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Marseilles Museum accepts Purple Heart donation

A World War II soldier's Purple Heart is the latest addition to the Seattle Sutton Marseilles Museum.

The museum hosted a flag folding this month from Ernest J. Atchley, Jr., who never received a military funeral of his own, according to a museum press release.

Atchley, also known as "Junior," graduated from Marseilles High School in 1943. He then joined the Navy with an interest in the submarine service. Unable to become a submariner, he joined the Navy's Armed Guards.

While on tour, his ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Those on board survived the attack but the submarine surfaced and forced the ship's occupants to board the deck of the sub.

The Japanese then tied the hands of the prisoners and made them run a "horrific gauntlet" before pushing some overboard, according to the press release. A US Navy plane flew overhead four hours into the torment and the Japanese crew went below deck to submerge, leaving the American prisoners on deck to drown.

Some survived the ordeal, but Atchley did not.

His family was notified on July 22, 1944, he was considered missing in action and after an agonizing year for his family, they were told he was not among the survivors on July 27, 1945.

A box with an American flag was sent to the Atchley family, however, it was never opened by the family until years later.

As Atchley never received a military funeral, and to honor their uncle, Robert Nelson and Jill Winkowski asked the Seattle Sutton Marseilles Museum to contact the American Legion and host a flag folding ceremony.

The local American Legion honored the sacrifice of Junior and the request of the Atchley family by folding the 75-year-old flag, conducting a 21-gun salute and played "Taps."

The Seattle Sutton Marseilles Museum was also "truly humbled" by the donation of Seamen First Class Atchley's Purple Heart and war medals as well as pictures, documents and the 75-year-old flag that can be viewed during the next museum event.

The next public event at the museum will be a celebration of the Marseilles Nursing Service's 100th anniversary at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15. The public is invited and refreshments will be served.

The museum will also host a special tour for the Marseilles High School Class 50th reunion from 4 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21. Twenty museum volunteers will be available to answer questions about exhibits.

Those interest in scheduling a private tour for reunions, high school or other gatherings can contact Patty Jo Smith at 815-795-7976, Rosemary Martin at 815-795-7552, or Seattle Sutton at 815-795-6135.

For more information, you also can visit ssmmi.org.

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