WWII veteran from Redondo Beach has medals replaced 50 years after they were stolen

December 24, 2016
In The News

Albert Erd remembers making the disappointing discovery 50 years ago.

Someone had climbed through a narrow opening in the storage garage he was renting in Torrance and made off with his personal belongings.

While some of the items were easy to replace, others were priceless: Erd’s military uniform, Purple Heart and seven other medals he earned as an Army Air Corps sergeant in WWII were all gone.

The only piece of regalia left was the pair of Air Force wings he had given to his mother.

Erd, a Redondo Beach resident, looked into replacing the medals, but the process seemed like an awful lot of trouble.

“I actually just gave up on it,” said Erd, now 93.

 

Never too late

Last year, he was attending a New Year’s Eve party with his family at King Harbor Yacht Club when his grandson, Louie Schwartz, noticed Erd eyeing ribbons on the sport coat of Schwartz’s other grandfather, also a WWII veteran.

Schwartz always knew the story of the stolen medals, but he didn’t understand the impact on his grandfather until he became a combat veteran himself in Iraq.

Seeing the faint look of sadness cross Erd’s face, Schwartz decided to renew efforts he’d made over the years to get the medals replaced — all of which hit dead ends.

 

He contacted agency after agency until the Los Angeles Air Force Base eventually connected him with Melissa Ramoso, an aide to South Bay Rep. Ted Lieu.

Earlier this month, Erd received a phone call informing him that Lieu had an early Christmas present for him. Days later, Erd received eight replacement medals during a small ceremony in the congressman’s office.

“It was just the most wonderful feeling,” Erd said. “It seemed to me like they probably would never seem like the originals, but now that I have them, I certainly appreciate it very much.”

 

Erd earned the Purple Heart during one of 50 missions as a radio operator and gunner flying over Romania and Germany.

He also has an Air Medal with three bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; an American Campaign Medal; a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver Service Star and one bronze Service Star; a WWII Victory Medal; a Presidential Unit Citation (formerly known as a Distinguished Unit Citation); an Army Air Force Aerial Gunner Badge Wings; and an Honorable Service Lapel Button - WWII.

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After the war, Erd moved back to Los Angeles and worked as an apprentice machinist and an inventory clerk. He then settled in Redondo Beach and started a family. He retired from a 32-year engineering career at Rockwell International Corp. in 1983.

 

‘It meant the world to him’

 

Because Erd’s health has been declining in recent years, the replacement medals are even more meaningful.

“It’s just too bad I didn’t have my originals, but it was certainly a great experience to have the replacements given to me,” he said. “I knew Louie was doing this for me.”

 

Lieu, an Air Force veteran himself, was happy to help make the replacements a reality.

“It was a great honor to meet and present the medals to Sgt. Erd,” Lieu said in a statement. “He sacrificed so much for our country and deserves to have these medals, which memorialize his selfless acts of courage.”

Schwartz thanked Ramoso for her months of efforts with the Department of the Army.

“It felt great, it really did. It meant the world to him,” Schwartz said. “My grandfather is a very humble man, and he never complains at all. I guess he told my mom that this is the first time anyone’s ever thanked him or really done something for him like this.”

 

Schwartz is having the medals framed and the ribbons pinned onto a mounting bar to wear.

They’ll be ready just in time for New Year’s Eve.