A long overdue ceremony in honor of Staff Sergeant Arnold Paradise was held at the grave site of his parents, Napoleon and Fern Paradise, in Rice Lake’s Nora Cemetery on Saturday.
Arnold Paradise’s sister, Ruby Frolik of Rice Lake, and brother, DeWayne Paradise of Wausau, were presented the Purple Heart award for Arnold, honoring the loss of his life in World War II and the awards he had earned before his death.
Arnold, who was raised in Rice Lake and graduated from Rice Lake High School in 1941, served as an aerial gunner on a B-24. His crew was part of an eight-plane formation that was flying a bombing mission over Taroa, a Japanese held island in the southwest Pacific ocean.
Seven of the planes successfully made it back to their recovery base that day. Arnold’s crew wasn’t as fortunate. Their plane was badly damaged by enemy anti-aircraft artillery and Japanese fighter aircraft in the target area.
Arnold’s plane was forced to ditch into the ocean and the bodies of all 10 crew members aboard the aircraft were never recovered. Though his body still lies entombed in the Pacific Ocean, Arnold’s valor and service to his country will be forever remembered.
For years after the tragic event on Dec. 21, 1943, youngest brother DeWayne questioned why his brother had never been recognized for his sacrifice to his country. Four years ago DeWayne’s research intensified, and he was rewarded by finding several highly informative articles, including a photo of Arnold’s plane, the Dogpatch Express, in its last moments of flight, taken by crew members that were flying in the formation.
Phil Scearce, in his book, “Finish Forty and Home,” also depicts the same photo of the damaged plane before it’s fateful crash into the ocean.
DeWayne’s quest for answers struck gold when Will Fraser, a retired Air Force four star general, graciously offered his assistance in helping to identify all the awards that Staff Sergeant Paradise had earned during his time in the military.
General Fraser contacted an associate, Air Force Lieutenant General Darrell Jones, who in turn contacted his counterpart in the Army. Staffers in an Army department were able to identify Arnold’s awards and send them to his next-of-kin.
The efforts, kindly offered by the caring senior officers, were instrumental in reducing the time-consuming process from months to weeks, allowing the allowing the award presentation to move forward in a timely manner.
Dennis Krippner, a retired Air Force colonel, was granted permission by the Air Force to preside over Saturday’s Purple Heart ceremony. He and his wife, Connie, a niece of Staff Sergeant Paradise, were both born in Rice Lake and currently reside in Texas.
Ron Rilling, a volunteer with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, read aloud to those in attendance the certificate that accompanied the Purple Heart award. Rilling and his wife, Carol, also a niece of Staff Sergeant Paradise, currently reside in Duluth.
Other relatives who live in the Rice Lake area were also on hand for the small ceremony. DeWayne Paradise and Ruby Frolic are the only children remaining in a family of four sons and four children of Napoleon and Fern Paradise.
The Paradise family also has a bench in its name in the veteran’s memorial along Lakeshore Drive, honoring “Paradise Fathers & Sons of Rice Lake.”
The bench is near the entrance of the memorial park. Under the name of Napoleon J., the father who served in the Army in World War I, are all four sons’ names: Arnold J., now a Purple Heart recipient who served in World War II; Virgil F. “Jack,” who served with the Navy in World War II; LaVern I. “Whitey,” who served with the Navy in the Korean War; and DeWayne N., who served with the Air Force in the Cold War.
Note: Much of this story was written by retired Air Force colonel Dennis Krippner, formerly of Rice Lake, with editing and some additions by The Chronotype staff.