Soldier Who Escaped Nazis In 'Crazy' Story Finally Gets His Medals Aged 97
| Last updated
Featured Image Credit: Pix11 News/YouTube
A 97-year-old veteran finally received his medals nearly eight decades after he managed to escape German captors in a 'crazy' World War II story.
Just three weeks later, Kellerman had been sent out to notify headquarters that his company's radio wasn't working when he was spotted by German soldiers, who took him captive and locked him in a building with a number of other prisoners.
Soldiers later forced the captives to march to a prisoner of war camp at night, and when they were allowed to stop for a break Kellerman took his chance to escape, knowing that he'd be in 'serious trouble' if the Nazis found out he was Jewish, The Washington Post reports.
He managed to sneak away and hide in thick bushes, waiting for the soldiers to depart. He then climbed out and ran in the opposite direction, where he found a French farmer who gave him food and new clothes.
In a desperate bid to get out of the warzone, Kellerman stole a bicycle and rode it until he got a flat tyre. He went to a bike shop to get it fixed, but realised he had 'knocked on the door' of the headquarters of the French Resistance in doing so.
Initially feared to be a German spy, Kellerman managed to convince them he was American by passing a test.
He told The Post: "They asked me who had won the World Series in 1943. I’m a New Yorker from the Bronx! So I correctly told them the Yankees won."
Kellerman was hidden with Allied pilots whose plane had crashed, but he was ordered back into combat in August 1944 when Allied soldiers took over the area. In April 1945, he was hit by a sniper, which seriously wounded his hand and leg. Kellerman went to hospital and remained there until the end of the war.
Upon returning home the soldier thought he might be awarded a medal or two, but his daughter, Jan Kellerman-Powers, believes her dad's superior officer may have failed to fill out the required paperwork.
His recognition was also hindered by a 1973 fire that destroyed Kellerman's military records, so for years Jan worked to try and make sure her dad received his medals.
"After all he went through, I knew it was long overdue," she explained.
Speaking of his lack of recognition, Kellerman said: "It bothered me a little, yes, but what can you do? I went on with my life."
The Army finally agreed to award Kellerman his medals last month, and on 28 June the Army chief of staff travelled to New York to give him a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and a Prisoner of War Medal.
Speaking about the recognition, Kellerman said: "A lot of people always thought my story was crazy, but I know it happened. I’m glad now that other people are realising it’s true, too... It was overwhelming after 80 years, but it was worth the wait. I’m feeling very grateful."
The chief of staff said handing over Kellerman's medals was an 'honour', and stressed the importance of such recognition because it reminds us 'how ordinary people – young ordinary people – go out and do extraordinary things'.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]