MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Seventy years after being shot down and held captive in World War II, a Minnesota veteran has proudly received his POW medal.
Sen. Al Franken presented Robert Michelsen of Apple Valley his long-overdue honor Sunday afternoon at the VA Medical Center.
As Nina Moini explains, Michelsen said the honor was all his.
“You really did an extraordinary thing for everyone in our country and everyone in the world,” Sen. Franken told Michelsen.
In May 1945, Bob Michelsen was a 19-year-old B-29 Gunner flying over Japan on his 10th mission with the U.S. Air Force. His plane was hit and burning out of control.
The airmen parachuted down and were immediately captured by the Japanese and taken to Omori Prison Camp.
“During that time Bob was beaten, and really suffered,” Franken said.
After enduring months of harsh treatment, Michelsen understands the sacrifice of freedom.
“I said to Harold Stodsten at that time how grateful I was to serve the United States and that the United States had come to get us and had not forgotten us,” Michelsen said.
More than a half-century later, that service is remembered and honored.
“Thank you for what you did, and thank you for what you continue to do,” Franken told Michelsen.
Now at 89 years old, Michelsen continues to serve, spending several hours a week volunteering at the VA.
“Sometimes I like to joke that on behalf of the mediocre generation we’d like to thank the greatest generation for saving the world,” Franken said.
A few years back, Bob was told he didn’t qualify for the award because his discharge papers didn’t say he was a POW. But after a year of work through friends at the VA, Sen. Franken’s office had that changed.