After Refusing a Purple Heart, World War II Vet Accepts it…70 Years Later
A veteran of World War II has decided to accept his Purple Heart after turning down the medal 70 years ago.
Dick Faulkner of Auburn, New York, was part of a B-17 bomber crew based in England that took off on their first mission in March 1944. Their destination was Augsburg, Germany, home to factories supplying the Nazi war machine.
But their plane, dubbed the “Berlin Playboy,” only got as far as France. There, the sortie of B-17s from the 100th Bomb Group 350th Squadron encountered German antiaircraft fire.
The planes broke formation, then tried to regroup. That’s when things went bad for Faulkner and the rest of his crew.
Another B-17 got off course and flew straight into the Berlin Playboy, slicing the plane in half.
Despite manning the most dangerous spot inside a B-17—the ball turret gun, which sat exposed under the plane’s belly—Faulkner managed to jump out of the crippled aircraft and deploy his malfunctioning parachute.
He was the only crew member who made it out alive.
The harrowing ordeal did not stop there.
He spent nearly a month avoiding capture by the Germans occupying France, thanks to the help of multiple French citizens. He eventually made it aboard a British torpedo boat that picked him up off the coast of France. But while heading to England, the boat came under attack by German naval vessels. The torpedo boat lost one of its gunners, and Faulkner stepped in to man the machine gun.
After making it back safely, first to England and then home to the U.S., Faulkner settled in Central New York. He married, started a family, and tried to forget about the war. He turned down his Purple Heart because it would have reminded him of the men on the Berlin Playboy who didn’t survive.
Only recently did the WWII vet, now 89, start to open up to his family about his war experience. By then, the memories weren’t as painful to recall. He confessed to his daughter-in-law that he wished he had accepted his medal after all.
That prompted his family to contact members of Congress for help, explaining what had happened and about Faulkner’s change of heart.
Last weekend, U.S. Representative Dan Maffei (D-New York) and members of the U.S. Army presented him with his Purple Heart.
To Learn More:
World War II Veteran in CNY Receives Purple Heart 70 Years after Turning It Down (by Charley Hannagan, Syracuse.com)
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