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Vet receives World War II medals 73 years after leaving the Navy

(From center-left) A Purple Heart, Silver Star, American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, WWII Occupation Medal with "Germany" clasp, European/African/and Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, and a Good Conduct Medal, lie on a table. (Justin Connaher/U.S. Air Force)

Yucaipa City Councilman Dick Riddell received a surprise honor for his military service at a meeting on Monday, Oct. 7, 73 years after he left the U.S. Navy.

Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, pinned the medals on Riddell for World War II Victory, service in the Pacific-Far East theater, service in the American theater and Japanese occupation.

Cook called the move long overdue.

“It’s my great honor to award those medals which are long deserved,” he said.

Riddell, who grew up in San Bernardino, enlisted at age 17 after graduating from high school in 1942. After radio school, he was assigned to the Navy’s Armed Guard to protect merchant vessels such as cargo ships and tankers.

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“I didn’t do anything special,” Riddell said modestly. “I did dodge a couple of submarines, which I’m grateful for because I was on a tanker at that time. If I’d have been hit, I wouldn’t be here.”

He sailed on more than 15 ships, covering more than 200,000 miles during his service. After the Japanese surrender, Riddell was a part of the occupation forces in Tokyo until being discharged in 1946.

Riddell said he appreciated the honor, but “I was just one of 16 million guys who served in World War II.”

His family, he said, has always been well-represented in the military.

“It’s always been God, family, county and I’m just grateful to everybody,” Riddell concluded.

Several local officials were on hand to congratulate Riddell, and a plaque in his honor will be placed on the Veterans Wall of Freedom in Grand Terrace on Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.

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© 2019 the Redlands Daily Facts