An 89-year-old U.S. World War Two veteran who was wounded
when his plane crashed in occupied France in 1944 is to be
honored with a medal he declined 70 years ago.
Richard Faulkner was 19 when the B-17 bomber in which he was
flying collided with another allied aircraft, killing
everyone except the staff sergeant, who found himself
stranded behind enemy lines.
When he escaped Nazi-controlled territory Faulkner was
offered the Purple Heart, but he declined it.
The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. armed
forces who are wounded in battle and posthumously if they are
killed in action or die after being wounded in action.
About a year ago Faulkner found himself regretting his
decision because he wanted his grandchildren to have
something by which they could remember his military service,
said his daughter-in-law Mary Ellen Faulkner.
She said the veteran had felt awkward about receiving an
award given the deaths of the other servicemen.
She reached out to her father-in-law's congressman, Democrat
Dan Maffei, whose office determined that the veteran was
still eligible to receive the medal. Maffei plans to visit
Richard Faulkner's Auburn, New York, home on Saturday to
present the award, his office said in a statement.
Faulkner was in the gun turret under the belly of the
lumbering B-17 when the accident occurred, slicing his plane
in two. He parachuted out.
"The next thing I knew I was in under my chute on a side
hill," Faulkner recalled in an online posting on Scribd.com.
German soldiers searched for him, but the wounded airman hid
and was later sheltered in a hayloft by a farmer.
Faulkner connected with French resistance fighters, who
helped him get to the coast, where downed Allied airmen were
picked up by British ships.
When the torpedo boat that rescued Faulkner was attacked by
German aircraft, he took up gunner duties to replace a man
who was killed by enemy fire.
Faulkner made it to the safety of England on April 16, 1944.
after 29 days behind enemy lines.