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Minnesota war heroes to receive Congressional Gold Medal

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World War II heroes with ties to Minnesota are closer to being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the nation's highest award for distinguished achievements, just in time for Memorial Day.

The House and Senate passed a measure this week that would bestow the honor on the famed Doolittle Raiders for their "outstanding heroism, valor, skill and service to the United States in conducting the bombings of Tokyo" during World War II, the Air Force Times reports.

Cass County-born Wayne Max Bissell, who died in 1997, and Faribault County-born J. Royden Stork, who died in 2002, were among the Doolittle Raiders, the Star Tribune says. Only four of the 80 men are still alive, reports say.

On April 18, 1942, crewmen in 16 Army Air Forces bombers, led by Col. James Doolittle, carried out the first successful American strike after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the New York Times says. The newspaper said the raid produced some of the first American heroes of World War II.

The Monuments Men, a group of 350 men and women from 13 countries who saved art, architecture, artifacts and monuments from destruction by the Nazis, are also up for the honor, according to NBC News. Their story was told in a George Clooney-directed film by the same name.

University of Minnesota architecture graduate and professor Walter Huchthausen was among the Monuments Men, according to the Monuments Men Foundation. Huchthausen was gunned down in April 1945 while trying to save an altarpiece in Germany, the Star Tribune notes.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill as soon as Friday, Dayton Daily News reports.

Past recipients of the medal include some notable Minnesotans. Among them: Vice President Hubert Humphrey, cartoonist Charles Schulz, civil rights activist Roy Wilkins and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug.

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