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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Jim Lamph is pursuing medals that he says he deserves for his service during WWII. Photo taken at his Bountiful home on Friday, Sept. 2, 2011.

BOUNTIFUL —Jim Lamph enlisted in the Army Air Corps early in 1940 as a way to escape low-paying farm jobs around his home in Bountiful.

His father died when he was 9, and his mother died the week he graduated from high school, so Lamph was off to make his way in the world. He was on an airplane headed toward Sacramento shortly after enlisting at Fort Douglas.

The pace picked up dramatically after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor 11 months later and the United States became fully embroiled in World War II. Lamph would see duty in Greenland, England, North Africa, Italy, the British West Indies and Japan during what turned into 20 years, 14 months and seven days of military service, "If I remember right," he said.

Lamph bought his own dress-uniform campaign ribbons along the way but never received the eleven medals that went with them. "I think it may be because we moved so darn fast. I was never in one place more than 18 months," he said of his overseas wartime service.

So after he and wife Barbara raised six children and he also completed a civilian career at the Ogden Supply Depot, some of his children suggested he see what it would take to get those medals.

That was six years ago. One obstacle Lamph encountered is common among veterans needing to act on something from their time in the service, and that's the massive fire in 1973 that wiped out 1.5 million files at the National Personnel Records Center in the St. Louis suburb of Overland, Mo. Many of those records chronicled the service of World War I and World War II vets.

His records were among those destroyed, but he kept at it.

Two of the most important things Lamph said of his time in the service were that if he didn't learn beneficial military regulations for himself, chances are no one else would do it for him; and that he shouldn't trust anyone else to keep track of important things for him.

That lesson was reinforced when all of the "really great souvenirs" he sent to an aunt from his overseas travels weren't waiting for him when he got home. "She sold them. They were such high-quality items she sold them," he said.

He pulled together copies of records he'd kept regarding his military service and sent them to contacts he was directed to — always including two return address labels to make sure the person on the other end of his mail knew how to get back in touch with him.

Two weeks ago, five of the eleven medals arrived in the mail in a padded manila envelope. There was a good conduct medal with four oak leafs, an American Defense medal, a Korean/Vietnam campaign medal, a Middle East campaign medal and a Presidential Unit Citation.

"This one was a surprise," he said, drawing out a Ribbon of Merit from the Army Air Corps. that also came in the package.

Lamph said some of the medals have been delayed because they aren't regularly produced any more. But he's been told he will receive the rest in the mail in the next 180 days.

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com Twitter: SteveFidel