WW II Veteran, Former POW Recognizes Nat'l POW/MIA Recognition D - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

WW II Veteran, Former POW Recognizes Nat'l POW/MIA Recognition Day

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Maj. Robert Kurtz is shown in this World War II photo. Maj. Robert Kurtz is shown in this World War II photo.

WILLARDS, Md.- The nation is pausing Friday to recognize military service members who are missing and unaccounted for as the U.S government renews its commitment to find them. 

As part of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, WBOC sat down with Maj. Robert Kurtz, a World War II veteran and former prisoner of war.

Kurtz, of Willards, has seen a lot in his 94 years. While it may be tough to remember something buried in the past, the Air Force veteran will never forget his 63rd mission. Kurtz was behind the controls of a P-51 fighter airplane in Germany when a German aircraft shot him down.

"When I crashed, my head hit that gunside, I started bleeding, rapidly," Kurtz said.

Kurtz crashed into the edge of the Black Forest, a deep, dark place.

"[They were the] biggest pine trees I've ever seen at that time," he said.

Kurtz credits soldiers for finding and getting him to a hospital, but it was German authorities whom he said put him in a prison camp for 11 months. Conditions were deplorable. He said it was cold, medical attention was scarce and there was little food.

"I weighed 112 pounds, so I lost quite a bit of weight," Kurtz said.

On Friday the nation recognizes those who bravely sacrificed their lives, but never made it home. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has been working hard to find their remains. According to the agency, of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. At the end of the war, there were approximately 79,000 Americans unaccounted for. This number included those buried with honor as unknowns, officially buried at sea, lost at sea, and missing in action.

Today, more than 73,000 Americans remain unaccounted for from WWII, according to the agency's website.

Kurtz's son-in-law, Bill Gordy, said this day is really important.

"It's great the POWs are here with us, but the MIAs, it's critical that we continue with a concerted effort to locate and recover them," Gordy said. 

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