World War II POW honored with Purple Heart after 73 years

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A World War II veteran was honored with a Purple Heart on Wednesday, 73 years after he earned it. Staff Sergeant Wayne Sundberg, now 93 years old, received a Purple Heart at the veteran’s services building in St. Paul.

Purple Heart recipients are either wounded or killed in enemy combat. Sundberg was injured in World War II, but proving that wasn’t so easy.

Sundberg was a gunner aboard a B-26 bomber when it was shot down on Nov. 18, 1944.

“We were on a mission and we ran into some real heavy flak from some German tanks,” Sundberg said. “All of the sudden the airplane was out of control and our radio man said, 'come on let’s go!'”

With those orders, Sundberg and five others parachuted right into the hands of the Germans. He was injured by shrapnel and ended up as a prisoner of war for nine months.

Four prison camps later, the POWs woke up one day and the guards were gone. Then they began the journey home.

Sundberg’s wife worked to find records that would prove his injuries, but they were lost in a fire. It was his son, Mark, a world history teacher, who recently found something stuffed away in a closet.

“I dug around for stuff he might have,” Mark said. “What I really found wasn’t United States records, it was an old I.D. card from the Germans.”

The card simply stated that Sundberg was wounded. But that was all the proof needed for Sgt. Sundberg to receive his purple heart. Senator Amy Klobuchar helped deliver the good news.

“Thank you for all that you have done for our country,” Klobuchar said.

“It’s so much something that my mom wanted and it makes me happy that she’s looking down on this day and is smiling that we got it done,” Mark said.

Had Sundberg’s wife lived, Wednesday would have been the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary.