††††††††††† ††††††††††† Russian Jubilee Medal Received By Mineville Man
By Bethany Kosmider
Theodore McConley of
Eight years ago ďTedĒ received a letter from the Russian Embassy asking him if he was the same person who guarded the supplies for the Russians in WWII during the periods of 1944-1945. Ted lost the letter and forgot about the inquiry. In December of 2005, a friend of his inquired of the medal to the Russian Embassy to which a reply was received, later followed by an envelope containing the Jubilee Medal.
ďI donít know why they gave it to me,Ē said eighty three year old McConley. ďI was just doing my job.Ē
The medal awards were established on July 7, 1993 by
President Yeltsyn. The Jubilee Medal and all paperwork received with it are
written in Russian. With the help of Judy Olinick in the Russian Department at
The 50th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 medal was conferred to all living veterans of the Patriotic War who assisted with transporting supplies into Russian ports and was given as a symbol of appreciation from the Russian government.
Ted was trained at Little Creek, Virginia as a Navy armed
guard gunner and later assigned to a Merchant Marine Ship that was carrying
cargo to the Russians in combat. His first assignment was to the SS Charles M.
Conrad, a liberty cargo ship that carried a crew of about forty four and twelve
to twenty five Naval Armed Guards, who were the luckier ones to make safe
passage to and from the
ďOn the way back, I stopped in
ďThe army received all kinds of medals for their bravery and
achievements but the Navy gunners didnít receive much recognitionĒ, said
McConley. †ďNow I have a medal for being
on the front lines and it came from
Ted, who is known for his abilities to train and race horses at Saratoga and all over the northeast, can now be known for the best-kept secret, serving his country. A formal Award Ceremony is being planned for May 29th, 2006 at the VFW Post in Mineville, New York with a chicken barbeque following. The public will be more than welcome.
04/18/2006 World War II medal awarded to Mineville veteran 'Suicide squad' vet gets medal for aiding troops in WWII By LOHR McKINSTRY, Staff Writer MINEVILLE -- The U.S. Navy Armed Guard was an outfit no one had heard of, a World War II "suicide squad" that protected cargo ships from Axis forces. Now, a Moriah man who fought with that elite unit is finally getting a medal he earned 62 years ago. Theodore "Ted" McConley, 83, of Mineville will officially receive a commendation medal from the Russian Federation at a noon ceremony on Memorial Day at the Mineville Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. FACED ATTACKS A gunner during the war, McConley has been awarded the Russian Medal of Honor for serving as a member of the U.S. Navy Armed Guard on a ship taking vital supplies to Russian troops stationed on the Euphrates River in 1944. Along the way, he faced German U-boat attacks and strafing from enemy warplanes. McConley's trip began on the ship SS Charles M. Conrad leaving a Chesapeake Bay port. He and 25 of his fellow Naval Armed Guard members were aboard as it made its way to resupply Russian troops stationed in Turkey. "We were the gunners trying to get the ship through and get it home again," McConley said. "We guarded merchant ships. I served on a lot of ships." ARM OF NAVY The Naval Armed Guard was a division of the U.S. Navy that served aboard U.S. Merchant Marine and other supply ships during World War II. Of its 150,000 members, 1,800 were killed in action. During World War II, the Naval Armed Guard lost 720 ships. The guard was the subject of the recent documentary "Forgotten Valor," which details how the group protected war supplies. It took 62 days to get from the U.S. port to the northern Euphrates River, McConley said. "We went through the Suez Canal. We went through the Straits of Gibraltar, where we had to run German (U-boat) wolf packs. We'd lay smoke screens so they couldn't see us." Once they got to the Euphrates rendezvous, he said, "we met them there on the river, where they had docks, and we unloaded them. The Russians would come with their trucks and take the stuff away." He said there was no city nearby, so the trucks must have come a long distance. LITTLE RECOGNITION While they were berthed at the Euphrates, a German warplane attacked and was shot down. "He didn't return to his base," McConley said. "But we never got any recognition. Nobody documented the air raid that day." That's generally how it went with the Naval Armed Guard, he said. War correspondents and photographers traveled with other branches of the service during World War II but not the Naval Armed Guard, he said. McConley went all over the world with the guard. "I was in the Pacific on tankers. We delivered (aviation) gas to aircraft carriers in the Mariana Islands and the Carolina Islands." CLOSE CALL McConley's unit was in Naples, Italy, the day the city's post office was bombed by the Germans. "We'd just got our mail at the post office. Then it blew up." That was in August 1943, after Italy had surrendered to Allied forces, and U.S. Army troops who were there that day were awarded the Bronze Star. "We didn't get the Bronze Star," McConley said. "We were in the Navy." But he and other Naval Armed Guard members may yet get acknowledgment specific to their service. A bill was introduced in Congress last year by Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wa.) to award veterans like McConley the newly created U.S. Navy Armed Guard Service Medal. "The United States has not adequately recognized the heroism and sacrifices of the members of the United States Navy Armed Guard during World War I and World War II," Larsen said in a news release. "The mariners served honorably to protect civilians and freight on vessels and were equally dedicated, intrepid and heroic and are equally deserving of recognition with a special medal." The bill has been referred to committee for further action. MEDALS McConley did receive four World War II campaign medals from the Navy in 1990. He said after he spoke up at a VFW meeting about his service, someone contacted the Navy and found he was due the awards. McConley's friend, Bethany Kosmider of Crown Point, helped him get the Russian medal. "He'd received a letter from the Russian Embassy years ago, asking if he was the same man who'd served in World War II. He answered them then never heard anything." After Kosmider contacted the Russians, the medal showed up one day by certified mail. "He told me, źAt least I am still alive to receive this,'" she said. "I think the sacrifice of the Naval Armed Guard in World War II has been overlooked. This is long overdue." McConley and the other members of the Naval Armed Guard protected more than 6,000 ships during World War II. "The Navy called us a suicide squad," he said. "We were forgotten."
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