Durbin Awards Four Medals to Highland Park World War II Veteran

[HIGHLAND PARK] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today presented Dr. Irving Distelheim, a veteran and retired physician, with four medals he earned during his service in France during World War II.  Staff in the Senator’s Chicago office worked with Dr. Distelheim and the Army to obtain the medals earlier this year.


“Dr. Irving Distelheim is a true American hero, and it gives me great honor to recognize him with these decorations,” Durbin said.  “Today I presented him with four medals recognizing all he did to aid the fight for freedom.  It is the least I could do for a man who has dedicated his life to the service of others, both as a doctor caring for the wounded in France during the war and during his civilian career as a physician in private practice.  Dr. Distelheim is a prime example of why men and women of his time are called the ‘Greatest Generation.’  I thank him for his service and sacrifice on behalf of this country.”


Immediately following his graduation from medical school in 1943, Dr. Distelheim enlisted in the Army.  He deployed to a military hospital in Rouen, France, where he cared for troops en route to the front and as those who had been wounded in combat.  He was soon promoted to Captain and Commanding Officer of the 252nd Medical Detachment, a group of twelve enlisted men and twelve non-commissioned officers who followed the German retreat east across France.  At one time, Dr. Distelheim was in charge of coordinating medical care for a prison of 80,000 captured German soldiers.


“There must have been a great many opportunities available to a smart, driven young man just out of medical school,” Durbin said.  “But instead of taking a comfortable job at home, Dr. Distelheim decided to put his degree to work for our country.  His courage and dedication is an inspiration to all Americans.”


Dr. Distelheim was awarded four medals for his service: the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Army of Occupation Medal with German Clasp and Honorable Service Lapel Button, which recognizes service in Germany during World War II.


Last year Dr. Distelheim realized he had never been awarded the decorations.  He contacted Senator Durbin’s Chicago office about the issue, and staff members worked with Dr. Distelheim and with the Army to gather the paperwork required to issue the medals.


Dr. Distelheim spent his career in his dermatology practice in Lincolnwood and retired three years ago.  He and his wife have lived in Highland Park since 1955 and raised their three daughters there.