News: Wisconsin National Guard member donates wayward Purple Heart to local VFW
By 1st Lt. Joe Trovato
Wisconsin National Guard
SUN PRAIRIE, WIS. - A Sun Prairie, Wis., Veterans of Foreign Wars post got a priceless piece of history Feb. 28, thanks to a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
The Klubertanz-Trapp VFW Post 9362 received the Purple Heart awarded to one of its namesakes after Sgt. 1st Class Alan Foss donated the medal, which he purchased at a garage sale in the late 1990s.
Foss, a retiree records manager in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, purchased the medal for $3 at a garage sale in Walworth County. Engraved with the name, “Otto A. Trapp,” Foss began researching the medal. It sat in his basement in the interim, and even survived a tornado that partially destroyed his house in 2005.
His search ultimately proved fruitless until February 2013, when a chance conversation with a fellow Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs employee led him to the Sun Prairie VFW post bearing Trapp’s name.
When Foss called the VFW post Feb. 26, its commander, Ralph Brandenburg, could not believe what he was hearing. Foss dropped off the medal two days later, and the VFW post could not have been happier.
“To have this, this is like a miracle happening out of the sky,” Brandenburg said. “Where has it been for this many years? All of a sudden it’s like a boomerang, and it’s coming back to us.”
According to a certificate furnished to Foss, Otto A. Trapp, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, was killed near France over the Mediterranean Sea on Aug. 24, 1944. He was a member of the 441st squadron, 320th Bomb Group, and he had participated in the Normandy invasion just a few months before his passing.
Foss’s research suggested that Trapp, originally of Sun Prairie, served as a crew chief on a B-26 Marauder. His body was never recovered, but a gravestone commemorates his legacy at an American military cemetery in France.
Sun Prairie’s VFW post was founded in 1947, but it never had anything to commemorate Trapp until now, nearly 70 years after his death.
“Being that he is one of the namesakes of the post, it means a lot to have it here,” said former VFW Post 9362 commander Phil Gerg.
But Gerg said he hoped Trapp’s family would someday have the medal.
But tracking down family members has proven a tall task for both Foss and the VFW. Foss made several phone calls when he first acquired the medal, but he found no success linking up with a member of the Trapp family. Trapp had no known children, and his parents have long since passed away. Foss also had no way of knowing whether Trapp had any siblings.
The VFW is planning to have a ceremony at the post to commemorate the return of Trapp’s Purple Heart, though a date has not yet been set. The post hopes to find a member of the Trapp family with knowledge of Otto and his medal and invite them to that ceremony.
“Really what we want to do is donate it to the VFW for display, so everyone can enjoy it,” Foss said.