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World War II POWs honored at museum in Farmingdale

Former World War II prisoner of war Steve

Former World War II prisoner of war Steve Kirtyan is helped into a C-47 aircraft after he was honored during the re-dedication of a POW exhibit at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, N.Y., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015.

As he lay by the side of the road in German-occupied France, Bernie Rader buried his dog tags.

His unit had been ambushed, and Rader, who had been wounded, knew he'd be captured.

But before the Nazis got him, the Jewish soldier from

Brooklyn made sure they wouldn't see his tags -- stamped with an "H" for Hebrew.

The Army private spent 47 days in a hospital in 1944, enduring

harsh questioning by his captors about his identity. He was freed with

148 other American, British and French soldiers in the only recorded

prisoner exchange of World War II.

Yesterday, Rader was honored at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale along with four other former POWs.

Museum officials presented the Long Islanders with certificates of appreciation as a crowd of about 100 cheered. Certificates were also presented to five other World War II veterans.

"It's our goal to present our guests and visitors all of your experiences having served your country in difficult and trying circumstances," Jeff Clyman, the museum's director and president, told the men.

"It's all nice, I love it," Rader, 91, of Freeport, said afterward.

The other former POWs honored were: Joe Abbondondelo of Melville, who served in the Air Force and was captured in Austria in 1944; Glen Cove resident Ben Chrzanoski, who served in the Army and was captured in France in 1944; Steve Kirtyan of Malverne, who served in the Army and was captured in France in 1944; and East Meadow resident Stan Kosierowski, who served in the Air Force and was captured in Hungary in 1944.

They were among the 97,000 American soldiers captured by the German military. All but 1,121 survived, according to military records.

Chrzanoski, 91, spent seven months in a prison camp in Schwerin, Germany, according to his daughter-in-law, Kate Baker of Locust Valley. The private was freed in 1945 when the guards fled in the face of approaching Russian forces.

"They're not gonna be here much longer," Baker, 65, said of the veterans. "I like that we're doing everything we can to honor them."

After the ceremony, the honorees were treated to a flight on a vintage C-47 -- a twin-propeller cargo plane that delivered supplies during World War II.

Joe Lakis, 91, of Bethpage, who served in the war as an Air Force sergeant, flashed a toothy grin after the plane landed.

"It was absolutely outstanding," he said, standing on the tarmac in a green Air Force jumpsuit. "It brings back so many memories."

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