World War II veteran Roy Henry Kratt wears the Purple Heart that was presented to him Wednesday at his home in Cape Coral. Photos courtesy Kinfay Morot, Fort Myers News-Press
Cape Coral, Florida (News-Press) -- Under hospice care and suffering from Alzheimer's disease and
dementia, Roy Kratt distinctly recalls a bowl of tomato soup, his first
meal after days of floating in the Pacific Ocean after the Navy ship he
was aboard was sunk by Japanese bombers.
"It was the best bowl of tomato soup he'd ever had after not eating for days," said his son, Richard.
See Also: Vietnam vet award Silver Star, 42 years later
years of being denied due to record mishaps, Roy Kratt, one of Cape
Coral's first residents, finally received a Purple Heart on Wednesday
for his service in World War II.
Roy Kratt was 17 on Oct. 15, 1942, when the USS Meredith was hit by Japanese bombs.
ship was sinking so fast, he said, that there was no jumping off. He
simply began to swim, even with shrapnel wounds he suffered from
explosions on the ship. He and his surviving shipmates, eight officers
and 73 enlisted men, of the 261 on board, treaded water for three days,
exposed to the sun and open sea before they were rescued. Seventy-five
of the 81 lived.
His sons, Bob and Richard, said he never spoke about it, but he began to open up over the last several years.
Richard Kratt said his father took the life jacket off a dead mate and was covered in oil when he was rescued.
years later, Kratt, 88, thought his family had gathered Wednesday for a
small reunion, but when TV crews surrounded the slight man, sitting on a
couch in his living room, he knew something was up.
U.S. Rep Trey Radel knelt in front of him, and with words of gratitude, presented Kratt with his medal.
a hero," Radel, R-Fort Myers, told him. "Our community loves you, our
country loves you. I hope that this can be a small token of our
appreciation for everything that you have done for us. Thank you, sir."
"Thank you," Kratt said, bewildered.
his wife of 35 years, Margaret, by his side, Kratt sat forward to
examine the medal, and later, Richard pinned it on his father's shirt.
"This is long overdue," Richard Kratt said.
told Kratt he should have received the medal years ago, but records
documenting the veteran's injuries were destroyed in a military
warehouse fire. It wasn't until Kratt's daughter-in-law, Nancy, after
much digging, contacted Dr. Barry Friedman, who treated Kratt, that the
necessary records were located.
96, wrote a book titled "The Short Life of a Valiant Ship," detailing
the USS Meredith's sinking. The book lists each crewman's name -
Radel expressed his gratitude at being able to give Kratt his medal.
"Undoubtedly, unquestionably, this is the proudest moment of my short time in service to this community," he said.
Kratt said her husband was speechless at first. "He didn't want to
believe it. It's been 70 years since the ship was sunk."
Kratt said that while it's good to receive a Purple Heart, he thinks about the guys that didn't get it.
Purple Heart was first presented by George Washington to three soldiers
in 1782. It's awarded to service members who've been wounded during
action against the enemy.