HEMET, Calif. (KABC) -- A 92-year-old World War II veteran in Hemet received the nation's highest civilian honor for his role flying top-secret missions behind enemy lines.
Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D., presented William Becker with the Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony at the American Legion Post 53.
Becker was just 17 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during World War II.
Becker's family and friends were on hand, along with other veterans and community members, to see him receive the honor.
"It is one of the greatest honors that I think anyone can get," Becker said. "It's one of my best."
Becker was a top turrets gunner in the B-24 Liberator bomber and a member of Operation Carpetbagger.
He and his crew flew clandestine missions, dropping supplies and agents deep into occupied Nazi territory to aid resistance fighters.
After the war ended, the military prohibited Becker from speaking about his missions.
"I could not say a word after the war to my family," Becker explained. "I didn't say a word to anybody because they swore me to secrecy."
It wasn't until the 1980s that Operation Carpetbagger was declassified.
The operation is credited with ending the war two years early.
"Mr. Becker and the other members of the (Office of Strategic Services) risked their lives to fight Nazi Germany behind enemy lines, helping to bring World War II to an end," Ruiz said.
Becker remains a part of the 801st/492nd Bombardment Group Veterans Association, helping to keep the story and heritage of the carpetbaggers alive.
Hemet World War II veteran awarded Congressional Gold Medal
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