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Donald J. Mulkerne

 

 

Donald J. Mulkerne received two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for his service in the Army during World War II. He earned the second Bronze Star--which he was not awarded until February 2000--for his actions on a scouting mission in 1944. Following a battle near the French-German boarder, the Germans raised a white flag, apparently indicating their surrender. Disguised as an Army medic and unarmed, Mulkerne crossed the battlefield and reached the German forces, only to learn that they had not surrendered, but only wanted a cease-fire to collect their wounded. Promising the Germans morphine and bandages if they let him return to his unit with a few German soldiers, Mulkerne was able to return to the American lines and warned them that the apparent surrender was in fact only a cease-fire. Once the battle resumed, the Americans were able to capture their objective, Mousson Hill. One of the American generals said he would recommend Mulkerne for a medal for his bravery, but the general was killed in action that day. Shortly thereafter, Mulkerne himself was severely wounded, while his dog tags ended up on the body of a fellow soldier. His family received a telegram with news of his death, only to receive a second telegram that he was alive in the midst of the funeral preparations. He spent the next two years undergoing surgery and recuperating in various army hospitals, where he met the Army nurse who later one year later became his wife.

After he recovered from his injuries, Mulkerne earned a PhD in education from Columbia University, then became a professor of business education at the University at Albany, where he taught for 35 years. During that time, he located one of the Germans who had accompanied him back to the American lines. The man, originally from Milwaukee, had moved with his family back to Germany before the invasion of Poland. With Nazi aggression, the family was barred from returning to America, and the man became a German soldier. After the war ended, he returned to Milwaukee. In the 1980s, Mulkerne found his name in a Milwaukee phone book and wrote to him. Two weeks later, he received a phone call in response, and the two men became friends. In the late 1990s, Mulkerne told his children about his role in the capture of Mousson Hill. One of them contacted the Army and, with corroboration from the former German soldier, the Army awarded Mulkerne the medal he had been recommended for a half-century earlier.

 

   

Updated August 7, 2001