The second world War veteran Max van Bergen gets a Purple Heart on Friday, June 22, 2018.
(Elena Dawson/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP )
A second world War veteran, who for more than a year as a prisoner of war, was awarded the Purple Heart at age 94.
Max of Mountains, of Chippewa Falls, Wis., he said that he was taken aback and bemused by the honour, 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 to process it. I didn’t know that it would mean so much to me, but it does. I’m just grateful for all of the work that is done for me.”
In 1943, Bergen joined the U.S. Army and served in 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 in Braunschweig, Germany. As we came off the target, we were hit by German fighters.”
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The pilot flew the plane lower to the ground, and offered to let the passengers fly for safety. However, no one took him up on the offer.
“We were told that we were going to collapse,” Bergen said. “Our pilot was so good — we slid in almost as careful as you are on an overflow. I wish that God was flying that day.”
The plane crashed and the Mountains, was held captive in a camp in Austria for 14 months, with only a blanket and a board of directors in his cell.
“A German soldier, he said in perfect English,” Come out with your hands up,'” Bergen said. “He said: ‘For you the war is over.'”
He had suffered from shoulder and ankle wounds in the crash, but had no papers about the injuries because he was immediately taken prisoner. This documentation is required for the medal that honor troops wounded in battle.
“I had a flesh wound in the left shoulder,” Bergen said. “It was like someone threw gravel in my shoulder. It was shrapnel. My right ankle was bleeding. None of my wounds were serious.”
He was liberated in May 1945. He said that all the passengers in the aircraft survived the war, but they have all died, except for him.
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Bergen said that his son had looked into getting him a Purple Heart, but the lack of documentation stopped their efforts.
Documentation was recently compiled with the help of the Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Mark Wilson, the commander on the Chippewa Falls veterans’ home, where the Mountains live.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Kathleen Joyce is a breaking/trending news producer for FoxNews.com. You can follow her via @Kathleen_Joyce8 on Twitter.