Veteran fights to clear name

Presidential pardon fails to remove court-martial from record

Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- He was court-martialed for fraternizing with the enemy at the end of World War II -- convicted and fined for speaking to a German teen-ager while her mother was washing uniforms for him and his captain.

Then, as now, the Army acknowledged the offense and the punishment Rockie Blunt received were not particularly serious.

He was honorably discharged on March 28, 1946, and left with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and a Good Conduct Medal. He received a pardon from President Bill Clinton weeks before he left office.

But the pardon did not remove the court-martial from his service record. Now 77, Roscoe Blunt Jr. is still fighting to get the infraction erased from his life's paper trail. He's fighting for his family honor.

Blunt says there's nothing else in his past to be ashamed of. Drafted into the Army from college in September 1943, he was 18 when he became the youngest soldier to win the Expert Infantry Badge -- an honor earned by outstanding performance in using hand grenades, moving under direct fire and assembling weapons.

Not bad for a drummer who was classified as a bandsman, but instead wound up fighting as a foot soldier in Europe in the months after D-Day.

While he admits to occasionally falling asleep during guard duty and even going absent without leave for a day or two, Blunt also volunteered to disarm land mines. In his six months of combat, he killed 17 German soldiers.

But back in civilian life -- covering the police beat for three decades at The Telegram and Gazette in Worcester and playing with jazz bands -- he couldn't get over what he considered a ridiculous stain on his otherwise squeaky-clean life: his conviction for fraternizing with the enemy.

In December 1998, he read a news story about presidential pardons granted for the holidays, and thought he'd get one for himself.

The pardon granted by Clinton two years later didn't set aside the conviction. So Blunt asked the Army Board for Correction of Military Records to overturn it and clear his name.

In September, the board told him no. Now, Blunt, who lives in Shrewsbury, wants to appeal to the board for reconsideration.

''I've never even had a parking ticket or speeding violation,'' Blunt says. ''All I want is for the Army to reverse its decision.''

The Army says that's unlikely.

When the 84th Infantry Divi-sion occupied the German town of Rheinhausen in March 1945, 19-year-old Pfc. Blunt was ordered by his captain to find a villager to wash his muddy uniforms. Blunt also had the woman wash his own clothes.

The Army says Blunt should have disobeyed the command.

''Because the company commander's order to find a German woman to wash clothes violated the Commanding General's nonfraternization policy, it was illegal and without force,'' Carl Chun, director of the Army Board for Correction of Military Records told Blunt in response to the application to set aside the conviction. ''The applicant should not have obeyed it.''

''This, to me, is a blot on my family honor,'' Blunt says. ''The blot has lived with me for nearly 60 years, and I just want to get rid of it once and for all.''

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