Nephew seeks Medal of Honor for Milford World War II veteran

MILFORD – Harry Alfred Parker was one of 13 Milford men who died in World War II and is considered the leading New Hampshire pilot in the air war over Europe.

Parker received the Silver Star Medal with Oak Leaf cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross, as well as an award from the Austrian government.

Now, Parker’s nephew, Bruce Parker, of Merrimack, would like to see the war hero receive one final award, the Medal of Honor, this country’s highest military honor.

Capt. Harry Parker was killed on his 281th combat mission on his second tour of duty, said his nephew, after volunteering for every mission that came his way.

According to the book, “Milford in World War II,” Parker escorted heavy bombers on raids, including one in Bucharest, Romania, where he dove his plane, the Alba Marie Pippen, into a formation of 45 German planes, destroying four and damaging six others, “causing the entire formation to scatter.”

Parker was last heard from on a strafing mission, attacking ground targets from his low-flying aircraft, on April 2, 1945, when he was south and west of Vienna, according to the book.

Now, much more information about his final mission seems to have come to light.

Carolina Lambalot of Milford, who organized the rededication of the town’s World War II monument this year, began corresponding with Matjaz Partlic, whose father grew up in Pesnica, a village in Slovenia, which borders on Austria and where he says Parker died.

Partlic wrote to Lambalot that his father was only four when Parker’s plane landed in the village, but the story of Harry Alfred Parker is part of the villagers’ oral tradition.

In a letter to Lambalot, Partlic said Parker’s plane was not shot down, but was involved in an accident while his plane was flying very low and apparently “hit into a vertical railway signalization with one of his wings and the plane crashed into a hill and the pilot was killed instantly.

“The Germans who were occupying our country took all of Parker’s documents and transported his body into the neighboring village of Jarenina,” wrote Partlic.

“There the German authorities instructed the grave digger to bury him and told him his name was Harry Parker. On July 17, 1947 Parker’s remains were transported to the American military cemetery in Kosutnjak in Beograd, Serbia. A little while later his remains were yet again transported and buried in Florence, Italy, along with others from that cemetery.”

Partlic, who describes himself as an amateur historian, wrote that he lives in the city of Maribor, near Pesnica, where Parker’s plane landed.

Maribor was a major industrial center with an extensive armament industry where the occupying Germans manufactured airplane engines, he said, and the city was systematically bombed by the Allies, and “paid a very high price,” with bombs severely damaging nearly half the city’s buildings, nearly 3,000, and killing 483 civilians.

In one of Partlic’s letters to Carolina Lambalot, he said he hopes the village of Pesnica “will soon put up a humble memorial that will testify the place of death of this hero, who fought for our freedom as well.”

Partlic also sent Lambalot a copy of the report for Parker’s last mission, number 281 of April 2, 1945 and a copy of Parker’s exhumation report.

Bruce Parker said former Milford selectman Rosario “Sarooch” Ricciardi, who served in the army during World War II and knew his uncle, started looking into the possibility of a Medal of Honor, which is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the U.S. Congress.

Bruce said Ricciardi and his fellow soldiers knew Parker would die in the war.

“You can’t volunteer for every hazardous mission there is” and survive, he said. At the rededication of Milford’s World War II memorial in September, he said, Ricciardi told Bruce Parker, “?‘You’ve got to do something for this man,’ and I said I would.”

The U.S. military needs to do more research and at least update his uncle’s file, he said, because he is still considered missing in action.

“Nobody knew what happened to him,” said Parker. “It would bring some kind of closure” to the remaining family members.

Bruce, who lives in Merrimack, where the Capt. Harry Parker ball field is named after his uncle and where the Parker family lived for many years, said he is sorry he never got to meet his uncle.

The pilot was 26 when he died, but his nephew feels a strong connection to him and wants to see him receive the recognition he deserves.

“He never backed down from any mission, regardless of how dangerous,” he said.

At the very least, he wants people to know the sacrifices that were made for the sake of this country by young men and women.

“These were real people once. They lived,” he said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or at kcleveland@
cabinet.com.