Lost Purple Heart mystery solved by Rogersville celebrity Charlie Chase

Jeff Bobo • Nov 28, 2018 at 8:39 AM

ROGERSVILLE — The search for family members to receive a lost Purple Heart that belonged to a Hawkins County WWII soldier who was killed in action revealed a connection to one of Rogersville's most famous sons.

Earlier this month, Hawkins County Veterans Services Officer Danny Breeding contacted the Times News about helping locate the family of WWII Pfc. Charles D. Dalton, whose Purple Heart had been returned to his office after being lost for 23 years.

A local friend of Nashville TV and radio personality Charlie Chase contacted Chase about the lost Purple Heart, and Chase called Breeding on Monday.

Chase, who was born and raised in Rogersville, revealed that Dalton is his great-uncle by marriage, and he was also able to clarify some of the history of the medal.

At Chase's request, on Tuesday Breeding mailed the Purple Heart to Chase's brother Ron Bernard, who lives in Antioch, Tenn.

Pfc. Dalton was killed in action on Jan. 23, 1945, and his wife, Fanny Dalton, received the Purple Heart in the mail from the Army on May 17, 1945.

Fanny Dalton is the sister of Chase's grandmother.

"What Charlie Chase told me was, sometime around 1958, (Charlie's brother) Ron brought it to the Veterans Services Officer here in Rogersville and asked him to place it in a museum," Breeding said. "There's wasn't really a local museum to take it, and over the years it got misplaced."

Apparently, Breeding's predecessor Bill McMaken located the Purple Heart in 1995 and attempted unsuccessfully to find its rightful owner.

Again, the Purple Heart was misplaced, and when McMaken retired in 2006, the Purple Heart was mixed in with some things he took home from the office.

McMaken recently found the Purple Heart at his home and brought it back to Breeding in hopes of finding a family member to receive it.

After a Times News article was published Nov. 12 asking for help finding surviving family members for Pfc. Dalton, Breeding received several responses, mostly from the Bernard family in the Beech Creek community.

"They said the closest living relative is probably Wayne Bernard, aka Charlie Chase," Breeding said. "Charlie Chase told me that while Fanny was still alive, she gave it to his brother Ron Bernard, and later Ron brought it to this office. Since his brother is the one who initially had it, Charlie Chase said it ought to be sent to him."

Breeding added, "We just wanted to get it to the family, and whatever the nephew wants to do with it now — if he wants to give it to a museum, that's fine. I just wanted to get it back in their hands, and they can decide what to do with it."

Pfc. Dalton is buried at Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial, which is located just outside of Saint-Avold, France, near the German border.

That cemetery contains 10,489 graves, the largest number of any American World War II cemetery in Europe.

Pfc. Dalton was part of the 254th Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division, although the specific circumstances of his death aren't known.

Soldiers interred at Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial mostly died in late 1944 and early 1945 during the drive by the Third and Seventh armies to the Siegfried Line as the Germans were being pushed out of France.