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Student's work honors WWII hero from Butler

| Sunday, May 26, 2013, 12:10 a.m.
Web site set up to honor Army Technician Fifth Grade John Joseph “Joe” Pinder Jr., a 1931 Butler High School grad who was awarded the Medal of Honor after he was killed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day, 1944.

With bullets whizzing past him, his face horribly mangled from a mortar shell blast, Cpl. John Joseph Pinder Jr. refused to fall as he and his fellow soldiers stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944 — his 32nd birthday.

Trying to contain the bleeding from his face with one hand, Pinder grasped radio equipment in the other, dragging it to shore, according to eyewitness accounts in military archives.

Despite protests from fellow soldiers, he ran under fire back into the mined water several times to salvage communications equipment. He was shot in both legs on one trip, but still managed to carry the equipment to shore. He helped set up the equipment while under fire until he was fatally hit and died on the beach.

The story of Pinder, a 1931 Butler High School valedictorian, Medal of Honor winner and 2012 Butler High Distinguished Graduate, is now also featured on a website, thanks to Emily Keating, a junior at Carlisle High School in Cumberland County.

Her work profiling Pinder is featured by the Silent Heroes Project on the website of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

“I honestly don't have words to describe him,” Keating said. “I just wish I could go back in time and give him a big hug. I think he would have been a great role model for any young child or any young adult.”

According to online records, Pinder was born in Burgettstown, Washington County, but his family moved to Butler Township when he was young. After his graduation, Pinder went on to a promising pitching career, playing in 1935 for the Butler Indians, who became the next year the Butler Yankees, a New York Yankees affiliate. He played for several minor league teams until August 1941, when he registered for the draft.

Pinder had seen combat in several other battles before his death during the D-Day landings.

“The radio and other supplies that Cpl. Pinder brought ashore were the only means of communications that the Regimental Command Post had at that time,” wrote platoon leader Lt. Leeward W. Stockwell in the paperwork submitted for Pinder's Medal of Honor, awarded posthumously on Jan. 4, 1945. “The determination and heroic actions of Cpl. Pinder were a guide and inspiration to every man on the beach who was a witness to the unhesitating devotion to duty shown by him even after being so seriously wounded.”

Students in Keating's advanced placement U.S. history class at Carlisle High School received an assignment to identify a serviceman who died on D-Day and to create a lasting tribute.

Keating said she found an obituary for Joe Pinder's brother, Harold, of Ross, who died in 2008, himself a decorated Army World War II veteran. Harold Pinder and his wife, Gene, were involved in Scouting. Keating recently earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, so the Pinders sparked her interest.

“I thought (Joe Pinder) would be an interesting person to research, and I've never looked back,” said Keating, 17, the daughter of Jaime and Kathleen Keating, of Carlisle.

Laura Marks, 60, of Mercer, said that her father, Harold Pinder, also a decorated Army World War II veteran, admired his older brother and constantly spoke of him.

“I can't express how pleased my father would be if he was alive,” Marks said of Keating's project. “In our eyes, (Joe Pinder) was a great hero.”

Pinder's story is available at johnjpinderjr.weebly.com or by going to the National World War II Museum's website at mymemorialday.org, then clicking on “Students Remember” tab at the bottom of the home page.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621.

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