Veteran to be honored 70 years after refusing a Purple Heart
FRANCE - AUGUST 17: World War II. Landing in Provence. American and German soldiers getting first aid on the beach. August 17, 1944. (Photo by Roger Viollet/Getty Images)
FRANCE - AUGUST 26: World War II. Liberation of Paris. Parisians protecting themselves behind a tank of the 2nd armoured division, the 'Audacieux', during a shooting, place de la Concorde, on August 26, 1944. (Photo by Pierre Jahan/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)
War & Conflict, World War Two, France, 31st August 1944, American troops march down the Champs Elysee from the Arc de Triomphe during the victory parade in Paris following the its Liberation by Allied armies (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
War and Conflict, World War Two, pic: October 1944, A line of US, warships in action in the Pacific, showing the cruisers firing a broadside (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
War and Conflict, World War Two, Aviation, pic: August 1944, An American Republic P-47 'Thunderbolt' pictured on an airfield in France, shows it's weaponry, 4 rockets, 3 x 500 lb bombs and light machine guns, being loaded for it's next mission (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
Des renforts américains de la 4ème division d'infanterie ('Famous fourth') débarquent à Utah Beach, sur la côte normande, le 06 juin 1944, lors du débarquement allié en Normandie durant la seconde guerre mondiale. American troops of the 4th Infantery Division ('Famous Fourth') land on Utah Beach 06 June 1944 while Allied forces storm the Normandy beaches on D-Day. D-Day, 06 June 1944 is still one of the world's most gut-wrenching and consequential battles, as the Allied landing in Normandy led to the liberation of France which marked the turning point in the Western theater of World War II. (Photo credit should read STF/AFP/Getty Images)
Des soldats britanniques lisent un guide touristique sur la France dans une barge de débarquement en juin 1944 durant la seconde guerre mondiale. British soldiers joke as they read a tourist guide about France aboard a landing craft 06 June 1944 while Allied forces storm the Normandy beaches on D-Day. D-Day, 06 June 1944 is still one of the world's most gut-wrenching and consequential battles, as the Allied landing in Normandy led to the liberation of France which marked the turning point in the Western theater of World War II. (Photo credit should read STF/AFP/Getty Images)
Two women working on the metal covering of a wing of a soviet military plane during world war 2, september 1944. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
War and Conflict, World War Two, pic: 1944, Major J,A, Goodson, of the USAAF, a 'Mustang' fighter pilot who at this time had 14 'kills' shows of his talisman signet ring (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
(Reuters) - An 89-year-old U.S. World War Two veteran who was wounded when his plane crashed in occupied France in 1944 is due to be honored on Saturday 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.
(Reporting by Matthew Liptak; Editing by Scott Malone, Toni Reinhold)