99-year-old Fargo World War II veteran receives long overdue service medals and pins

Image by WDAY News First Staff - Tom Tucker
Image by WDAY News First Staff - Tom Tucker

(Fargo, ND) -- A 99-year-old World War II vet from Linton, North Dakota has finally received some long overdue and well-deserved medals and pins earned while serving the country. 

"Oh god I think that's great. I really appreciate it, everything they did. This was unexpected you know, I never had no idea, but boy I sure appreciate it," said Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Bichler.

The veteran was honored Tuesday at a Fargo nursing home. During the "We Honor Veterans Ceremony", family, friends and other veterans gathered while the retired farmer and father of seven was presented with the American Theater Campaign Medal, the Victory Medal, and two service pins. 

Bichler was on board a Navy destroyer that went down after coming under enemy fire off the coast of Japan in 1943. He was among 150 sailors who abandoned ship and waited in cold ocean waters until they were rescued. He experienced severe cramps while in the water, but a fellow sailor held Bichler's head above water until rescue teams arrived. Bichler credits his fellow sailor with saving his life.

The veteran's daughter was among family members pleased to see their father receive recognition for his service.

"Dad doesn't talk very much about being in the Navy. We know that it was tough. We know that there probably wasn't very pleasant memories. It has meant the world to us to be able to honor him with these medals that he never got that he deserved," said Becky Pfau. 

During the event, Bichler and his family also celebrated his wife Ann's 92nd birthday. 

Original Air Date: 
Wednesday, March 1, 2023