NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. — A 90-year-old World War II veteran is finally getting the military decoration he earned fighting a large blaze in Morocco more than 70 years ago.
Kenneth F. Lincoln will receive a Moroccan award for meritorious conduct Sunday in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.
The U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, is sending one of its leaders and a Moroccan officer studying at the college to make the presentation.
Lincoln said Tuesday he’s “tickled pink” to get it because he earned it, but he’s a little overwhelmed because he wasn’t expecting a big to-do.
“I’m 90. I should be in my rocking chair,” he said with a chuckle.
Lincoln was sent to Morocco after he joined the U.S. Navy in 1945. The fire broke out among straw huts in Rabat in the summer of 1946 and he and other young sailors rushed to the scene. Lincoln was awarded the medal then, but didn’t receive it before he went home.
He recently asked the veterans service officer in North Attleborough, Rebecca Jennings, for help acquiring it so he could pass it on to his children. She got the medal and arranged the ceremony.
Jennings asked the war college if any active-duty service members could come. Command Master Chief Craig Cole said he’d love to and will be accompanied by Lt. Cmdr. Chakir El Aissaoui, of the Royal Moroccan Navy.
“We’ve learned so much from those who served in the past through all of our conflicts,” Cole said. “It’s very important to show the world that they’re still getting recognized, years and years later.”
Lincoln had five brothers, including three who also served during WWII. Lincoln said he joined the military to honor and take the place of his brother Lawrence, who was killed serving as a paratrooper in Belgium.
Lincoln was assigned to a fire department at a naval station in Morocco. He recalls fighting many fires that started in the searing daytime heat, but distinctly remembers the intensity of the Rabat fire.
“We’d have to come out and soak ourselves down, the heat was so tremendous,” he said. “The sky was darkened. It kept going and going and we were there forever.”
Lincoln said he hadn’t heard that anyone died in the fire, though many homes were destroyed.
Lincoln has kept photos that show the drama as they fought the fire. He also has old photos of himself in uniform, including one he took with his own camera— a “selfie” from 72 years ago.
Lincoln returned to Massachusetts in 1946, got married and raised four children. He worked as a foreman at plastics companies before starting his own metal and plastic polishing company. An avid bowler, he recently celebrated his 90th birthday at a bowling alley near his North Attleborough home.