Flying over Vienna during World War II, Primo Lusardi's aircraft was shot down.
Lusardi, then 24, a Hollidaysburg native in the U.S. Army Air Corps, was one of two survivors who parachuted out of the plane.
"I messed up my back when I landed," he said.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Primo Lusardi (center)?and Jack Hiller (right), former prisoners of war who were held in Poland during World War II, attend a ceremony Friday honoring former POWs and the families of those missing in action at the Van Zandt VA?Medical Center.
But he survived - only to be captured by Axis Alliance soldiers and taken to a prisoner-of-war compound in Zagan, Poland, then part of Germany.
Among the 2,500 Allied Powers soldiers with Lusardi at the compound was Jack Hiller of Tyrone, whose plane was shot down over Germany.
Hiller, then 21, spent 11 months as a prisoner of war in Zagan.
The men didn't know each other until years after they were freed and returned to America.
"Gen. George Patton's Third Army," Hiller, 91, said was how he and the hundreds of other Allied prisoners were freed. "When you get home to America, you get on your knees and thank God to be back."
Hiller and Lusardi, 92, were among several former U.S. prisoners from five eras of war under one pavilion Friday at the Van Zandt VA Medical Center for a ceremony honoring former prisoners of war and families of those missing in action.
Altoona Mayor William Schirf proclaimed Friday a day to recognize prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Retired Brig. Gen. Michael A. Dunn, a professor of medicine and biomedical informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, offered a speech focusing on the sacrifice of war veterans and the importance of the VA hospital to be able to make a difference for combat-wounded soldiers from the Altoona area today.
Lusardi's daughter, Chris Stoner, attended the event with her father and Hiller.
"He's very humble. Only as he's gotten older, we've learned bits and pieces of what he's been through," Stoner said. "We have great admiration and respect for him."
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.