World War II Veteran Awarded Medals - My9 New Jersey

World War II Veteran Awarded Medals

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PHILADELPHIA -

With Memorial Day just around the corner, you'll hear a lot of people talking about the service, and the sacrifice of our veterans.

However, we doubt you'll find many stories as compelling as the one Fox 29’s Bruce Gordon found.

The police escort was supposed to bring George Beichl to a South Philly block party in his honor.

Unfortunately, the 95-year-old World War II veteran was too ill to attend.

So, Fox 29 paid a visit to his Overbrook home.

"I feel okay," said Beichl.

Private First Class George Beichl had just arrived in Germany in February of 1945, when his unit was overrun by Nazis in a wooded area of the Schna Effiel region.

"The Germans started machine gunning, so you were taking your life in your own hands when you groped through the trees and climbed over them,” said Beichl."I got into a clearing, and German soldiers were there, waiting for us."

A telegram home to his widowed mother in Philadelphia, said Beichl had been killed in action.

"They figured I had been killed," said Beichl. "I was still very much alive."

He was a German prisoner of war camp- Stalag 12-A.

A guard gave Beichl a book to read. He turned it into a diary, writing daily in the margins.

The first 30 pages of the book are missing.

Beichl descibed them as "gifts" for his fellow prisoners of war.

"And then I would tear out a page and give them the pages for toilet paper. We had no toilet paper," said Beichl.

Beichl's journal recounts sitting, cramped in the boxcar of a German train being bombed by U.S. planes, and ultimately being rescued by U.S. tanks.

For years, after returning home, Beichl kept his journal a secret, no need to discuss his painful sacrifice.

"I wasn't a hero. I was just a member of a group that was captured," said Beichl.

Now, 68 years later, George Beichl has belatedly been awarded the medals he earned in World War II.

He says he is honored, but:

"I thought, am I entitled to these?" said Beichl.

Like so many of his generation, George Beichl says his sacrifice was his duty, no more, no less.

Beichl says he did what he had to do.

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