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(NECN: Melissa Toupin, Worcester, Mass.) - An 89-year-old man was recognized today for his extraordinary role in making history on the periphery of the big battles in WWII, some 65 years ago. The man was on a secret mission. That mission would lead him to two men, who later became world famous as notorious figures in modern day Vietnam.
Surrounded by his family and friends Wednesday, Henry Prunier, a Worcester native and Army veteran, received the Bronze Star- a designation reserved for a select few who show heroism while serving their country.
"I'm really thrilled with the award of the Bronze Star," said Prunier. "I never expected it."
Prunier was just 23-years-old when he enlisted in the United States Army near the end of World War II. He was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services- the group that would later become the Central Intelligence Agency. He and 7 other men, known as "The Deer Team" parachuted into the middle of Japanese occupied Vietnam.
"It was a small organization which was meant to harass the Japanese. We were not there to meet them head on, but to disrupt their communication system," said Prunier.
The Deer Team worked closely with the leaders of the Viet Minh, Vo Nguyan Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Giap and Minh who took a photograph with Prunier in 1945 would become top generals after Japans surrender. Ho Chi Minh would later lead North Vietnam against the combined forces of the U.S. And South Vietnam.
Today, Prunier is just a few months shy of his 90th birthday. He's humble about his accomplishments and looking back he says he was just carrying out his duty to his country.
"My contribution was small," says Prunier. "but they think it's great. And maybe it is. Maybe it had a lot of impact which we didn't realize."
Prunier's uniform now hangs prominently in the Military History Museum in Vietnam's capital of Hanoi. He's considered a hero by both the governments of Vietnam and the United States for his work to help defeat the Japanese in World War II. And now--proof of his valor hangs on his chest.