Pete Poulos was born in Greece in 1916. After witnessing the horrors of World War I in Europe, Poulos’ family immigrated to Chicago in search of better opportunities. His family first lived near Chicago’s south side steel mills and later settled in west suburban Elmwood Park.
In 1940, Poulos enlisted in the Army. After the US entered the war, Poulos was sent to the Southeast Pacific as a member of Company A, 58th Battalion in August 1942. As a sergeant, Poulos was one of the first people to land at Guadalcanal, and was present for battles at New Guinea, Bougainville, and Sullivan Island. During the liberation of the Philippians, Poulos served as an escort to General Douglas MacArthur, and also helped to free several POWs.
After Japan surrendered, Poulos was tasked with collecting Japanese soldiers’ weapons. He left the Army in 1946 and received three Bronze Star medals for his service.
After the war, Poulos returned home to Chicago. He met a store clerk on the north side who he had rescued in the Philippines. The store clerk had been on fire after his tank was struck by enemy fire. There, he was introduced to the clerk’s sister, Julie, whom he later married.
Poulos’ experience driving Jeeps overseas was put into civilian service when he took a job at the US Postal Service. As a courier, he drove a surplus military Jeep. In addition to his postal service, Poulos also volunteered for over 30 years at Hines VA Hospital in Maywood, Illinois.
For his countless hours of volunteering at VA and for his military service, President George W. Bush requested to meet with Poulos on a visit to Chicago. Poulos met the president when he got off Marine One in Grant Park, and was able to spend an hour with him that day. During their visit, President Bush learned that Poulos was one of the men who pulled his father—President George H.W. Bush, a World War II Navy pilot—from the Pacific after his plane was shot down by the Japanese during the war.
Pete Poulos died on January 17, 2019, at the Hines VA Medical Center. He was 102.
We honor his service.
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with as much information as you can put together, along with some good photos. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Editor: Arletha Ndoume
Graphic Design: Kimber Garland
Fact Checker: Tavia Wager