St. Louis WWII veteran gets surprise from the country where he w -

St. Louis WWII veteran gets surprise from the country where he was a POW

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(Credit: KMOV) (Credit: KMOV)

Bernard Eder is a WWII veteran of the U.S. Air Force and is now living in St. Louis County. He's 94 years old, which is an age he never thought he'd reach when he was a prisoner of war (POW) back in 1944 in Austria. This Christmas he was surprised to received a gift from the country that once held him captive. 

He received a package in the mail from an Austrian skier named Christian Merl, who found a plane gauge in the Austrian alps recently. Back on November 15, 1944, Eder and 9 other airmen were flying over the Austrian Alps on a bomb mission, when German-Austrian troops shot out one of their engines. The crew parachuted out of the plane to survive the crash. When Eder landed he was face to face with a German-Austrian alpine troop member who spoke to him in German saying, "For you the war is over," said Eder. It was over for him because the troop member brought him to an Austrian imprisonment camp and made him a prisoner of war. 

While in camp, all Eder had was a journal he wrote in daily. In fear he may never return home to his wife, he wrote on the front of the journal, "If by chance this book should roam, box it's ears and send it home," and included his home address. 

In April of 1945, 7 months later, Eder's prison camp was liberated and he was sent back to his home in St. Louis to be with his wife and they started a family. 

There was nothing left to show for Eder's last mission in WWII, except his memories. That was until May 2016, when Merl was in the area of the alps where Eder's plane crash and found the 75 year old gauge. He mounted the historic plane part into a plaque and sent it to Eder. He etched in the quote, "If this gauge should roam, box it's ears and send it home." The Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress plan gauge is finally back home. "I didn't expect something this personal," said Eder. 

Merl put in all the research over the last year to connect this plane part to it's original pilot. A gesture Eder never expected from the "enemy." 

"It's a new friend that I've gotten in Austria," said Eder. 

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