Grayland man to receive long-overdue WW II medals at special ceremony in Westport tomorrow

A genealogical research project by Gettysburg, Pennsylvania resident, Gail Furford, the wife of Grayland resident Martin Paulson’s nephew George, has led to the planned presentation tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 30, of two medals to Paulson, now 95, for service above and beyond the call of duty in the U.S. Army during World War II.

The short presentation, followed by light refreshments, will take place at the Westport South Beach VFW Post #3057 Post Home at 2:30 p.m. The Post Home is located at 211 E. Pacific Ave. in uptown Westport.

Friends, family and community members are cordially invited to attend the ceremony where Paulson will receive the Bronze Star and the Occupation of Japan medal.

Martin Paulson rose to the rank of Sergeant in the U.S. Army and saw action in the prolonged campaign to gain control of Okinawa in the spring and summer of 1945, followed by service in the Army of Occupation near Tokyo, Japan in the fall of that same year.

War injuries

While serving on the front lines on Okinawa, Paulson, then a Private First Class, was injured by mortar fire, suffering burns on his legs and face, as well as some hearing loss. He reported to a field first aid station, received minimal care and reported back to his unit that same day. Paulson relayed information about his injuries in a letter shortly thereafter to his sister, Ruth Paulson Furford, a Kent resident at the time. She received many letters from Martin during the war and saved them all.

In the 1970s, when Ruth’s daughter-in-law, Gail Furford, began doing genealogy research on both her and her husband’s families, Ruth gave Gail a shoebox filled with Martin’s wartime correspondence, saying that she saw them as an important part of family history. She asked Gail to hold them for her grandson, Gail and George’s son, David Arvid Furford, until he was old enough to appreciate them.

After reading the letters nearly 40 years later, Gail felt that Martin was deserving of a Purple Heart due to the injuries he sustained. For that reason, she sent the Army a copy of both the letter in which he described his injuries and other pertinent information, requesting the awarding of the Purple Heart.

According to Gail, although the information needed to award the Purple Heart was not found, surprisingly, a determination was made that Martin deserves and will be awarded the Bronze Star and Occupation of Japan medal.

Journey of the letters

The following is a ‘Message from the Author’ written by Gail Furford, the catalyst for tomorrow’s medals presentation, as a forward to the book she is creating documenting what she calls, “The Journey of the Letters.”

“I set the box of Martin’s letters aside and before I could get to them, my husband’s job moved us across the United States. Due to raising a family, work, etc., they remained stored with the genealogy materials until after I retired.

“When I again came across the box of letters in 2012, I read them to see if they were something my son would be interested in having. He was now retired after serving 23 years in the Navy and working as a civilian on a Navy base in Pensacola, Florida.

To my surprise and delight, the letters were from Ruth’s brother, Martin A. Paulson, from the time he entered military life during WWII to the time he got out shortly after the war had ended. After reading a few, I knew the letters needed to be preserved for future generations and asked my husband, George Furford, if he would scan them into the computer for me.

“My husband George was 6-years-old when his Uncle Martin was drafted into the Army. I had heard many times over the years that Martin had served during WWII, but my husband said his uncle did not talk about those years. George said Martin was his favorite uncle and he was delighted to see that in the beginning, letters that Martin sent started with the salutation: ‘Dear Ruth, Curly and George.’

“I read the letters a second time, researching weapons, places, etc. that he mentioned and found myself thinking of ideas upon ideas of how to make the letters come alive. You must understand, soldiers were censored on what they could say and not say in the letters, so there was not much information in them. However, in the 21st century, an abundance of information has been published, filmed and documented so that with research you can fill in the blanks.

“The blood in my veins began to flow with excitement at the possibilities. We had not seen Uncle Martin in many years and I wondered where he and his family were and what they were doing now. I typed Martin Paulson into my computer and Martin Paulson Farms — a cranberry farm in Grayland — popped up.

“To my surprise, Martin’s son, Martin Paulson Jr. (Marty), now worked the farm. Marty was 10-years-old when my husband and I married and was now a grown man himself with adult children. I called the number listed for the business and left a message. Marty called shortly after that and was very excited about what I was doing and encouraged me to call his dad who was still living.

“I will never forget how he spoke of his dad with so much love, respect, honor and joy, and that at 94-plus years in 2012, Marty said that his dad was still sharp as a tack.

“I called Martin the next morning and had a delightful chat with him. He had no idea his sister had saved the letters and said he didn’t know what he could tell me, but that he would be willing to talk with me.

“I asked if I could visit and he said I would need to come soon as he was getting on in years! I asked if the next week was soon enough. He was excited, saying, “Come right on out!” Marty said his dad came alive with anticipation.

“So, I scrambled to make flights, lodging, and car rental arrangements, which went smoother than every before… even getting big discounts! Never had that happen before — especially on such short notice.

“I flew out the next week. What a delightful visit! I returned to Gettysburg with eight hours of video interview and great memories!

And the journey of the letters began…

Life on the bogs

After leaving the Service, Martin and several other family members, including his father Adolf Paulson and his sister Mabel and brother-in-law Arvid ‘Curley’ Furford, moved to the South Beach. Martin purchased four and a half acres of land in Grayland and planted his first bog in 1946. While waiting more than three years for the first harvest, Martin worked in the woods and as a commercial fisherman, while Curley worked the bogs.

Eventually, the bog holdings grew to a more than 20-acre enterprise, making Paulson Farms one of the area’s largest cranberry growing operations.

Martin married his wife Mabel in 1953 and the couple worked the farm and raised their children there, including daughter Janice, who now resides in California, and their son Marty, who continues to operate the farm these days with his wife Kris. Their son Ryan also works the farm and looks forward to being the third generation of Paulsons to operate the business.

Mable died in 2008 at the age of 88 and Martin’s granddaughter, Marty and Kris’s daughter Jeni, lost her life at the age of 17 in a traffic accident in 2001.

Martin continues to live independently in the family home built by his father with assistance from Marty and Kris.