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Mystery surrounds Medal of Honor

December 04, 1999

ST. JAMES (AP) - A Medal of Honor that disappeared from St. James School about 20 years ago is in the possession of a police chief in California, The (Baltimore) Sun reported Saturday.

The original medal was awarded posthumously to Army Sgt. Donn Porter, a 1949 Saint James graduate from Ruxton, Md., who died in battle during the Korean War in 1952.

Congress awarded him the medal a year later and his family donated it to the school. It was stolen around 1982, according to the headmaster, Father Stuart Dunnan.

Chief William F. Brown Jr. of Lompoc, Calif., acknowledged to The Sun that he has the medal, but questioned whether it's the same one that was taken from the school.

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The school did not file a theft report with the Maryland State Police until this year, The Sun said.

"I don't think it has been proven (that the medal he has) is stolen property," Brown told The Sun.

Brown, 43, said he paid a Canadian collector more than $5,000 in 1983 for the medal. The five-pointed star and ribbon were accompanied by the official citation, signed by President Eisenhower, recognizing the young Ranger's bravery "above and beyond the call of duty."

The medal was auctioned in 1983 by Sotheby's in London on behalf of William Porter, Donn's older brother, according to Tfc. Robert Fraley, who was assigned to track down the missing medal, The Sun reported.

Police suspect William Porter, a St. James alumnus who died three years ago, took the medal from the school.

Brown has been collecting medals for more than 30 years. He suggested that the school may have had a copy of the one he has. The military has been known to issue duplicates when a deceased soldier's parents are divorced, he said. Porter's parents were divorced at the time of his death, he told The Sun.

"The medal I have doesn't appear as if it's ever been out of the case," Brown said. "It's in virtual mint condition."

A spokeswoman for the Army Personnel Command in Alexandria, Va., could not say whether one or two medals were issued to Porter's parents. Fraley said his investigation has found no evidence that there were two medals.

U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich, R-Md., obtained a replacement medal at the request of his friend John Worthington, a 1969 graduate of Saint James, a private Episcopal boarding school. It was put on display at the school this week.

Retired Adm. James L. Holloway III, chairman emeritus of the school's trustees and a decorated veteran, said school officials must try to recover the original medal.

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