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On 13 August 1943, the U.S. Army Air Force B-24 Liberator bomber "Death Dealer"
sustained heavy battle damage that left only two out of four engines
functioning. The pilot, First Lieutenant Alva "Jack" Geron, knew that they would never make
it back over the Alps to their base in North Africa, so he instructed his navigator to
divert to Switzerland. After crash-landing at Thurau near Wil, Switzerland, the crew set fire to
Death Dealer before their capture and interrogation by the Swiss military.
UPDATES:30 April 2014: The USAF Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, awarded the Prisoner of War Medal to eight surviving internees in a ceremony held at the Pentagon. The USAF video of the ceremony is available here . A total of 143 airmen were authorized the medal as of October 2013, by order of Acting USAF Secretary Fanning.
3 January 2013: The President signed the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act. Section 584 of the act modified Title 10, Section 1128 to allow award of the POW Medal "to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the
armed forces, was held captive under circumstances not covered by [the 1985 statute], but which the Secretary
concerned finds were comparable to those circumstances under which persons have generally been held captive by enemy armed forces during periods of armed conflict.’’ This amendment was a direct result of the denial of dozens of requests for this medal by U.S. airmen who were confined in Wauwilermoos prison camp for escape attempts. According to those who authored the amendment, "it appears these individuals were held in conditions comparable to those in which POWs are held by enemy armed forces." The amendment is expected to allow the award for any U.S. airman confined in Wauwilermoos for attempting to escape.
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