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WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 16, 2011, 10:12 PM

POW receives medals decades after death

Jamestown, ND (WDAY TV) - Putting each piece of the puzzle together on how their uncle Gerald Block died in World War II has been a life long journey for sisters Sue Johnson and Linda Ray.

Putting each piece of the puzzle together on how their uncle Gerald Block died in World War II has been a life long journey for sisters Sue Johnson and Linda Ray. Block was a POW in Japanese hands, his death brutal. But now, Block's bravery is finally being honored.

If Gerald Block were here his family says he would be honored, his heroics of war earning him 5 medals. Among them a Purple Heart and the Prisoner of War medal 67 years after his tragic death. But to understand how we got here you have to hear his heart wrenching story.

Sisters Sue Johnson and Linda Ray have only one photo of their uncle taken when he was just 13 and a few handwritten letters. Not much to go on when researching a loved one.

Linda Ray – Niece of Gerald Block: "Over 200 hours of searching and time in this."

After years of research and a book, Hell's Guest written by a fellow soldier of Block’s and dedicated to him in 2007 they started to learn much more.

Sue Johnson – Niece of Gerald Block: "It’s been a tremendously emotional journey."

The infamous 60 mile Bataan Death March where the Japanese murdered and tortured 75,000 POW's. Gerald Block one of those shown here, frail but determined to make it out alive.

Linda Ray: "As I read some of those stories, some of what these guys went through, I sat there and cried."

Block survived that horrible march. It was not until the Japanese put him on a ship in 1944, the Arisan Maru which was sunk by an American Submarine in the Pacific. Block, along with nearly 2,000 American POW's killed.

Sue Johnson: "The ultimate sacrifice that he made was worth something."

A 23 year old, honored with medals of bravery, nearly 7 decades after his death.

Sue Johnson: "The word I would use to describe it is unreal. Things just don't happen like this. 67 years later.”

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