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World War II vet presented with Silver Star, 70 years later

RICHMOND, Va. — A World War II veteran received a coveted military honor Friday for his actions in combat 70 years ago.

Perhaps compensating him in some degree for the tardiness of the award, the ceremony occurred on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Merle Hancock, 89, of Manassas, Va., was a B-17 turret gunner in the Army Air Forces, the predecessor of today’s Air Force, on July 18, 1944, when his plane was severely damaged and set afire in an attack by enemy fighters on a bombing mission over Germany. Despite being wounded, he shot down three of the attacking aircraft before bailing out.

He was approved for a Silver Star, the third-highest award for gallantry in combat, but because of an administrative mistake was never notified of that fact and was never presented the medal until now.

Del. Richard Anderson, R-Prince William County, a retired Air Force colonel, participated in the ceremony.

Surrounded by his family, Hancock rose from his wheelchair to accept the medal and received a prolonged ovation from the 100 delegates.

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