Mt. Vernon Register-News

Features

May 15, 2011

Illinois WWII veteran gets Bronze Star

MT. VERNON — With family members as spectators, Robert F. Downey of Danville went through a ceremony on Easter that was 67 years overdue.

A son, Bob, and daughter, Mary, pinned the Bronze Star medal on the World War II veteran, while son Thomas read a history of the medal and its purpose.

A certificate accompanying the medal notes his heroic and meritorious service as an infantry man in the European Theater of Operations. The private first class was commended for his outstanding dedication to duty during combat operations.

“I was surprised,” Downey said. “I didn’t know a thing about it.”

His wife, Rita, said, “I’m glad he got it. He deserved it.”

Downey will add the star to his other medals, including the Purple Heart. He received that in 1944 for wounds suffered in action at the Anzio beachhead in Italy.

Downey said he and his unit knew they were entitled to the Bronze Star, but never received it. The young man was more interested in recovering from his wounds, starting a family and getting back to normal.

About a year ago, his son, Lt. Col. Thomas P. Downey of Carbondale, came across information about who’s eligible for the star. He found the information by searching the Internet, and learned that anyone with a Combat Infantry Badge or Combat Medic Badge while serving in an infantry unit in WWII is eligible.

He sent in all the paperwork, without his father’s knowledge. The younger Downey, who is with the Army Reserve, teaches ROTC at Southern Illinois University.

He and other family members gathered in Danville on Easter and presented the patriarch of the family with the medal and a ball cap noting his WWII awards.

Daughter Mary Downey of Danville said the award is well-deserved, although her father downplays it. “He was a 17-year-old kid thrust into this horrible situation,” she said, recalling stories he told about not getting supplies on a regular basis.

The battles at Anzio took 33,000 lives, Downey said.

Downey joined the Army at age 17 on July 1, 1942. He served with the 34th Division in Africa and then the 3rd Division in Sicily.

He remembers vividly that day in Anzio, when he was in a dugout, but too close to the opening. Artillery went off, and a piece hit his arm and scratched his neck as it went by.

“I was kind of numb,” he recalled. “It didn’t hurt, even (until later).” Sulfa powder was sprinkled into the wound as an antiseptic.

Downey’s family still has the original Western Union telegram (now laminated), which was sent to his parents in 1944.

It reads, in part: “We regret to inform (that) your son Private Robert F. Downey was on 15 April seriously wounded in action in Italy . You will be advised as reports of conditions are received.”

At the hospital in Naples, Downey recalled hearing the doctors discuss whether to amputate his arm or do a bone graft.

The latter procedure was chosen, and he was sent to the Mayo General Hospital in Galesburg. In an operation that was new for that time, doctors grafted a bone from his leg to his left arm.

Later, Downey met his wife on a blind date, and their 65th anniversary is coming up in September. A native of Danville, Downey worked several jobs, including at an asphalt company, the Danville Post Office, two auto parts stores and then Teepak, where he worked 22 years before retiring.

Serving in the military is a Downey tradition. Robert’s grandfather, Daniel Shepherd Downey, was in the Civil War; his father, Leonard, served in the Army in World War I; and his brother, William, was with the Air Force in WWII. Thomas has served in Iraq and Kuwait.

Besides Thomas, Mary and Bob, the Downeys have a daughter, the late Patricia Donaldson, who lived in Merced, Calif.

1
Text Only
Features
  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 22, 2014

  • Do your genes make you procrastinate?

    Procrastinators, in my experience, like nothing better than explaining away their procrastination: General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of the excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have added another option to the list: genetics.

    April 21, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 11, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 9, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks