A World War II veteran was awarded the prestigious Purple Heart.
Max Bergen was awarded the Purple Heart on Friday, at the young age of 94. Bergen spent more than a year as a prisoner of war, and was shocked when he received the medal that he had never expected to receive.
A World War II veteran, who spent more than a year as a prisoner of war, was awarded the Purple Heart at 94 years of age.
Max Bergen, of Chippewa Falls, Wis., said he was overwhelmed and stunned by the honor when he received the medal on Friday, the Leader-Telegram reported.
"I don't know if words can accurately describe how I feel," he told the Leader-Telegram. "It took a long time for it to sink in. I didn't realize it would mean so much to me, but it does. I'm just grateful for all the work done for me."
In 1943, Bergen joined the U.S. Army and served on the Army Air Forces bomb squadron when he was shot down over Germany in 1944.
"I was the tail gunner," he said. "We had flown over Brunswick, Germany. As we came off the target, we were hit by German fighters."
The pilot flew the aircraft lower to the ground and offered to let the passengers fly out to safety. However, no one took him up on the offer.
“We were told we were going to crash,” Bergen said. “Our pilot was so good — we slid in almost as gently as you would on a landing. I’d like to think God was flying that day.”
The plane crashed and Bergen was held prisoner at a camp in Austria for 14 months, with just a blanket and a board in his cell.
Bergen was finally freed in May of 1945. He says all of the plane's passengers had survived, but died after the war. He was the last living survivor. Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson helped acquire the documentation needed to get Bergen the Purple Heart.
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