Chippewa Falls (WQOW) – A World War II Veteran in Chippewa Falls finally got the Purple Heart he deserves Friday, 74 years after his service.
Max Bergen served in the Army Air Corps as a tail gunner on a B-17. He was on the first and second daylight bombing raids over Berlin, until his plane was shot down over Brunswick, Germany.
"The plane never caught fire, never did a thing," Bergen said. "I’m a Christian and I like to think God was flying that day, but we had a wonderful pilot and he put her down with the wheels up and we slid right into the field. Then we, as we were trained to do, we split up in two and ran and tried to escape."
Bergen said as he was trying to get away, his shoulder started hurting. At first, he thought it was gravel. He moved his arm and didn’t feel any blood, so he just kept going.
"I actually didn’t know I was hit in the heel until later when I took the flying boot off and it was full of blood," Bergen said.
Bergen said his wounds were washed and dressed when he was taken as a prisoner of war, but no written records of his injuries were recorded, so he never got his Purple Heart. That’s until Mark Wilson, a commandant at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in Chippewa Falls, stepped in to help.
"The Germans didn’t pay much attention to documenting his injuries but I knew they occurred. I had seen the scarring and so therefore I felt I had to correct this injustice," Wilson said.
That injustice has now been made right 74 years later. As for Bergen, he’d do it all over again, if given the chance.
"I thought it was an absolute privilege to serve in defense of my country," Bergen said. "I would do it again in a heartbeat. I think that is my greatest accomplishment in this world."