Friend pushes to get Cedar Rapids WWII vet a Purple Heart

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - 99-year-old veteran Mike Bisek was injured in World War II, but he never received a Purple Heart. His friend Richard Pohorsky is working to change that.

Bisek was an aerial photographer, on board during a mission to bomb a target in Germany. His plane was shot at and went down in occupied France. There, Free French hid him, along with ten others, for about five weeks.

His time in France is documented in a book Eleven Americans Came from the Sky, written by a French man who remembered the Americans’ stay. In it, Bisek said, is the story of how he was injured by friendly fire.


In liberated Grenoble, our airmen also celebrate such a Victory.

In Philis de la Charce street, Ken and Mike, with other airmen, meet on a terrace outside a pub.

A last minute partisan is there too, showing around a German pistol proudly. He manipulates the gun, pulls back the breechblock. A shot is heard. The bullet drills through Ken’s thigh, then Mike’s...and they both go to hospital.

Eleven Americans Came from the Sky, Pierre Montaz

Bisek remembered a few more details. He said of the pilot, “He wanted to take a gun home, a Luger, a German Luger gun.”

He added, “He traded his flying suit to one of these here Free French that had taken stuff from the German prisoners. He had a couple of Lugers and hand grenades and all. And so the pilot said, ‘I’ll trade you my thing for the gun.’ And the guy had the gun on the other side of him and he pulled the trigger.”

Bisek’s discharge papers declare “Wounds Received in Action: None.”

Bisek tried to have his discharge papers changed, but was unsuccessful.

“Boy, if I’m telling people that I was in the army, and I spent time in the hospital, I was shot during the war and all, and then it says “no” on there—well, that isn’t right, you know,” said Bisek.

Bisek and Richard Pohorsky knew each other growing up in Cedar Rapids, and reconnected in adulthood, well after the war. Then Pohorsky heard more of Bisek’s story and thought he deserved to have a Purple Heart.

“I think he was wounded. He shed blood for his country in a declared combat zone. And I think he’s more than deserving of a Purple Heart,” said Pohorsky.

He added that this year he has sent letters to Senators Ernst and Grassley, as well as Representative Hinson.

As for Bisek, he is not the one behind the efforts to get a Purple Heart, but he does want the recognition that he was injured. “Personally I don’t care. You know, in fact, I’m ready to let it go already and everything, but it ain’t right,” added Bisek.

Bisek is concerned with the past, which includes the war, but everything else as well. “The Lord’s been good to me and I’ve had a good life, and I am happy about it.”

Representatives from Grassley and Hinson’s offices said the lawmakers would “leave no stone unturned” in trying to help veterans but that, ultimately, the rules of who is eligible for a Purple Heart is up to the U.S. military.

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