Paul Krup understands how important swimming can be. On April 10, 1945, Krup a technical sergeant in the Army Air Corps, was a radio operator on a B-17 that was shot down by a Messerschmitt 262 twin-engine jet over Oranienburg, Germany. He ejected just before the plane exploded with five crew members still inside. As soon as he hit the ground, a pack of angry townspeople headed his way. Krup ran to a nearby brook and dived in.
On the far bank he was intercepted by a Wehrmacht lieutenant. "He shooed the people away," says Krup "He shouted 'You are not soldat,' which means soldier. If I hadn't been able to swim, those people would have killed me." Instead, Krup spent one month in prison camp.
Swimming is still paying dividends for Krup who retired in 1975 after 33 years on the Cleveland police force and now lives in South Euclid, Ohio. Although he will not be 85 until Sept. 19, the 5'9", 155-pound Krup last month set a world record in the 85-89 age group at the U.S. Masters Swimming championships at Cleveland State by finishing the 50-meter butterfly in 51-12 seconds. He also set national age-group records in the 50-meter breaststroke (50.74) and 100-meter breaststroke (2:03.96). "He'll say he's slowing down, but he's not," says Laura Kessler, the president of Krup's Masters Swim Club. "He's out there every day. He does it out of a love for swimming."
Krup who swam in high school and for two years in the late '30s at Ohio State, cites his elder brother Pete as his inspiration. "My brother was a terrific swimmer," he says. Pete, an Army private, died in June 1944 during the Normandy invasion.
Krup and his wife, Ruth, have been married for 32 years; he has two children from a previous marriage and one grandchild. He never stopped swimming, but when he left his postretirement job as a security guard in 1997, he got back in the water in earnest and has never regretted it.
"I got up this morning and just felt lousy," Krup said one recent afternoon. "My back hurt, my leg hurt, I didn't have an appetite. Then at one o'clock I went to the outdoor pool. I put on a bathing cap and swam a little over a mile, using all strokes. I came out feeling like a million bucks. It's like that every day. I feel lousy all day until I get in the water and swim."