FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Charles P. O’Brien II was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for acts of heroism performed in Italy during World War II. While recuperating back in the states from injuries suffered there, he traded the medals for an Iron Cross belonging to a German POW he met in Texas before the war ended. According to his family, O’Brien didn’t think he deserved the medals just for surviving an attack that killed the rest of his squad.
He passed away in 1951 from a bad heart valve. His death certificate indicated his heart condition had been worsened by wounds he suffered in World War II. On Friday, U.S Senator Todd Young awarded O’Brien’s family with a Bronze Star during a ceremony in Fort Wayne.
O’Brien grew up in Kentucky and joined the Army after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While stationed at Fort Knox, he met the woman who would become his wife. O’Brien married Betsy Faber before he was shipped overseas.
The heroics which earned him the two medals took place in Italy where he was in charge of a unit with the mission of taking a monastery held by the Nazis. While attempting to take the monastery is unit was ambushed and half the soldiers were killed. The other half were taken prisoner. When the Germans withdrew, they let O’Brien and the rest of the soldiers free. While they were making their way back down from the mountain where the monastery was located, an artillery barrage was fired at them. O’Brien was the lone survivor. However he suffered a broken back and was peppered with shrapnel when an artillery shell exploded nearby.
It was while recuperating at Fort Hood in Texas that O’Brien met the German POW. On Friday, multiple generations of his family were in attendance to receive the Bronze Star from Senator Young.