EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A prestigious honor was bestowed upon a World War II veteran on Thursday.
The Air Force Staff Sergeant received the Prisoner of War Medal, and told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock it was one of the best days of his life.
“I said, ‘my god this is like being in the movies,’ this couldn’t be happening to me I’m only 21,” Stanley Kosierowski said.
Kosierowski, 92, a Brooklyn native known as Stan the Man, recalls thinking ‘I’m too young to die.’
His B24 bomber took enemy fire over Budapest, Hungary during WWII.
“Our plane was struck and a big hole was blown in our plane over there,” he recalled.
Things got worse as he reached for his parachute.
“This German plane blew my turret to pieces, and he got me, shot me up the arm over here,” Kosierwoski said.
He made it down safely, but relief was fleeting.
“I jumped into the haystack,” he said, “The Germans came with their machine guns, and told me ‘out.'”
He spent the next 30 days in a solitary dungeon.
“I was going a little stir crazy there. I took a spoon and was writing how much the government owes me over there,” he said.
The Germans moved him to Stalag Luft 3 where he stayed for a year. In all he spent 13 months as a prisoner of war.
“We had a very limited food supply from the Germans,” he said.
He praised the Red Cross for keeping him alive. He said they supplied monthly packages with cigarettes and goodies and news from back home.
“Without them I wouldn’t have existed. I lost forty or fifty pounds,” Kosierowski said.
In 1945, after a forced march to Stadag Luft 7 all was quiet, the Germans were gone.
“We don’t know what happened, but it was General Patton’s army that came to liberate us,” he said.
On Thursday, he finally got recognition for all those months lost. The Prisoner of War Medal was bestowed upon him by U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.)
“He truly is an American hero. Stan the Man thank you so much,” Rice said.
Kosierwowski said it was a dream come true, but that he’s not a hero, just one of the lucky ones.
“The ones who are really the heroes are the boys that were sent to do their jobs and never came home,” he said.
He saluted his heroes and thanked them, but said the Air Force wasn’t his first choice.
“I really wanted to get into the Navy. I thought the uniform was great and really wanted to impress the girls over there,” he explained.