WWI Hero’s Lost Purple Heart Returned to Grandson

ALBANY (AP) -
World War I veteran Pvt. Daniel Quinlan and his Purple Heart medal, one of the first ever awarded. (Courtesy of William Quinlan via AP)
World War I veteran Pvt. Daniel Quinlan and his Purple Heart medal, one of the first ever awarded. (Courtesy of William Quinlan via AP)

Six years before he died in a car crash, Daniel W. Quinlan was among the 138 World War I veterans to receive the first Purple Heart medals issued by the U.S. military.

His family lost track of the medal he received during a 1932 ceremony held at the Hudson Valley historic site, where historians say Gen. George Washington issued a precursor to the Purple Heart, which is awarded to those wounded or killed in combat. This week, Quinlan’s recently found Purple Heart will be displayed at the site before it’s draped across his nearby gravestone. Afterward, the medal will be sent to his grandson in Florida.

“It’s going to be amazing when I put my hands on that medal, to think that my grandfather actually held it in his hands,” said William Quinlan, a 58-year-old real estate broker in Key West.

Born in East Fishkill in Dutchess County, Daniel Quinlan was 20 when he enlisted in the Army in September 1917, five months after the U.S. declared war on Germany. He was a member of the 77th Infantry Division, made up mostly of soldiers from New York City.

He was injured in a poison gas attack in northeastern France in August 1918. A month later, he braved heavy German fire to help a fellow soldier care for wounded men. His actions earned him the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest military combat decoration.

After being discharged in May 1919, Quinlan returned to Dutchess County, where he worked as a plumber. He was killed in November 1938 when his car crashed as he headed home from work. He left behind a wife and two children.

On May 28, 1932, Quinlan had been among the 138 WWI veterans to receive the Purple Heart during a ceremony held across the Hudson River at New Windsor, near West Point. New Windsor was the site of Washington’s final encampment of the Revolutionary War. It was there that the commander of the Continental Army awarded the Badge of Military Merit to three of his soldiers. A revived version of Washington’s medal was approved by the military earlier in 1932 to honor the more than 100,000 Americans killed or wounded during WWI.