloria Totoricaguena)
Family picture, from left to right: Richard Wilson, Dolores Totoricaguena, Preston Glaisyer, Benedicta Aldecoa, Patty Ely, John Wilson, Delphine Aldecoa, Jeanne Wilson, Joel Glaisyer, and Senator Mike Crapo (photo Gloria Totoricaguena)

Last Wednesday, April 8, Manuel Aldecoa was awarded with seven Honor Medals, by Senator Mike Crapo, from Idaho. It was Thanksgiving Day, in 1943, when Aldecoa died, air-fighting. 72 years after that, his family attended this ceremony, thanks to Manuel’s niece-in-law Dolores Totoricaguena’s research and paper-work. Around 60 people gathered at the homage, among them Manuel’s sisters Benedicta (96) and Delphine (93); more than twenty other family members; representatives of the Bizkaia Government Imanol Pradales eta Gabino Martínez de Arenaza; and KTVB channel’s journalists. “We’re very proud,” said Delphine to EuskalKultura.com.

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Nampa, ID, USA. Nampa, Idaho is scarcely an hour away from Boise, and there is located the WarHawk Museum where Manuel Aldecoa was remembered on Wednesday, April 8, for having passed away in WWII, fighting the Nazis. Senator Mike Crapo offered to him, posthumously, seven medals: The Purple Heart, the Air Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.

As explained by Dolores Totoricaguena, the Purple Heart is the most important one because "it indicates a loss of life or injury.” “We’re very proud", said Manuel's youngest sister Delphine Aldecoa." The fact that he was a pilot was one of the reasons why I went to Air Traffic Control.” But losing her brother was hard for Delphine: “War is not easy to remember, but we have always kept him in our mind.”

Second Lieutenant Manuel Aldecoa was part of the 55th group, 343rd Fighter Squadron when he died, being only 25. He used to fly the P-38 from his base in Wormingford, England, like he did on the fatal day when he was killed in Lille, France in mutual combat with the Nazi pilot Johannes Seifert. As some history books say, Aldecoa won but, unfortunately, nobody knows what happened to him after he jumped from his damaged fighter, using the parachute.

A united family

Manuel has a big family, and more than twenty members attended the event in Nampa. Besides the aforementioned Benedicta and Delphine, there were also niece Patty Ely and her family (husband Jack and sons Preston and Joel), niece Jeanne Wilson and nephew John Wilson and his family (wife Dolores Totoricaguena and son Richard), Manuel’s cousins Carmen Pagoaga Lete and Louisa Pagoaga Bilbao (both born in Mutriku, Basque Country), and Regina Aldecoa (widow of a cousin). Other family members and friends attended too, like executive director of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center Patty Miller and former Nevada-Reno University teacher Gloria Totoricaguena PhD.

On behalf of the whole family, John Wilson thanked Senator Crapo’s aid and presented a check to the museum, to cover the expenses of keeping the medals in a safe place. Representative of the Bizkaia Government Gabino Martinez de Arenaza told EuskalKultura.com that the event was “very emotional.” “It is a great honor for all of us that a descent of Basques was awarded this way and we thank that to the US government.”

Delphine Aldecoa: “The younger generations should be more aware about what happened and could happen again”

In the words of the youngest of Manuel's sister that attended the event, “the younger generations are a little bit detached from our recent past. They should become more aware about what happened and could happen again.” That’s why she thinks it is important to bring this stories “to the front page.”

Delphine herself also achieved important goals: She was the second woman in US history to become an Air Traffic Control chief. But it was not an easy task, she had to overcome the society’s sexism: “When I was there it was very hard, I hope nowadays is not like that anymore.”

Asked for an advice for young professional women, she said “[one should] know the business and work hard. Know it and show it. They will accept you when they see you are as good as them, if not better.”

* Click here to see KTVB's coverage



Comments

  • Manuel Aldecoa

    Thank you for posting this.

    Dolores Totorica, 07/21/2016 05:29

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