Accounts of Combat & Other WWII
Experiences by 32nd Bomb Squadron Personnel

Click on the links below to view each combat story..........

              I.      B-17 Aircraft Nos. 44-6407, 44-6737 and 44-6347 in the 32nd's Last Missions, by S/Sgt. Harold B. Whitbeck

    II.      Ditching in the Adriatic, by Joe Mangano

   III.      Disaster at 18,000 Feet, by Lt. Keith Taylor

   IV.      Last Mission in B-17 Aircraft Number 23380, from Frank C. McGinley's Journal

    V.      Amazin' Maizie Hits the News, sent in by William R. "Speedy" Wadlington

   VI.      Forced Landing in Russian Territory: "Sugar Report," from S/Sgt. Robert Richards' Journal

   VII.    52 Days -- If You're Lucky: Sgt. Robert E. Richards Had Delayed Return to Base

  VIII.    The Personal Diary of James Franklin Boston

    IX.     The Reunion: A World War II Bomber Pilot, His Fighter Escort, and One Whopper of a Coincidence, by John Fleischman

     X.     Art Unruh First and Last Missions

    XI.    1st Lt. Robert Schwantes combat story as told to his Grandson

   XII.    Survivor Tells Harrowing Tale of B-17 "Laura" Crash

 XIII.    William Brainard's return to St. Jakob im Walde Austria after sixty-five years.

  XIV.   Rommel's Defeat in North Africa

  XV.   Commanding Officer Donald W. Ewing and Crew Parachute to safety from De De , Plane Number 29-7705


B-17 Aircraft Nos. 44-6407, 44-6737 and 44-6347 in the 32nd's Last Missions

by  S/Sgt. Harold B. Whitbeck

THIS IS THE STORY of B-17 aircraft numbers 44-6407, 44-6737 and 44-6347 lost on the last two missions of the 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group in World War II.

ON THE MISSION OF 14 MARCH 1945, the Fifteenth Air Force dispatched 848 bombers against targets in Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia. The 301st and 97th Bomb Groups used visual aiming to drop 193 tons of bombs on the marshaling yards in Komaron, Hungary, 20 miles from German lines. The 32nd Bomb Squadron was assigned this mission and I was the tail gunner on "Miss BeHaven" plane number 44-6407. Early that morning, after a light breakfast and briefing we departed Italy on our bombing mission to Komaron Hungary. We encountered heavy flak before reaching the target and were forced to drop our bombs prematurely due to our loss of power. With one engine out and two others with reduced power we were forced to attempt reaching Russian held territory in Poland. Keeping altitude was our immediate concern in reaching the front lines between the German and Russian ground forces. Somewhere near Myslenice south of Cracow our situation became serious and at an altitude of approximately 1500 feet Lieutenant Walter Podasek, the pilot put our plane on auto pilot and we bailed out. Due to ground fire, believed to be from the Russians, we were forced to ocillate in our chutes to avoid ground fire. Luckily, no one was hit, however the ocillating made the landings difficult. Knees were dislocated and some landings were in trees, steeples and rooftops. Russian forces believing we were paratroopers captured and jailed us even though I had an 18 inch square American flag with me and called out that we were "Amerikanza." Jailing lasted a couple of days however our Pilot, Lieutenant Walter Podasek spoke Polish and helped to arrange our release. We were then on our own, using bicycles, truck or on foot to Odessa Russia. Odessa was a collection point for downed Air Personnel. We arrived back at the 32nd Squadron's base in Lucera, north of Foggia Italy by ocean freighter via the straits of Bosphorus, Crete to fly another day. It was the crew's belief that Miss BeHaven had been destroyed in the crash. Fifty two years later in 1997 information was received from Michal Mucha and Szymon Serwatka of Poland that our plane had continued to fly crewless for 300 kilometers. It had belly-landed in a field in a manner a real pilot could not have handled better. The landing location was between Krotoszyn and Ostrow south east of Poznan. (Michal and Szymon are conducting a WWII Aircraft MIA project in Poland) Their Home Page Internet address is

THE PHOTOGRAPH ABOVE is of our belly-landed Miss BeHaven, taken in the summer of 1945 at the landing location. You can see the aircraft was being cannibalised by the locals at that time. The damage from the landing and flak is visible. Also note the pilot had feathered two propellers prior to their bail out.

ON THE 20TH OF APRIL, 1945, the Fifteenth dispatched 783 bombers, including a formation of 132 B-17s that dropped 388 tons on the Vipetino Marshaling Yard. The 301st and 2nd Groups put 91 percent of their bombs within 1,000 feet of the aiming point. Eight B-17s were listed as missing, including two from the 32nd. The unit encountered very accurate flak that hit 1st Lt. Howard Bower's aircraft, number 44-6737, in the number 4 engine just prior to bomb release. The crew bailed out and became prisoners. Meanwhile, 1st Lt. Robert Adams, flying the "Princess O'Rourke," number 44-6347, of the 32nd, fell back from the formation after the target. Apparently hit by flak, Adams flew towards France, but was intercepted by Swiss aircraft and was instructed to land. "Princess O'Rourke" became the only bomber of the 32nd Squadron and the 301st Group to be interned during the war.

SGT. HAROLD B. WHITBECK, a crew member on both of the missions, describes his recollections of the events narrated above: "Following our bailout of 44-6407 over Poland and capture by the Russians a few weeks earlier, with our regular crew piloted by Lt. Podasek, we were returned to our base at Lucera, Italy, just north of Foggia. Preceding the mission to Vipetino we had a "milk run," where we bombed the "front lines" in Northern Italy. We fired our guns at ground level at anything that moved. On our second mission after our bailout, we were scheduled to bomb the Vipetini Italy Marshaling Yards in the Brenner Pass. Stories were told that the ground gunners could fire downhill at you from the mountain sides. We left with the full compliment of enlisted men, but with a different officer crew. Our ship was piloted by 1st Lt. Robert Adams, whom we did not know previously and from whom we've never heard since. The enlisted crew consisted of Gus Burnham, right waist gunner, Fred Rasmussen, left waist gunner and radio, Vince Gamel, nose gunner and Joe Orman, ball turret. At the target we were hit by heavy flak, verifying stories of accurate fire from the ground and the mountainsides. We lost one engine on the right side of the "Princess," plus loosing power on a left-side engine. After dropping our bombs we lagged behind, and unable to stay with the formation, the Pilot radioed the Command and we headed for France. We were then intercepted by Swiss fighters and forced to land at Dubendorf, where we took out two or three fences before we stopped. We were photographed, fingerprinted, interrogated and taken to Adelboden and the "Nevada Palace." Our treatment was fair, allowing us freedom during the daylight hours, but off the streets at dark. We were not required to be at the hotel at night. Their food was generally less than desired, bland and often cold. Regimentation was lacking, but generally Swiss treatment was good. This was the last mission flown by the 32nd against an enemy in World War II. The war ended three weeks later, May 8, 1945, and I returned with the crew to the United States for further assignment."


Ditching in the Adriatic

by Joe Mangano

THE MISSION OF 22 MARCH 1944 against the Verona Marshaling Yard was a memorable one for members of the 32nd Bomb Squadron.

SGT. JOE MANGANO was a ball-turret gunner on this mission and recalls the following:

SHORTLY AFTER turning on the bomb run, Me I09's shot out the number-four engine of our bomber, number 44-1398. Our pilot, Lieutenant Douglas Moore, had trouble feathering one of the two props after the number-three engine failed. We continued on the bomb run and released our bombs. While losing altitude, Lieutenant Moore ordered us to jettison all unnecessary equipment. I had gotten out of the ball turret by this time, and we tried to dump the ball turret and even shot the mountings with our .45-caliber pistols, to no avail. In all the excitement we threw out several parachutes. This meant our only option was to ditch in the Adriatic Sea. By this time we were at about 500 feet, and our pilot was able to regain level flight. The full power of the port engine was enough to just exceed stalling speed. At about 5 miles from the coast the number two engine blew up, forcing us to ditch off Pascara. I found out later that we had claimed two German Air Force fighters destroyed.

IT WAS A ROUGH DITCHING, and we had to swim like the devil to reach the rafts. Luckily, they hadn't been hit by enemy fire from the Me I09's, and I believe that saved us. We were picked up that night by the United States Navy and finally made our way back to our base in Lucera, Italy. I was scared to death, and truly think that we survived because we were all so young. I finally finished my fifty missions and was on my way back to the States when D day started. I sincerely believe that the man upstairs was looking after us that day. The members of our crew were Moore (P), Hunter (CP), Garrity (N), Upton (B), Flasiznstein (E), Frascatorf (RO), Gatrost (WG), Fish (WG), MacDonald (TG) and Mangano (LT).


Disaster at 18,000 Feet

by  Co-Pilot Lt. Keith Taylor

ON THE 11TH of January 1944 the 32nd and the 301st were assigned to bomb the Piraeus Harbor in Greece. After our formation was organized and on its way to the target we ran into a weather front of 10/10 clouds. At eighteen thousand feet we entered an overcast. The clouds were very thick and visibility was not much beyond the wingtips, making it almost impossible to see other aircraft in the formation. At this height and with the thickness of the clouds some ice began to form on our wings. I learned later that the trailing squadrons initiated the procedure of flying off course for a couple minutes to obtain some spacing from the lead squadron, which maintained its course.

WE WERE ABOUT TWENTY MINUTES from the target when our plane made a severe movement up and down, and then sideways, before returning to its place in the formation. The whole plane shook and vibrated with a loud noise like an explosion. Our Pilot was Captain William Wofford, and between the two of us we were sure this was the end. Everything that was loose in the cockpit was all over the place. It threw the bombardier up against the Plexiglas nose, knocking his oxygen mask off and then flipping him on his back. We continued on and bombed the target with reported excellent results. After we left the target area, about thirty Luftwaffe planes swarmed all over our formation. Our plane suffered some minor damage from flak and we lived to fly another day. I'm sure there was someone looking after us. The 32nd lost aircraft number 42-30466 on this mission and the fate of the crew was unknown.

THE OFFICIAL REPORT reveals the cause of the severe disturbance during the approach: Two 97th Bomb Group B-17s had engine trouble and began to leave the formation. Instead of making a 180-degree right turn, away from the formation, they turned to the left and flew head-on into the 301st formation. One flew below the leader's left wing and the other above and to the right, clipping the vertical stabilizer of Colonel Barthelmess's aircraft, and apparently hitting another 301st bomber before colliding with the lead bomber of the second element. One fortress in the lead element exploded, as did two B-17s in the second element. The P-38 pilots, who were flying low cover (beneath the overcast) for the mission, said they watched B-17 pieces raining from the sky for what seemed like five minutes.

THE COMMANDER'S and two other aircraft went over on their backs, not an ideal position for a fully loaded, iced up B-17. Two of those aircraft recovered at 10,000 feet. Others were not so lucky; the 301st lost five B-17s and their crews on this fateful mission. A navigator from the 419th bailed out and became a prisoner. One of the strangest stories of the war came from this mass accident. The collision severed the tail from one of the 353rd Squadron's bombers, trapping the crew in their positions. However, luck was with the tail gunner, James Raley, as the accident had left the tail section with adequate lift and weight distribution to allow it to fall or "flutter" to earth. Raley described the tail spinning around before finally impacting in a clump of pine trees. He was on his thirteenth mission, and did not realize what had happened until the tail came to rest. He opened the bulkhead door to find no aircraft. Raley was the only survivor. There was also a collision that downed a 99th Bomb Group bomber and a P-38 within 40 miles of the Group's disaster. (This "Official Report" information is from "Who Fears", the history of the 301st Veterans Association).


Frank C. McGinley's
Last Mission in B-17 Aircraft Number 23380

From His Journal

THE LAST MISSION: Wiener Neustadt, November 2nd 1943 in B-17 bomber number 23380, attacked by fighters and crashed. Crew: (P) Charles E. Mason, (CP) Frank C. McGinley, (N) Marcus S. Baker, (B) Anthony W. Rossi, (E) James P. Crockett Jr., (RO) Thomas W. Saucier, (BTG) Arthur H.Gillespie, (WG) Harold C. Roush, (TG) Edward R. Golebiewski. (Saucier, Gillespie and Golebiewski were killed in action and the rest became Prisoners of War). This was the 32nd mission for Bomber Number 23380 of the 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group (H) Frank McGinley wrote the following while a POW (Prisoner of War) at Stalag Luft I, Barth, Germany from November 1943 until liberation by Russian troops at the end of the war in 1945.In the prolog to his journal, Frank McGinley dedicated his recollections to fallen comrades.He wrote, "This book and everything in it, it's memories, it's dreams, it's laughs, it's tears; is dedicated to my friends, my buddies in arms who have given their lives that me and mine may peace!"


IT ALL BEGAN ON NOVEMBER 2nd 1943 on a lonely pitch black morning at 4:00 AM and I realized then, if never before, why they called it 'Darkest Africa'. The P.A. system was blaring forth the happy news, "breakfast is now being served for combat personnel briefing in 30 minutes", while in the more antiquated Squadron adjoining ours, the OD (Officer of the day) was feverishly blowing a whistle, in lieu of the P.A. system, at each tent whose occupants were slated for the day's festivities. I hastily got my equipment together, and I say hastily, because as usual, it was always the late Mr. McGinley. With the aid of my feeble flashlight, I groped my way to the Mess Tent to stuff myself on what the mad friends preceding me had left (two biscuits, jelly and coffee). And so to briefing which of necessity, and out of deference to the German Intelligence Officers, I must leave untouched. Suffice it to say it was an interesting and informative hour we put in before leaving on our little pleasure jaunt to Jerry land.

AND SO, UP INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER, and the big day, little did I know, was started! Everything went smoothly with the exception of the supercharger on the No.1 engine, but we figured with three other engines, we would have no trouble whatsoever getting there. I was having a final cigarette and singing "Oh, what a beautiful morning, Oh, what a beautiful day", prior to putting on my oxygen mask, when I noticed that my chute had popped open. I never gave a thought then to any serious developments on account of this, but I remember thinking what a ribbing I would take from the boys at the base when they heard about it. However, soon after I made this interesting discovery, the Navigator informed us that we were approaching our IP and my thoughts quickly turned to the more serious business ahead. We were flying in "Purple Heart Corner" so we had a pretty good view of the boys ahead going through the flak, or I should say, disappearing in the flak. The whole sky ahead was black, just as it was the last time we were up there. It seemed funny to see and yet satisfying, too, watching what appeared to be toy airplanes in a cloudless sky plunge headlong into that black mass, disappear for a time, and then to reappear on their "rally". It seemed to radiate confidence back to us exhibiting a modest pride in a good job well done.

ALMOST SIMULTANEOUS WITH REACHING THE IP 'tracking flak' picked us up and began working its way toward us. Pilot Charles Mason had asked me at briefing earlier in the day to grab a couple of snapshots of anything worthwhile and with a start I remembered this and grabbed the camera. At almost the same moment, we spotted enemy fighters maneuvering into position, and hardly had I begun my call to the crew, when the Tail Gunner reported fighters attacking from 6 o'clock low and almost immediately he and the Ball turret opened fire, and the pounding of their guns sounded way up in the cockpit even over the roar of our engines, giving as good as was sent, as evidenced by the exultant crow of victory as one of the fighters began smoking and started haphazardly spiraling down, out of the fight for keeps. Finishing their pass at the tail as is the custom of the Foche-Wolfe 190's, they channeled to the right, peeling down to make another pass and exposing only their heavily armored belly to the waist gunner in passing. His tracers were cutting a path to one of these fighters, so I lined him up in the camera sights all set to snap what would have been a swell shot, but at that instant, the ship on our right wing received a direct flak burst and almost immediately burst into flames and started down. I guess none of them ever knew what hit them, and I took the camera down and watched them for a moment with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I realized they were gone. I knew them all and now they were gone with nothing to mark the spot except a trail of oily smoke! I was jarred out of these thoughts, but definitely, when a flak shell burst below our right wing, throwing the ship violently upwards. The main point of damage was in the wing, directly behind No. 3 engine; as though some giant hand had torn a jagged section from the wing, and not satisfied with that, had furthered the destructive work by setting fire to it as well. No. 3 engine was completely knocked out and I remember thinking what a job we would have getting home with all the damage, while with half of my mind I realized it was only a question of time before the ship would blow up. I kept watching the fire, attempting to figure out how long we would last. Could we reach our target to drop our bombs, and would we be able to clear the target before we had to leave her?

DURING THESE MOMENTS WHILE MY THOUGHTS WERE RACING ALL OVER THE PLACE, all hell was breaking loose in the surrounding skies, and I found I was still automatically carrying out my job, setting the prop speed higher, giving our remaining engines all the juice they could take. Four fighters were still coming in, so I grabbed the camera and got a sweet shot as I had planned before, a Foche-Wolfe peeling away and down followed by the tracers from the Waist Gunner, only in the foreground I had focused on our own burning wing. I got one other shot of three Foche-Wolfe coming in from 4 o'clock high, when the Pilot called my attention from the business of calling out the fighters and taking pictures of the same. Our intercom phone had been shot out, so by gestures he informed me that these continued fighter attacks had destroyed our elevator controls and it took our combined strength to hold the ship straight and level for the bomb run. It was now more than ever a race with death to see if we could hang on until our bombs were away and we had gotten clear of the burning target areas before we bailed out.

THE FIGHTERS WERE CHANGING THEIR TACTICS NOW, varying their attack front and rear. The Tail Gunner was killed on one fighter pass and the quiet that settled over the ship told its own tragic story. Our Ball Turret Gunner had also gone to "Airman's Heaven", apparently killed instantly by the flak burst that so damaged our wing. Another flak burst, quite close, destroyed what was left of our aileron control and the A.F.C.E. mechanism too was not functioning. The cry of "Bombs Away" gave us mingled feelings of satisfaction, relief and regret. Relief that we had done our job well, but regret for at that clarion call, our last connection with our buddies was severed.

THE GROUP RALLIED ON THEIR WAY HOME, while we had no choice but to continue straight ahead, hoping to reach a safe place to bail out before the fire reached our gas tank. Almost as though a part of a pre-arranged plan, our exit cue was given by an off stage prompter in the personage of an unknown German fighter pilot. Our top turret gunner was very short in stature and to that fact alone, can he attribute his prolongation of life at that particular moment. One of his guns jammed, and being small, he had to duck down out of the turret to clear the jam. While thus engaged, a spray of lead perforated the cockpit, and a 20mm cannon shell burst in the turret, blowing it completely off the ship. It was almost laughable to see his eyes bulge out in surprise as he stuck his head out of what was left of his gun mount into the slipstream. Then, to add insult to injury, for the first time he noticed the wing burning; a tribute to his concentration on protecting the ship from the fighters. When he spotted the fire he crawled out of his turret again and forcibly called the pilots' attention to the fire. Up to that time I firmly believe the fire was known only to the Bombardier and myself. He had noticed it while following the erratic flight of an Me109 he had shot down.

THE ALARM BELL RANG and the top turret gunner started toward the bomb bay preparatory to leaving the ship. By the time I got my chute picked up (or, so I thought) he had already attempted to open the bomb bay doors, and failed. He jumped into the bomb bay just as I came though the door and partially sprang it, and by kicking and squirming he got out, almost.The door slammed shut on him, just as he fell out, catching his left arm and part of his chute inside. Don't ask me why, but I automatically used my old bean for a change and jumped into the bomb bay and sprung the Engineer clear. It is fortunate for him that I did, for he told us later that the slipstream was banging him against the fuselage and seemed to be tearing his arm out of the socket as well as ripping his shroud lines. However, he was out now and that's what was the important thing. It was then, however, that I started to sweat because when I went back to again try to open the bomb bay doors, through the door came good old Lt. Mason with the rest of my chute. I hadn't known till then how badly caught my pilot chute was in the turret and seats. He very nicely handed me my chute, signaled 'thumbs up', pulled the bomb bay release (this time it worked), and out I went, the chute ballooning right in the bomb bay. What a feeling of relief when I swung clear of the ship. I then looked up at my pretty little chute and started my sweating all over again, because two complete panels of the chute were torn out, either in all that jumping around the bomb bay, or when the chute opened in the ship. I said my favorite little prayer, although I didn't do too good a job of it at the time. As I looked, the chute made an ominous ripping sound just once, and after that is was the most pleasant, peaceful grandstand seat any man could ever have for a real view of combat at its best or worst, depending on your point of view.

I COULD SEE OUR SHIP, SMOKE AND FLAME STREAMING FROM IT, majestically descending and Mason's chute billowing behind it. I could spot other chutes below me, and see fighters still attacking old "Pistol Packin Mama". One of them buzzed me, but did nothing more than start my chute gently oscillating. Off in the distance I could see our boys going home silhouetted against a sky darkened by the rolling clouds of smoke and flame emanating from the target area.


I HIT THE GROUND AND HEADED FOR THE HILLS, despite the fact that one of my boots dropped off when I bailed out. I climbed up and down hills for quite a while until the sounds of my pursuers increased. I burrowed in on the side of one of the hills in a nice thick protective screen of trees, covering up with dead leaves and branches to camouflage myself. I still had my Mae West with me figuring I could make some kind of covering out of it for my foot. I knew I couldn't go far with only one flying boot. While laying there sweating out detection, I opened my escape kit and distributed the various articles into my pockets for future use. The nearest I could figure out I was some 70 miles from Yugoslavia and about 150 miles from Tito's forces who were our Guerrilla Allies. Just then something happened that temporarily drove hope from me. The searching parties had narrowed their search down to my little hill and I could see them quite plainly from where I lay. Apparently my covering was working for they passed within 10 or 15 feet and it seemed they looked right through me. One of them had a dog that spotted me and came right up sniffing at my boot. His master thought he was after rabbits and, to my relief, called him and off they went on their way. I figured now I was all set and as soon as the sun went down I could start my trek to freedom.

DESPITE THE COLD I FELT PRETTY GOOD. Around 6 PM the sun disappeared over the hill and I prepared to shove off. Little did I know then that the twilight would be my undoing. My place of concealment was OK in the sunlight, but with the sun's rays no longer glancing off my leafy covering, I stood out like a sore thumb. Halfway down the hill, three German or Austrian soldiers were still searching when one of them looked my way, and that was that! He leveled his gun at me, shouting at the top of his lungs in what sounded like double-talk. As though by magic, forms seemed to spring up all around me; old men with Nazi arm bands, Youth Movement kids and even two young girls with guns bigger than they were. I don't know what worried me most, the thought of capture or those nervous kids with guns. They were a lot more nervous than I was however, I thought at any minute they would let go at me. It sounds funny now even to me, but believe me, at the time, I wondered! I rose to my feet and tried to explain to them I was 'waiting for a streetcar' and if they would go away they would make me very happy. They apparently didn't understand the language, and all I could get out of them was a light for my cigarette. They wouldn't come close to me. They just threw the matches at my feet. After looking me over like a "Man from Mars", they finally marched me off to a flak battery nearby where they tried to explain they had a comrade of mine. It didn't feel too near with my bare feet. As we approached, I recognized Sgt. Crockett, the good soldier he was, greeted me with a snappy salute which I returned. I was sorry to see he had been captured, but was glad to see him looking okay. I had been wondering how badly he was hurt when he was caught in the bomb bay. His left arm was pretty badly banged up, but I couldn't tell if it was broken or not! He wondered who it was that released him from the ship and was profuse with his thanks when I told him I was the lucky boy.

I THEN TRIED TO COMMUNICATE TO OUR GERMAN HOST that I wanted a Doctor to look after Crockett's arm and they ran off and returned in a moment with a cup of weak hot chocolate. Apparently they misunderstood me slightly. By reverting to sign language and a soft-shoe dance, I finally got it across to them that I didn't usually appear in public with only one shoe on! They took the hint and dug up a boot for my left foot and then, by motions and a gentle prodding with the muzzle of their rifles, we got the idea that another tour of Austria was to begin. We walked, limped or what have you, lugging our chutes with us through the hills and vales and little villages for what seemed an eternity. At each village or farm settlement, we picked up a following of civilians, all anxious to see the vaunted American Terrorfliegers. Although I couldn't understand what they said, I gathered that they didn't exactly like us nor our bombs. C'est La Guerre! Knowing as we did that some of our boys had met with rough handling at the hands of irate citizens whose homes had been destroyed, this little gathering didn't make us feel any too good about the whole situation. We finally arrived at our destination, the headquarters of the flak batteries stationed in that area. Here we met another American Sergeant with a badly wounded leg. He was waiting patiently for assistance, but there didn't seem to be much being done about it. One of the Jerrys understood English slightly, and through him I made my demands for medical attention for these two injured men. They got a medic for them, and I was then taken into the inner sanctum to be interrogated by a Major who was their Commanding Officer.

IT WAS HERE I FIRST MET LT. DICK EGGERS. The four of us were finally moved out to the airfield in the town of Wiener Neustadt for safe keeping. We were put in the back of an open truck accompanied by soldiers with machine guns to guard us. They started the 'cold treatment' that I was to feel so much in the days to come. We weren't exactly dressed for the occasion and had only our parachutes for protection from the bitter cold wind. At one of the towns we picked up a flock of young Jerry soldiers, Luftwaffe ground crew, who were also heading for the airport. Again, we were subjected to the suspicious and curious scrutiny of German eyes. They soon turned from this unprofitable pleasure to skylarking. I imagine, for our benefit, like a bunch of good old G.I's with half a load on! Any passing person, male or female, was in for a chorus of catcalls and whistling. But every time we passed a demolished or semi-demolished building or area they quieted down and bestowed looks of hate in our direction. We finally arrived at the airfield, and before we were taken in we had the opportunity of seeing the German night defenses practicing their deadly work. A simulated attacking bomber was "coned" with their searchlights, and various night fighters made pass after pass at it. We thought it might be the real thing for a while, but the markings on all the planes became clear as they approached and we saw they all had the German Cross on them. The same German Cross that we had seen earlier that day going down in flames.

A FORETASTE OF WHAT WAS TO COME. A death-knell for a nation doomed to final and definite destruction. Maybe not in a day, nor a month, but coming inexorably closer with each passing day, each mission completed, with each battle won. We found out later that our thoughts would not always be this high, but deep inside we always knew and believed in the inevitability of Germany's end and with this rested our future hopes. We were finally taken inside what appeared to be a Luftwaffe guardhouse and the four of us were taken into a room about 20 feet by 7 feet. By sign language we were told to make ourselves comfortable, ha, ha! Eventually they brought in some live coals and started a fire in our little stove. Boy did that warmth feel good. Eggers understood a few, a very few, words in German, the most important of which at the time was 'essen' (to eat) and 'wasser' (water). They got the idea finally, and brought us coffee, a loaf of black bread and a piece of bacon. It was actually 90% fat. They kept pointing at the food, saying "Gut!, Gut!", indicating that this was a very special treat in Germany. That's what we needed to really warm us we thought, but when we tasted it, brother, all I can say is it shouldn't happen to a dog! If there is anything in this whole world that tastes worse than "Ersatz Coffee" it's "Ersatz Tea", and I hadn't encountered that as yet. Our German chums didn't like our refusing to drink their 'devils brew' and thought we were crazy when we expressed a desire for just plain "wasser". However, they brought us some and we attempted to satisfy the "inner man" with these choice morsels. As in our previous encounters with them, we were again the center of a curiosity bitten throng. After eating and warming up a little at the fire, we realized we had a pretty long eventful day, and a little sleep wouldn't hurt. We stretched out as best we could on our "Simmons mattress", boards to you and they took the hint, while putting out the lights as they left. Tired as I was, sleep didn't come easily, and midnight found me still just dozing and reviewing the day's happenings. Then I heard quite a commotion in the hall. I lay for a minute wondering 'now what'? Then above the noise I heard a familiar voice ask 'who's got a light?'. It was Dick Moon's voice, the last man I talked to outside of the crew before taking off. We had ridden out to the line on the same truck and as each group of men jumped off and went to their ships, the usual remarks were passed; "Good luck gang, see you at mess" or "Have a nice time, boys". That wasn't the way Dick saw it. As he jumped out he turned and laughingly said, "See you in Chetnik Headquarters, Mac". And now here we were 18 hours later, both Prisoners of War, and nary a chance of getting to Yugoslavia "Chetnik Headquarters". I waited a couple of minutes and then walked out into the hall and greeted the boys. I came out into the lighted hall, rubbing my eyes and growled, "Say, can't a guy get any sleep in this joint?!" Boy, did that give them a jolt! Talking it over later, I found out that they had been wondering what happened to me, and my sudden appearance had kind of a ghostly tinge to it. With Dick were the other boys from our ship; Mason, Rossi, Baker and our waist gunner Rauch, and also Dick's ball gunner and Engineer.

IT WAS PRACTICALLY A GATHERING OF THE CLAN. We were chased back into our 'boudoir' where we woke Crockett and the other boys and made the necessary introductions. The Germans brought in some bread and coffee for the new arrivals and we sat back to watch their reaction to Germany's contribution to the coffee industry. We got quite a laugh from the hurt look on their faces! The old bull was thrown, while they ate, about our varied experiences of that day and as the saying goes, "The first liar didn't have a chance". We finally retired once more to our not so soft bed and I wound up firmly wedged between Rossi and Dick. Came the dawn and I pried my way out of Rossi's embrace and woke him with a punch in the ribs. He woke up and seemed disappointed to find me there instead of who he was dreaming about. Finally all of the boys came out of it and we started jabbering where we left off the night before. About 8:00 AM our German chums brought in our morning taste thrill. We managed to polish it off and then one by one we were taken in and searched and questioned. Some of the Jerrys were sullen and grim, but some of them were just young happy go lucky kids. We found out later that the airport we were at was not only a fighter field, but an advanced training base for their pilots. This explained the hoards of kids around the place. It was funny to try and talk to them as they were pretty impressed by our "Bombers" and tried to demonstrate how they in their fighters would attack us. We tried to talk them out of the flying game, telling them that while they might knock a few of us down, we got our bombs on target regardless and most of us went home to fly again the next day and there were plenty more to take our place. Meanwhile they (the Jerrys) were getting fewer and fewer after each battle. For example, just the day before, their losses outnumbered ours, 3 to 1, despite the fact that they had thrown their best men, Goering's crack "Yellow Nose Squadron" against us. It was sort of a revival of an old feud. During the battle of Africa, our Squadron had tangled with Goering's boys and cleaned house.

AS A BADGE OF VICTORY, FROM THEN ON OUR WHEELS WERE PAINTED YELLOW, as a constant reminder to Jerry of that meeting. We sustained the heaviest losses of anyone the day before for this very reason. Our wheels stood out like sore thumbs and boy did they lay for us! However, we took a lot more of them down than they did us and by holding their attention, so to speak, we saved the other boys a lot of trouble. Even so, 3 out of the 4 ships of our Squadron that went down managed to fight them off until we dropped our bombs on the target. Not a bad record when we took the brunt of the attack. However we couldn't convince these kids that it was all over but the shouting, despite the fact that for the moment they were the victors and we the vanquished! Along about 10:00, a Jerry came in all excited about something and despite the cold opened our only window. We immediately set up a howl, but he kept hollering 'boom!' and shaking the windows, so we finally got the idea that someone's bombs hadn't gone off yesterday and they were going to set them off now and he wanted the window open so the concussion wouldn't break it. This was something new as we had dropped plenty but had never heard or felt them go off before. We were still talking when "Broooom!", went the first one. What a blast! The window slammed shut and the noise was deafening. This was repeated at intervals until all six were set off. Boy, what an experience! We knew they were being set off at a distance and individually, but it was still terrific. What must it be when hundreds or thousands of these babies go off almost at once. No wonder Jerry is on his way out. This turned the discussion to the effects of our bombing yesterday. We know from what we saw that we did a good job. But when one of the Jerrys slipped and told us that we had put 90% of the plant completely out of commission, we were as excited and pleased as schoolboys after a big meet. The questioning took up most of the day, and during the course, we discovered we weren't the only new captives. Dick Egger's Bombardier, Charlie Major, was in another room with some enlisted men from a B-24 crew. At about 7:00 we were told we were to be moved out that evening. At 8:30 all 20 of us piled out and got into the bus they had waiting. Moon and I went way to the back where there was an emergency exit that we thought might prove interesting. We had 4 or 5 Jerry guards armed with Tommy guns, but they all sat up front, so as soon as we got clear of the field, we went to work on the door. Unfortunately, it was double-barred on the outside and the windows too were locked. Before we had much success with the hinges on the door, we pulled into the railroad station, and that was that.

WE WERE HERDED INTO A WAITING RAILROAD CAR and were joined by 20 other boys who had been captured the day before and had been kept in storage at another point. The car was faintly reminiscent of our own streetcars at home with wooden seats and windows that naturally wouldn't open. Our supplement of guards was increased to about 20 and they brought along our food for the trip. It was more of the black bread and cheese. We felt the cold and the drafts from the broken floor boards of the car, so we huddled together as best we could with our feet on the opposite seat to get away from the drafts. But that didn't last long, as a Jerry came back and knocked my feet to the floor with his bayonet. I knew then how those comic tramps felt in the movies when the "Copper" banged their feet to keep them from sleeping on the park benches. We had quite an audience of civilians on hand, eager to view 'those Terrorfleighers' and we amused ourselves until the train pulled out by making horrible faces at them and growling like hungry animals. Finally the train pulled out and to keep our spirits up and also for Jerry's benefit, we started a songfest. "I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo", "The Air Corps Song", "I've Been Working on the Railroad", etc .The time passed quickly despite the cold and we soon found ourselves pulling into Vienna. It was a totally different Vienna from the one we knew in the movies. It was just another darkened, scared, war torn town. We pulled into a small station just on the outskirts of town and, picking up our allotted food ration, we staggered off the train. The word "staggered" is an exaggeration, of course, but I sure wish you could feel the weight of one of those loaves of bread. A man has to be in damn good shape to carry one of them, much less thrust it into his unsuspecting and unconditioned stomach! We had to walk about two blocks from the station to a trolley stop. The first car that came by was commandeered for our private use. I don't imagine the civilian population liked the idea of getting off, but you know how it is, nothing too good for the Americans and we couldn't associate with just anyone ha!, ha!. After about 15 minutes ride out we went again.

THIS TIME WE WERE IN THE CENTER OF TOWN and had another short walk through a fairly decent looking park and arrived at the main station. The inside of the station was brilliantly lit and it took a moment to accustom our eyes to the glare. My first impression was eye staring eyes all over the place! Everyone in the place stopped still for a minute and once again, we were the center of attraction. Our guards herded us off to a corner of the concourse and the silence was broken only by the angrily ominous mutterings of the bystanders interspersed with a few typical American wisecracks. We had about half and hour until train time and in that time we got quite a view of the cross section of the German people. Few and far between were smiling faces. For the most part, tears and bitterness were the predominant emotion. Soldier after soldier with full pack was taking leave of his loved ones while a few, a very few were coming home on leave. What caused us the most surprise was the age and in some cases, the lack of it in their fighting men. They were all very old or very young, the bottom of the barrel so to speak. Finally our train pulled in and we trotted off to embark again for points unknown. Our guards had little trouble clearing a path for us and even more trouble explaining to the other passengers that we must have seats together so they could keep an eagle eye on us. We got hold of a map from their timetable and were able to trace our course through Nuremburg, Lilz, Regensburg, etc. In all of them we could see evidence of where the 'stone termites' and been at work with good effective bombing where it was needed.

WE FINALLY PULLED INTO THE TOWN OF FRANKFURT. We looked hard all around us, but could see no evidence of any bombing. We found out we were going to Oberusel, a few miles out of town, where we would be interrogated. On our arrival there we had the alternative of waiting two hours in the cold for a bus or hiking about two miles to the "cooler" as our new home was affectionately to be known. Putting it to the wounded men in the party, we decided to do it on foot. When we got to the "cooler" we were all packed into a very small room and then called out individually and assigned to a private room for each man. Of course, at Sing-sing it is known as solitary confinement and 'that ain't good'. My room was 8 ft by 4 ft, with one barred window, a steel bed with an excelsior mattress encased in burlap. It had 8 boards to support my weight, two thin blankets to cover me, a chair, a water pitcher and a radiator. I found out later to my great discomfort that it didn't work. Despite the cold, I had to strip down while my clothing was searched. Everything of value was confiscated, my lucky silver dollar went, my pencils, notebook, cigarettes, candy, and they even took my prayer book. I had to talk like the devil to keep my Rosary. I spent a very restless night and as a result of my unsuccessful interrogation, I spent a very uncomfortable one. The next day was a repetition of the previous one. At 8 AM I had my two slices of bread and tea and at noon hot potato soup (it sure tasted good, then) and at 6 PM I got two more slices of bread and tea. I managed to fill up the days by counting the nails on the walls, the boards in the floor, etc. I exercised, prayed, and waited. It is hard to describe these days now as time crawled by. With the end of the interrogation phase of our journey, we were transported by train to our POW camp. We had arrived at our final destination, Stalag Luft 1, our new home for the duration of the war. (Ed. note: Stalag Luft 1 was liberated by Russian ground troops at the conclusion of the war in Europe.)

POW CAMP-Stalag Luft 1
November 11, 1943

FINALLY AFTER 52 HOURS OF INTERMITTENT TRAVEL the train stopped. Our private cars were unhooked and we had reached Barth, Germany. It was to be our home until such time as we were officially relieved by a detachment of U.S. Marines, G.I.s, Paratroops, or some such outfit. Here in this little, lonely station we got our first taste of German efficiency and an idea of what life was to be like in the long, long months to come. It was 10 PM so the Jerries in charge decided we would spend the night in the cars and move to the prison camp in the morning. We just got ourselves as comfortably situated as possible when they suddenly told us to move out immediately. We got our meager belongings together and out we went into the black night, and I do mean black. It was raining and cold but that didn't disturb our German chums. It seems they were dressed for it but we didn't happen to be as well prepared. We lined up in a column of fours while Jerries 'mit' dogs 'und' flashlights 'und' schmeisers 'und' lugers 'und' so forth lined up on all sides of us. They counted us and counted us and then counted us again. Fine! All present and accounted for. So now it was permissible for the wounded and sick men to fall out and board the ambulance. Thoughtful of them, eh? The rest of us were marched off after being warned not to talk or sing going through the town as it might provoke the local citizens. Naturally all we needed were these kindly words and we were in the proper mood to sing. We sang everything in the book. American tunes, Limey tunes, old ones and new; we even sang one for the Marines! It wasn't much of a town but it was the last bit of civilization we were to see for quite a while and we tried to make the most of it. The camp was situated about 2 miles from the town and by wallowing over a couple of dirt roads and a field we managed to get pretty well soaked, dirty and tired. The camp itself was black as pitch with the exception of the Guard towers whose search lights coned us as though we were enemy aircraft. After a short chat with the guard at the main gate, the 'superman' at the head of our column finally convinced him we were legally entitled to enter these sacred portals and we passed through. It wasn't exactly like the movies where the iron door clanks shut with a grim finality, but the barbed wire gate did sort of creak as it swung shut and brother it sure sounded final when they turned the key in the lock. We were allowed to stand out in the cool evening air and rain while one by one we were taken in and searched. Seems like all they do here in Deutschland is search people. Guess they don't trust us. We thought it very inhospitable of them and the English fellows with us took what they called a 'dim view' of the proceedings. They didn't take too long however (an hour) and then we were marched through another gate, then another, and finally into a long barracks. Home for the duration. Our little group-Dick Moon, Rossi, Baker, Mason, Eggers, Major, Peacock and Williams made a concerted rush for a room together and so for the first time we passed through the door of good old Room 10, Barracks 3 and we met the pleasantest sight we had yet seen in old Germany. There were 16 beds (8 double ones actually) and they were all made, blankets neatly tucked in and a white (coarse) sheet peeping our at the top and, wonder of wonders, there stood a British Sergeant presiding at a steaming pot of tea. Get the picture. Here we had been battered from pillar to post for 9 days; been in solitary confinement; ridden 52 hours in a boxcar that wasn't fit for cattle; marched through rainstorms over hill and dale; stood for an hour in this same rain while submitting again to the ignominy of a personal search; and now we were alone in our own room among friends, the beds inviting us and a hot drink ready for us. I don't think any of us will ever appreciate anything any more than we appreciated these simple items. We polished off the tea in record time, scrambled for the beds (Moon and I shared one and we've been in it ever since) and as the lights went out I began my rosary, a habit I'm proud to say I continued every night of my Kriegie career. When I finished it I felt a lot better about the whole thing, and with the thought in my mind, "Boy things are going to be rough in the "G.T.O." I drifted off into the arms of Morpheus and perhaps my honey.

November 12, 1943

WOKE UP AROUND 8 AM and made sort of a hasty breakfast and then we all dashed madly out to see what the place looked like in the daylight-only to find that we couldn't get out of our compound until the Germans had counted us. There were 87 of us and 20 sergeants so they only had to count "twice" and chat for a few minutes before we were dismissed. The highlight of the formation came when the German Captain Eilers said that in the past he had presented himself before the prisoners at each formation, formally saluted them, and bade the "Good Morning" or "Good Evening" as the case might be. And then the entire group would in chorus return the greeting and he desired us to continue this practice. Anyway, Eilers after issuing this startling statement saluted us and said his little "Good Morning" and received as you can easily imagine a rousing response, "Good Morning, Teacher" was our cry that morning and "Sleep Tight Hughie" our rejoinder that evening. Suffice to say that a couple of days of this and Hughie Eilers no longer said "Good Morning" or Good Evening" to his problem children.

AFTER MORNING FORMATION we were allowed to look over the extent of the camp open to us. We wandered around a while but the Chapel and Theatre were locked up and a light drizzle finally drove us back inside. We finally got around to introducing ourselves to our roomates-mostly Canadians and darn good boys they turned our to be. Pappy Bryan, Bill Coleman, Larry Aspinall, Harry Meyer, "Old timer" MacCullough and another one our our boys from Africa, John Cashore. We spent the rest of the day telling and retelling our terror stores, etc. The only break came when a little Englishman popped in to bid us a very hearty welcome. He had a RAF uniform on with no rank showing and he talked so fast we couldn't make head nor tail out of it, except the word "Padre". When he left we compared notes but it wasn't until later that day that we found our that he was Father Hall who was to be the best friend we had in camp and the hardest working man I ever met. He was captured in Rotterdam in 1940 as a civilian internee and had volunteered to come up here as our Catholic Chaplain. We had an organizational meeting that evening and got the ball rolling as far as camp activities went. Sports representatives, cooking, clothing, coal supply, rationing etc. etc. were all appointed and with a feeling of contentment that things were under way we turned in. Of course, the fact that all the lights were extinguised at 10 PM may have had something to do with our new 'early to bed-early to rise' routine.

November 13, 1943

DAY CAME, DARK AND DREARY as were many days to come, and we struggled out of our sacks, We hurried through breakfast and out to morning formation. Jerry is getting better with his counting. Now he counts all 107 of us in just under 10 minutes. Remarkable feat, eh? Got to talking with some of the old prisoner fellows who have been here since the first of the war, 4 years. My gosh, how can they stand it? They gave Dick Moon and Larry Aspenall (our volunteer cooks) some of their tried and true recipies for cakes, spuds, spam etc, and these should come in pretty handy to us. Looked for Father Hall but he is living in the hospital at present and we can't get to see him. Managed to borrow a razor, blades and stuff and we all shaved in cold water, for the first time in 11 days. Sure wish we could get some tooth brushes; tastes lousy in the morning! We try using salt and soap on our fingers but that ain't so hot. Boy its going to take a lot of time for us to get used to these Jerry rations. The spuds, what there are of them, are O.K. although somewhat rotten. The bread is nothing but compresed sawdust. They serve live barley-and I do mean its alive. Never thought I would see the day that I would calmly take maggots and worms out of my food. and go on eating just like the Statler (ed note. Statler Hilton in Buffalo, New York). These outside latrines and washrooms are really something, it would be a pleasure to be constipated till summer comes. DeLurg, a paratrooper and swell guy, has been in charge of sports so we all helped him take stock today. Didn't take long; 2 soccer balls, some cards, dart games and a volley ball is all we've got and we expect the camp to hold about 3500 men, Dee is having one of the shoe repair boys cut the soccer ball down to where it is something like a foot ball-we hope. Got a deck of cards for the 16 of us in our room-big deal!

November 14,1943

WHAT A FINE BUNCH OF CATHOLICS we turned out to be. Here its been 13 days since we've had a chance to go to Mass and on our first Sunday in Prison Camp we missed Mass 100% We have formation on Sundays at 9:45 AM and we found out then that Mass had taken place at 8AM. We saw Father Hall later that morning and he forgave us our sins! Getting so we can understand him now, but he still takes quite a lot of kidding. Played a little pinnoccle this afternoon and Dick made our first cake. Prima!

Nov.15, 1943

THE DAYS GET SHORTER, the nights get longer and the items to write down become fewer. Went to Mass and Communion this morning, then breakfast, then pinnocle, then lunch, then pinnocle, then supper and more pinnocle. Made some cooking tins out of Klim cans, what a mess. Dick and I had quite a talk today about the future. He has some good ideas and connections which may work out to our mutural advantage.Time will tell.

November 18, 1943

WE GOT THE CUT down sized football back today. It resembles a squash more that it does a football! We had quite a game anyway. It is so damn unweildy that only two guys in camp can throw a decent pass with it. Quite a large time was had by all.

November 21, 1943

FATHER HALL said from now on we'd have daily Mass at 8 AM, good deal! Had a little football game this afternoon and got a 'charlie-horse' in both legs from running on frozen ground with these steel soled shoes we've got. Getting old and out of condition! Got a monopoly game in the barracks now, some fun!

November 23, 1943

SAME OLD GRIND. So damn cold and wet all the time you can't do anything but stay in bed to get warm then get up to eat. Got some paper bound books in poor selection-but better than nothing.

November 25, 1943

THANKSGIVING! On the surface its a helluva day but we do have a lot to be thankful for. We are alive, have all our arms, legs, etc., and we get enough food to live on. Father Hall was our guest of honor and Dick and Larry did a sweet job as cooks. Plenty of spam, spuds and a huge cake. Played a little football and spent the rest of the day dreaming of home. Maybe I'll give up this diary business. The stuff I want to say I don't dare put down, in fact, I don't even want to remember it!So that's it until something BIG happens. (Ed. note: the next diary entry is dated 4 months later.)

April 9, 1944

EASTER SUNDAY and what a day. The camp has grown quite a bit now and we had a big outdoor High Mass on the sports field. John Malik and I served at the Mass. After this they held a big Protestant service for the rest of the camp. Colonel Byerly was to say a few words, but right in the middle of it, for the first time since we've been here, the air raid siren sounded 15 blasts which meant the bombers were coming right overhead. Sure enough in a few minutes we could hear the drone of planes and then we spotted them out over the Baltic turning in. All told there must have been 1000 of 'em. They came right overhead and we nearly went wild. All the Jerries except the guards in the towers hit for thier foxholes. After a short while we could see them dropping target markers over Rostock and a hush fell over the whole camp. We could hear the bombs going off. The whole raid lasted about an hour and a half in which time there bombers overhead all the time. It was a sight to strike terror into the hearts of the Jerries and bring joy to a Kriege. Where is the Luftwaffa now?! Best Easter Parade I dare say I'll ever see.

May 2, 1943

ANOTHER FINE DAY. I was in the washroom scrubbing out a towel when I heard the sound of gunfire. I didn't know what to make of it so I started to walk outside to see what is was when somebody screamed "They're strafing the airfield!" Amidst 154 mad Krieges I ran like hell outside just in time to see two Mosquitos making a pass at the field. This time they strafed and dropped some delayed action bombs. Boy, what a sight! An hour later fires were still burning over there and the payoff was they never did blow the sirens. What an air raid system! Went to see the play "Dangerous Corners" in the afternoon, but it was anticlimactic after the big air show we had just seen.

May 6, 1944

FIRST PACKAGE of clothing for Dick and me and boy did I need it.

May 9, 1944

FIRST LETTER FROM HOME and, wonder of wonders, a picture of my honey and baby. The boys decided that inasmuch as the kid was born at 11:30 AM and that is the same time we get our hot water for coffee handed out to the cry of "Brewwater up"....that we would nickname the little gal that! Hello, "Brewwater".

May 12, 1944

TWO MOSQUITOES ON THEIR WAY HOME from bombing oil refineries at Stettin caught a FW-190 with his pants down and shot him down in sight of the camp.

May 13, 1944

THE 8TH WAS OVER AGAIN, with about 500 bombers and fighters on their way to Berlin. The fighters that took the bombers in were relieved by others at the target so they peeled off and headed for home. Four P-51's strafed the nearby airfield but good.

May 21, 1944

P-51'S AGAIN, 5 of them and no opposition except scattered light flak. The Jerries have put out a new order that during air raids we must stay in the barracks or get shot. We are lucky in that from our window we have a swell view. The boys strafed both of the airfields South of here-made 4 passes and then went after a transport train. How can these Jerries keep taking it!?

June 5, 1944

INVASION AT LAST, won't be long now, we hope! (Ed note. I would imagine that "high hopes" helped these brave men survive. It would be yet another year until the POW's were freed.)

June 20, 1944

THE 8TH OVER AGAIN. The alarm blew at the Sanctus of the Mass. Planes were overhead when Mass ended and nobody bothering them. Planes were coming and going until noon. Two B-24's apparently hit by flak and all alone seen heading for Sweden at about 20,000 feet and not a Jerry near them. What a change from a few short months ago! Then, if you just slipped out of formation a litttle, you were a dead duck like us for example. One of the Jerries chased us back into the barracks saying "Don't you know there is a war on!" Who knows it better than we?

July 18, 1944

THE 8TH WAS OVER IN FORCE today. The radio said the main bunch were down South hitting Hanover and Brunswick, and smaller formations were coming in over Pomerania from the Baltic. The sky was overcast but we heard 11 waves of bombs hit in the Baltic arrea and then we could hear our fighters going in to pick up the bombers and take them home. The clouds blew off in time for us to see them coming out on their way home. They were coming over, scattered all over the place, a wing here, a group there, even squadrons floating around by themselves. P-38's just playing around all over the place. 'Phase Training' in the heart of Gemany! Where the hell is the Luftwaffe now. They don't even shoot flak at 'em around here, although we know they have batteries about. The all clear blew at noon. Nice four hour raid and this was the 'smaller fromation' according to the radio. Wonder what they had at the other spots.

August 4, 1944

JONES, ONE OF THE BOYS from the 32nd Squadron came in with a lot of good news on my crew and our friends. Finally got the good news that Sully (Lt. Edward Sullivan) and Harky (Sgt. Elmer Hartenstein) got back from that Regensburg massacre. Thank God for that. Wonder what they'd say if they knew we had given them up for lost and were having Masses said for them? At 2:15 the air raid siren blew and after a short wait in the boys came. We could see 11 wings over the Baltic going East and soon afterwards they came back out, some of them right overhead and with plenty of fighter escort covering them. For the first time we saw our own boys in trouble. We first spotted him due south of here coming down all alone pretty fast. The ship leveled out about 8,000 feet and we saw at least 6 men bail out and then the ship dove straight down and blew up not far from here. One of the boys landed right outside of town. We saw another ship come down but it looked as if he still had control of it and crash landed just south of here. About 10 minutes later a big puff of flame and smoke came up from the spot where they landed so we assume the boys blew her up before the Jerries got there. Still another one went down south of here in flames and one of the fighter boys had to bail our after strafing the airfield. We had two strafing attacks. Three P-47's flew first from the SW to the NE and this pass carried them right over the heart of the town but they stopped shooting the minute they left the airfield. I don't imagine they hit any civilians because they would probably take it out on those boys who had just bailed out and landed near the town. Later, four P-51's strafed it again from W to E and hit it but good. On their way out the bombers dropped smoke bombs over airfields and similar targets as markers for the fighters, as much as to say "we're O.K. now, boys go on down and have some fun", and they did. After the show was over three ME109's came over. Too little...too late!

August 6, 1944

ANOTHER AIR RAID and we all had to go inside. One of the boys in the tents had left something on one of their open air stoves and he went over to move it now that the bombers were out of sight. As he did the Jerry in the tower nearest us started screaming 'bloody murder', but what he was saying nobody knew. When the guy got his stuff off the stove and started back, the big brave guard behind the gun let one go at him and kicked up the dirt at his heals and the bullet richochetted into the Chapel. No sooner had the excitment died down and we had settled down to eat lunch when we hard another sharp report at the end of the hall. We ran out en-masse to see what happened and there was plenty to see. One of the guards had fired at one of the boys in the barracks next to us who had stuck his head out of the door. He missed him, but the bullet richochetted off the steps, went through both walls of our kitchen, through the door (the splinters cut a nice gash in Chesnuts leg), then through Kelly's pants leg just at the knee, through the wall of room 12 just an inch over Tanner's bed and then passed between Gene Schierburg and Schlossberg, finally winding up its wild career in the wall under their window. Boy, it's awful lucky Tanner was'nt logging a little sack time or he'd have had it. By now we were pretty excited and sore. Oh baby, were we sore! We heard three more shots before the all clear blew and we were allowed out of the barracks to see what else had happened. We traced the other shots down. One was a pop shot at a fellow going from the tents to Block 4 to use the washroom. The shot was high and went through the side of Block 4 into Col. Malstrom's room a foot over his bed and right through a bunk in the next room, finally lodging in the wall. Two other shots went into Block 12 but were pretty well spent and did no damage. Brave boys these Jerries-shooting and defenseles men behind barbed wire!

August 25, 1944

HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Had a big cake and the whole 8th Air Force came over for the party. There were literally hundreds of them. They stayed about 3 hours then had to go home. We could hear the bombs very clearly and we saw a "fort" blow up out over the sea, two men bailed out, hope they are O.K. Somebody salvoed a load of bombs just behind the Flak School, too close for comfort! That night the R.A.F. blew the hell out of Stettin and Rostock. We could see flak and search lights all over. Flares were dropping and the whole sky lit up and the bomb flashes were terrific.

August 26, 1944

R.A.F. OVER AGAIN-plenty of action. Mining the Baltic.

August 27, 1944

8TH AGAIN. Could see fighters aplenty, but no opposition.

September 30, 1944

LARGE QUANTITIES OF THE 8TH overhead going and coming from Stettin. Very, very loose formation going home-lots of stragglers-but our fighters were with them all the way. One guy salvoed his load in the Baltic very near here. The biggest casualty, of all things, was a huge sugar refinery in Stettin-also the oil plants. The smoke was plainly visible and grew in proportions all day. Reached a height of 10,000 feet at least.

October 2, 1944

STRASLUND GOT IT TODAY, but good. Not a bit of opposition but we saw one plane heading for Sweden and flak got him. It's funny to see and hear 5,000 Kriegies sweating a guy out who appears to be in trouble. A couple of times this guy's engines started smoking and the "Ohs and Ahs" were reminiscent of a crowd watching a high trapeze act.

October 3, 1944

R.A.F. on Stettin again.

October 4, 1944

8TH ON STETTIN. That's just about all for that little 'burg' I guess. What a pasting they've taken in the last couple days.

October 17, 1944

JAMIE'S BIRTHDAY and one of the Mosquitoes came over for the party. About 3:00 PM the 3-alert siren blew indicating enemy aircraft within a 100 miles area of here. We were sitting around and kind of hoping we'd have a little excitement when Ike screamed "plane over Barth". Sure enough it was a Mosquito coming in low and fast off the Baltic. He made a 90 degree bank, roared down with all guns ablazing at the train in the station in Barth. Hope no new Kriegies were on board, or they would have had it. He leveled out on a course for home and not a shot was fired at him. Our Jerry chums were too busy ducking into foxholes to bother him. They never did get around to blowing the 15-blast alarm to indicate he was coming into our area. Bet somebody gets a royal chewing out for that slip-up. They were sure caught flat-footed and the best part was they didn't have time to chase us indoors and so we had a beautiful view of it.

(Ed. note: The diary ends here. Surely there was more, but that information unfortunately is lost. Stalag Luft I, Barth, Germany, Barracks # 3, Room # 10: Frank C. McGinley, L.R. Moon, R. J. Eichenlaub, M.S. Baker, H.N. Mullaney, J. E. Peacock, D. G. Naughton, A. O. Williams, R. C. Howard, E. R. Chesmore, R. F. Eggers, B. J. Fuller, K. D. Haines, A. N. Rossi, W. C. Coleman, C. E. Mason, R. S. Macauley, D. A. Reagan, Ed Fennessey, W. C. Thompson and J. A. Graham occupied Room 10 in Barracks 3.)

ONE OF THE POEMS written by Frank McGinley while a prisoner in Stalag 1. It was sung by the prisoners in Room 10, Barracks number 3. to the tune of Bob Hope's theme song, "Thanks for the Memories."

It is with great personal pride that I share these memories from my father's wartime journal. Frank McGinley remained in Stalag Luft I, until the end of the war and was liberated by Russian ground forces. He returned home to Buffalo, New York to rejoin his family and continue his civilian life. Frank C. McGinley died in 1951 due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident. He is remembered by his family and friends as a man of courage, conviction and faith.

For more information contact Chuck McGinley, 6913 SW 167th Place, Beaverton, OR 97007. Telephone:                      503-642-3194          . E-mail


Amazin' Maizie Hits the News

sent in by  William R. "Speedy" Wadlington

Memphis Commercial Appeal
September 21, 1944

15th Air Force in ITALY--The amazing maintenance record of "Amazin' Maizie," a Flying Fortress crewed by T-Sgt, William R. "Speedy" Wadlington (left), 28, of Sledge, Mississippi, is a tale of changing wings like most people change socks.

THE GIANT FORT, named for Maizie Ann Harding of 488 E. 14th St., Tulsa, Oklahoma, wife of the pilot, Major Edwin F. Harding Jr., was put in Bill's charge when it was brand new early last February. He didn't have any trouble until the third mission, when "Maizie" got shot up over Reginsburg, Germany, and was one of the two ships that got back out of the Squadron. Then was when the first wing had to be changed, along with four engines, propellers, chin turret, landing flaps and a complete tail.

THREE MISSIONS LATER flak caught the main spar in the right wing, necessitating a replacement. After two days out because of that, "Amazin' Maizie" flew again and came back with the wings riddled--and so a new set was put on by "Speedy" and his crew.

A STREAK OF GOOD luck prevailed for a month, as his ship made every mission with no trouble. But that wouldn't last and on the return from the next mission there were gaping holes in the wing gas tanks--and so for the fourth time the wings were dropped.

"SPEEDY" AND HIS crew were getting to be experts when again several missions later--yes--another wing change. On the 55th mission all four engines were hit and the left wing for the sixth time had to be replaced.

COMMENTED WADLINGTON, "After that we only had minor troubles such as replacing tail assemblies, hydraulic and oil systems--nothing difficult!!"

IN 68 CONSECUTIVE MISSIONS without a turn back due to mechanical failure "Amazin' Maizie" led the Air Force three times and at one time led the Squadron for a month straight, all of which Bill modestly attributes to "a good crew and luck."

NOW THERE IS an "Amazin' Maizie II!!"


Forced Landing in Russian Territory: "Sugar Report"

from the Journal of S/Sgt. Robert Richards

The crew of plane 44-8186, "Sugar Report":  Pilot, Lt. Ralph H. Kagi; Copilot, Lt. William Wunderlich;
Navigators, Lt. Fred S. Meade and Donald Burns; Bombardier, Lt. W. F. Bounds; Engineer, S/Sgt. S. J. Murchy; Radio, S/Sgt. M. Glassy; Left wing, S/Sgt. Polynack; Right wing, S/Sgt. R. D. Irvine; Tail gunner, S/Sgt. R. E. Richards.

YES, IT WAS DECEMBER 26, 1944, and we were lucky enough to hit the battle order. Our 32nd Bomb Squadron is having a Christmas party in Foggia. It was quite a party although I didn't attend. We got up bright and early for briefing only to find that once again we were going to that well-known target of Blechammer Germany. It was a well-known target for its oil and half of the flak guns the Germans had. But we didn't mind, for we had been there three times before.

AS WE STARTED on the bomb run the flak began to hit us all over and it sounded like all hell had broke loose. In fact it did. No one had any closer calls than the other. We got a bad hit in the number one engine and it started a little fire and as we feathered the engine it put the fire out. The Lord was with us all the way for all of us came out without a scratch.

WE THOUGHT we would have to bail out but we were stuck with the ship. Number three and four engines were almost shaking the ship apart but we hung on. After we had traveled about a hundred and fifty miles a field was spotted and we decided to make a landing there. At least seven or eight Russian Fighter planes came up to get us but due to the luck, they recognized that we were not Germans. They started to make a couple of passes but broke away before firing.

AT LAST we were going to land and everyone was sweating out what kind of landing we were going to make. No one actually knew just what damage the ship was in, but Kage and Bill brought her in and made a most beautiful landing. At least it seemed good to know that our feet were on solid ground. It was a feeling that was just out of this world. The time in between bombs away and landing will never be forgotten for I'm sure that it was at least two or three years of my life.

WE WERE GOING to get out of the plane as soon as we landed but it seems as though the civilian population was all congregated around the plane. We stayed in until a Russian Lieutenant and two guards with fixed bayonets came marching through the crowd. As soon as we saw them we crawled out of the plane and all ten of us stood together.

THE RUSSIANS GAVE US a quick "high ball" and the first thing they asked was whether we spoke German. Of course no one knew what they were saying but we shook our heads no. They finally took us to a little village and fixed us up with a fancy meal of raw bacon and other fat meats and above all a nice shot of vodka. It was then that we found out that we were only about 2 miles from the front. I thought that the artillery guns sounded awful close. We also could hear small arms fire that was too close for comfort.

WE STAYED with the Lt. Colonel that was in charge of the infantry around there. He was a swell Joe and we had a good time with him although we only stayed with him for two days. They then got the bright idea that being we were Airmen we ought to be with the Air Corps. They moved us and then the real things began to happen.

December 28, 1944

WE DIDN'T DO MUCH all day except walk around the village and take in the sights. We saw 15 or 20 German graves right beside a Catholic church. According to the markers they were all very young men. We met a small boy and he took us to the local hospital and we took a short stroll through it. We talked to several Slovak people who had been in America before the war broke out and they all wished they had stayed there. That night we left Budkivce in an ambulance. The driver probably thought we were all crazy for we were singing at the top of our voices. To tell the truth none of us knew what was going to happen. The Lt. Colonel was a ground officer and now the air corps was going to take over. We stopped at a small farm house which turned out to be the Colonel's house. Kagi went in and it was a good half hour before he came and we really sweating him out. We then went a little further and stopped at another house and this time we all crawled out, took our bags with us for we had come to our new sleeping quarters. It was a fairly size room but it was kind of crowded with all ten of us. There was only one bed in the room with springs on it and Kagi grabbed it right away. The rest of the beds consisted of about four or five boards that covered the bottom and a nice bunch of straw over them and a piece of cloth over it. They gave us each one blanket a piece which wasn't quite enough for it was pretty cold out. We did have a fire in the room but it was a wood burner and no one was ambitious enough to keep it going. Finally, we went to bed for a good night's rest and for more things in the morning.

December 29, 1944

WE STAYED in the room most of the day while the Russians and the civilians held a steady procession in and out of the door. I guess it was the first time any of them ever had a chance to look at a bunch of American Flyers. We felt kind of funny for every one of them would just stand there and stare at us as though we were something out of this world. This day was the start of steak meals three times a day. Yes, steak rice and potatoes three times a day and seven days a week. They put a little 2nd Lieutenant in charge and he was envied by all the rest because he was with us all the time. He would try to do every thing we asked but as it was we weren't hard to please. We couldn't understand him and he couldn't understand us. Finally our old buddy Polynack broke out with a few words of Ukraine and from then on we got along good. Poly talked him into getting a barber for we hadn't had a shave in the last four days. The barber came and shaved all of us and then started on our haircuts. I think he started to shave our heads instead of our faces. At least we didn't have to worry about long hair for a while.

THAT NIGHT they gave a dance for us and we were the only ones that were allowed to dance with the girls. But being we didn't know much about Russian style of dancing we just let the men take over. We were all getting tired so we went back to the sack to get another night of beauty rest on our board beds.

December 30, 1944

EVERYONE WOKE UP feeling bad for we had a pretty rough night drinking that potent vodka. We had to drink it for it was an insult if we didn't. The procession started again right after breakfast. One of the people was a mad Russian Lieutenant and he had a quart of spirits which was a mixture of 96 percent alcohol and 4 percent water. We had to take a shot of this and it just about choked us to death. We finally got up our courage to refuse to drink and after that everything went alright. They had another dance and we were the guests of honor. The rest of the boys danced with the women but didn't do to well for they couldn't understand them. The Russian women are as hard as nails and that goes for physical fitness as well as anything else.

THE DANCE ended early so we went back and hit the sack. What a sack it was because my back is still aching.

December 31, 1944

POLY, BILL, BURNS, Red and Glassy went to church and it turned out to be Greek Catholic and most of the boys were Roman Catholic. When they came back from church the Colonel had figured out a few things for us to do. That night we went to a Russian film and after the show some Lieutenant brought a few musicians to our room and gave us a nice concert. The Lieutenant sang the Volga Boatman for us and he did a good job.

January 1, 1945

NEW YEAR'S DAY and here we are in Russia. A much different place than I had planned. I guess it was a rough war. Glassy and Wunderlich went to Church and the rest stayed in the room and shot the bull. A red headed Captain came in the room and wanted us to play a little chess. Little did we realize that he was the third best player in Russia. He cleaned every one and then he and some other Russian played a game and it turned out to be a stiff one for he was also a good player. That evening we went to a show and it turned out to be "North Star."

January 2, 1945

WE AROSE ABOUT ten o'clock and had breakfast and then five of the boys went back to Budkovce for a meal. The meal consisted of 20 year old whiskey, pork chops, breaded veal cutlets and delicious cookies. They found out later that it took all the food the Village had to feed the men. The Slovak people would give you all they had for they think there is nothing better than an American.

January 3, 1945

WE GOT UP AT ten as usual and then we were off to another steak breakfast. Those steaks for breakfast sure did get tiresome but who are we to kick. At least we aren't starving. Today the barber finally came around and after four days he finally managed to slick us up pretty good. The trouble was that he always wanted a shot of vodka and of course we were always short on vodka. The girls in Slovakia have a complete outfit before they can marry and that includes a small strip of land, a cow, a horse and a pig. I guess the men get off for nothing. Not a bad deal at all.

EDITOR'S NOTE: It is with pride that I share my brother's journal of their forced landing experience in Russian territory. From the news reports it took the crew 52 days to return to their 32nd Squadron stationed in Italy. Robert completed his 25 bombing missions and returned to the United States. He raised a family and had a successful business. He passed away in November of 1973 at the young age of 50.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Charles J. Richards, 2421 Williams Drive, Quincy, MI 49082-9644. Telephone 517-639-7192, e-mail


52 Days -- If You're Lucky:
Sgt. Robert E. Richards Had Delayed Return to Base

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
March 3, 1945

15th AAF IN ITALY-- Blechhammer, Germany is only about four hours away from southern Italy by heavy-bomber, but S/Sgt Robert E. Richards, R.R. 1, Grabill, Ind., tail gunner on a 15th Flying Fortress, found out the hard way that it can take 52 days to get back --if you're lucky!

ON THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS during an attack against the oil refineries at Blechhammer, Richard's Fort was ringed with flak from the multitude of ack-ack guns protecting that vital target area. Several near misses stabbed the ship with flying steel, and disabled the oxygen system, the hydraulic system and all the instruments, including both compasses, which left the crew isolated in space.

THE NAVIGATOR'S COMPUTER was shot from his hand, and the radio operator lost his transmitter key in the same abrupt fashion; the emergency rations were peppered, most of the parachutes were shredded beyond utility and the gas tanks were riddled. One burst put the bomb racks out of commission and for the next few hours, while Richards was splicing severed control cables, the bombardier balanced on the narrow catwalk kicking out bombs to lighten the load.

Land Behind Russian Lines

BECAUSE ONE ENGINE and the wing behind it had caught fire, the pilot pulled away from the formation to minimize the danger to his squadron when the explosion the anxious crew all expected should occur. But after a fifteen minute reign of terror the fire died and after several attempts the gutted engine feathered. On the three remaining power plants, all of which were wheezing and coughing in agony the pilot and co-pilot together managed to limp the tattered Fort over 150 miles of hostile territory and land just two and a half miles behind the Russian lines at a fighter field.

AFTER A PERIOD of welcome recuperation at this stop, Richards and his crew were taken to an evacuation headquarters for Allied airmen. Here they were picked up and flown back to their base in Southern Italy.

"It was the rough way home all right" commented Richards, "but we were lucky to land in Russian hands. They made sure we had the best of everything they could give us!"

Veteran of 25 Sorties

THE 21 YEAR OLD graduate of Huntertown High School at Huntertown, Ind., who wears the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters is a veteran of 25 sorties over priority targets in Germany and the Balkans. He was employed as a stock accumulator in building 4-2 of the General Electric Co. plant in Fort Wayne from September 1941, until he left to enter the AAF on January 22, 1943.

HE COMPLETED telegraph and telephone school at Camp Crowder, Mo., on July 17, 1943 and won his wings at Las Vegas, Nev., on May 6, 1944. After leaving the United States on August 8, 1944 he flew his first mission, an attack against Barovincia, Yugoslavia on August 26.

HIS WIFE, Mrs. Glada Marie Richards and their two children, Allen, 2, and Nadine Fay, a recent arrival, reside at the above address while his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Richards, reside at R.R. 1, Fort Wayne.

The Personal Diary of James Franklin Boston
Diary Entries Provided by John I. Boston

James Franklin Boston-14094612
Religion: Protestant
Date of Birth: August 26, 1921
Color of hair: Blonde
Height: 6 feet 3 inches
Color of eyes: Blue
Nearest relative: Mrs. J. I. Boston, Mother, Curryville, Georgia

Transfers and changes in rank:

Enlisted as private on Friday, March 13, 1942 in old P.O. Building in Atlanta Georgia.
Appointed Aviation Cadet, May 12, 1942.
Arrived at Napier Field, Dothan, Alabama, May 26, 1942.
Arrived at Gunter Field, Alabama, June 2, 1942.
Arrived at Maxwell Field, Alabama, June 12, 1942.
Arrived at Turner Field, Advanced Navigation School, Albany, Georgia, August 16, 1942.
Arrived at Advanced Navigation School, Monroe, Louisiana, September 18, 1942.
CLASS OF 42-16, FLIGHT 56.
Set back to Flight 26, Class 43-1 November 6, 1942.
Graduated as 2nd Lieutenant, Selman Field, Louisiana, January 16, 1943.
Arrived at Salt lake Army Air Base, Utah January 20, 1943.
Arrived at Blythe Army Air Base, California, January 24, 1943.
Arrived at Pyote Army Air Base, Texas, February 3, 1943.
Arrived at Casper Army Air Base, Wyoming, March 8, 1943.
Arrived at Salina, Kansas (6-day delay en-route) April 17, 1943.
Arrived at Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida May 2, 1943.
Arrived at Warner Robbins Field, Macon, Georgia May 7, 1943 for installation of “Tokyo Tanks.”
Arrived at Morrison Field, Florida, May 15, 1943 for the beginning of foreign service.

May 17, 1943-Departed from Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida at 02:00 with clearance to Waller Field, Trinidad. Passed by Nassau on course, possible to do pilotage occasionally on small islands. Were ordered to be on lookout for the crew of a B-25 down in water. Passed 30 miles right of position reported. No survivors were seen. Landed at Boringuen Field, Puerto Rico 10:30, because of strong headwinds, very stormy and turbulent weather, No. 1 engine throwing oil, interphone out, and no radio contact. Boringuen is one of the nicest fields I have ever seen.

May 18, 1943-Departed Boringuen at 11:00 for Waller Field. Flew along about 60 miles west of Martineque and Guadaloupe. Rounded Galeria Point and landed 17:45 at Waller Field, Trinidad. On way to Trinidad saw a phenomenon reported only a few times previously—a small circular rainbow on the clouds below us with the silhouette of our plane in the center. Very Beautiful.

May 20, 1943-Took off Waller Field at 1:00 local time for Belem, Brazil. Arrived at Belem 07:30 later. Met A. Boraiko (42-16) now in ferry command and has made one trip to India. Now on second trip across. Said Ralph Adams is briefing Officer in Khartoum, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Some other classmates at Accra and Roberts Field. Belem is worse than Waller. Water and food bad, except for fruit. Plenty of mosquitoes.

May 21, 1943-Took off for Natal, Brazil 06:00 local time and landed Paranarim Air Base 12:30.

May 23, 1943-Went into city of Natal. Bought a male parrot for $4.00. Jack bought a female, Natives call parrots “popo-aqua’ee.” Parrots swear in Portuguese. Crew will teach them the English translation. Bought short-snorter boots. Only ones that fit were cream colored. Colonel didn’t approve of color.

May 25, 1943-Departed Natal 02:30. 250 miles from Ascension followed radio beam which ended abruptly out at sea. Believed to be a submarine. Did not see any subs but member of George Freeas’s crew sighted one. Landed Ascension 11:30. Food plain but much better than other places. Saw outdoor movie Saturday on the ground on the hillside.

May 25, 1943-Took off 8:00 for Dakar. Flew through another tropical storm but made it ok. Landed 16:30. Met John Ehma—Ferry Command (42-16).

May 28, 1943-Took off 08:00 for Marrakech. Flew over Sahara desert. Went up to 21,000 feet to get over hight mountains and storm 100 miles south of Marrakech. Nobody remembered parrots ‘till we leveled off. Gunners said they acted slightly drunk from lack of oxygen. Landed Marrakech 13:00. Officers quarters in town in unfinished modern night club and theater. Only taxis were rubber tired carts pulled by native boys on “bicycles built for two.”

May 29, 1943-Departed Marrakech 11:oo for Rabat. Flew over Casa Blanca. Landed at 01:00. Rabat Air Base to be permanent station for about three weeks. Plane unloaded. Possibility of losing plane to some crew already at the front. Officers quarters are tents pitched on ground with no cots. Food eated from mess kits. Flying in morning—ground school in afternoons. Rabat nice city with good Officer’s club. Sandwiches and real cake with lemonade sold by Red Cross. Met Captain Coupa’ French ace flyer. He shot down 11 German planes and 4 others flying P-36’s. He attacked 40 Dorniers.

June 7, 1943-Navigated ship being ferried to Oran (La Senia). Saw many wrecked planes, mostly French and Italian. Got a bag of mail for the other fellows, including a letter from home for me. Came back the following day.

June 14, 1943- Departed Sale’ Air base 13:00 and landed Le Senia 16:30. Stayed overnight.

June 15, 1943-Our plane (082) was given to Freas and Brewer. We got one like it (127). Departed La Senia 14:00 and arrived at St. Donat Air Base, Algeria 17:00.

June 18, 1943-Went on first mission 08:30 to Messina, Sicily. Flew with Lt. Namede who had just been recommended for DFC for flying B-17 back from Naples on two engines. The target-harbor and railroad ferry completely destroyed. Our plane dropped three tons of demos. (demolition bombs). No interception by enemy planes. Flak heavy and accurate. No planes shot down. One plane made a crash landing at Constantine. Landed St. Donat 17:30. One piece of flak went clear through wing behind No. 1 engine. Another hole nearby.

June 28, 1943-Went to Chateau Dun to hear lecture by Commander Weems, world’s formost authority on navigation. Introduced by Brigadier General Atkinson. Saw Preas and the other boys of the 97th Bomb Group. Still no mail, PX closed, out of rations and I can’t go on missions because all the older boys are flying to finish up their missions.

July 4, 1943-Went on mission to Cantania, Sicily 07:30. Carried 2400 lbs of frags. (fragmentation bombs). Moore, Pilot and Robinson, bombadier. Picked up Spitfire escort over Malta. Dropped bombs on airfield with good results. Saw my first enemy fighter. Spitfires acted like hounds hunting rabbits. A group was flying along while one snooped around and ran an Me-109 out in their midst. All joined the chase but the first one had more speed so the others let him by while the 109 dived, slow rolling. He was seen to crash in flames. No damage done by flak.

July 6, 1943-Visited Constantine. Went by Chateau Dun and saw George Freas. Said plane blew up on take off July 5 and killed “Tex” Slaton and Gordon Lowe (classmate 43-1) and all their crew. All good boys.

July 9, 1943-Mission to Biscari, Sicily. 06:15 Moore, Taylor and Irwin. Ten miles from coast of Sicily turned back on three engines. Salvoed bombs in ocean. Sighted 100 ship Allied convoy 50 miles south of Sicily headed toward Sicily. I was only Navigator in Group to report it to Intelligence.

July 10, 1943-Invasion of Sicily begun. Did not fly.

July 14, 1943-Went on mission to Messina, Sicily 06:30. Flew with original crew for first time. Carried 6000 lbs demos. (demolition bombs). One engine running rough. Didn’t catch formation till we got over target. Missed most of the flak. No enemy fighters seen. Listened to WOP music on radio on way back. Flew over Mt. Etna. My first time to look down into a volcanic peak.

July 17, 1943-Went on mission to Naples, Italy 06:45. Dropped 6000 lbs. demos. (demolition bombs) on railroad yards. No fighters seen and went through light flak.

July 19, 1943-Helped make history. Made first bombing raid ever to be made on Rome, Italy 07:30. Dropped 4000 lbs. demos. (demolition bombs) on railroad yards. Four 5-hundred pounders hung on racks. We salvoed them later in the sea. No fighters seen. General Jimmy Doolittle flew with the 2nd Bomb Group and General Atkinson flew with our 301st Group.

July 22, 1943-Flew to Algiers with Major Stoddard and Lt. Colonel Stewart. Came back with Colonel Stewart. He also brought Captain Walker’s (Squadron C.O.) promotion to Major.

July 28, 1943-“Special Delivery”, a B-17 in the 32nd Squadron being junked after setting a world’s record for number of missions (86). I flew my first mission in Special Delivery with Lt. Namele.

July 29, 1943-Went on mission to Viterbo Airdrome, Italy 07:00. Carried 4800 lbs. demos. (demolition bombs). Robinson flew in Group lead ship. Moore, Taylor and I flew in 1-3 position.

August 7, 1943-Moved base from St. Donat, Algeria to a field 18 miles south of Tunis, Tunisia. Base much better with cool breezes and no dust storms.

August 11, 1943-Mission to Terni, Italy 06:00. Carried 6000 lbs. demos. (demolition bombs). Flak moderate. Coming back 60 miles from Italy intercepted by ME-109 and captured P-38 with enemy flier flying it. Nobody fired at first, thinking it friendly. Saw it slip in a formation from behind and shoot down a B-17. Everybody fired at it then including myself but my gun jammed. 20mm shell came by my head while I was looking through astrodome and went into No. 2 engine. P-38 was not shot down.

August 13, 1943-Went on mission to Rome, Italy marshalling yards 05:45. Had 24 P-38’s escorting us while we acted as bait for the P-38 encountered August 11. Carried 6000 lbs. demos. (demolition bombs). Flak was intense and fairly accurate. Got one small hole in wing tip. Saw unidentified fighter that was probably the P-38, but he did not come close.

August 17, 1943-Went on mission to Marseille, France 07:30. Carried 2880 lbs. frags. (fragmentation bombs). Flak was intense and one ship in our Group was shot down by direct hit by shell. Mason was the pilot of my ship. No fighters were seen. Four men reported to have bailed out of B-17 as it went down. I saw only two chutes. 21:00 PM saw fire-works of enemy bombing raid against shipping at Bizerte. Dug my fox-hole deeper.

August 25, 1943-Went on mission to Foggia, Italy 06:15. Carried 2400 lbs frags. (fragmentation bombs). Flak intense but we flew to the right of it. Saw only one enemy fighter but he did not come close.

August 26, 1943-My 22nd birthday.Went on mission to Capua Airdrome, Italy 05:15. Carried 2400 lbs. frags. (fragmentation bombs). Saw about 10 enemy fighters which made several passes at us. Fired at one of them. Coming back about 100 miles from Italy a B-17 broke away from the group on our right and turned back toward Naples in a fast shallow glide. It was obviously a captured B-17 that had flown over the target with us. 20:00 PM had a Squadron party in our new Officers club.

August 30, 1943-Went on mission to Viterbo Airdrome 05:45. Carried 2400 lbs. frags. (fragmentation bombs). Group attacked by several enemy fighters which fired some kind of rockets at us and also dropped metal fragments on us from above. Flak moderate but very accurate.

August 31, 1943-Went on mission to Pisa, Italy 07:25. Carried 6000 lbs demos. (demolition bombs). Saw the historical “leaning tower” from 20,000 feet. Attacked by about 15 enemy fighters over target. One came straight at me so I held back the trigger firing all the ammo in my box, probably hitting him and made him turn away. Just as he turned S/Sgt. Berg the engineer shot him down. Sgt. Teaster the waist gunner claimed a probable and he also accidentally shot part of our elevator off. Our life raft came out of the hatch and was lost over the target. Empty shells falling out of the B-17 in front of us hit our plane and made two holes in the Plexiglas nose. Fragments from one hole hit my cap and pulled it around on my head. Shortage of fuel caused us to consider landing on Sicily but we made it to the base OK. Upon landing we were greeted by a Brigadear General, two Colonels, a Major and two Captains who discussed our mission with us.

September 2, 1943-Went on mission to Bolzano, Italy (Brenner Pass) 08:45. Carried 4000 lbs. demos. (demolition bombs). Flew as low as 10 ft. off the water until the climb was begun. Saw 3 enemy Aircraft carriers near Leghorn. Before reaching target attacked by about 10 antique Italian fighters. They had two wings and non-retractable landing gear. One started to come in but my tracer bullets changed his mind. Flak moderate but accurate. Fired at German transport flying about 3000 feet below us but no visible sign of hits. Attacked again by about 10 German fighters near Leghorn. I fired about 300 rounds and really has a good time. Ball turret gunner Sgt. Walker and waist gunner Sgt. Teaster each shot down a fighter. Empty shells from the ship in front again came through our glass nose barely missing my head. Had several holes in plane including bullet holes.

September 4, 1943-32nd Squadron lost plane on mission to Capua, Italy. I did not fly. Officers shot down were Lt. Kimber (B), Lt. Crouch (P), Lt. Fleishauer (N) and Lt. Kenny (CP). Their B-17 was shot down by the captured P-38 and 5 ME-109s.

September 5, 1943-Went on mission to Biterbo, Italy 06:20. Carried 2880 lbs. frags. (fragmentation bombs). Only enemy plane seen was a transport far below us. Flak light and inaccurate.

September 6, 1943-Went on mission to Capodischino Airdrome, Naples, Italy 05:30. Carried 6000 lbs demos. (demolition bombs). Flak rather heavy. No enemy fighters encountered.

September 8, 1943-Went on mission to Frescatia, Italy 05:30. Carried 6000 lbs demos. (demolition bombs). Bombed the Villas where the German staff has it’s Italian headquarters leaving much room for promotions in the Germany Army. Flak was very intense and accurate. I was lead Navigator for the 32nd Squadron. Our plane was not hit but one pilot in the 32nd had the wheel shot out of his hands. The 97th Group lost a plane that received a direct hit over the target. Our Squadron attacked by a Regione 2001 fighter which mad several passes at our plane including two directly toward our nose. The most helpless feeling in my life was when he opened up directly at us and my gun would not come to bear on him. Somehow, he missed us and some of the gunners got him. Saw 7 fighters attack the Group ahead. 18:00—ITALY SURRENDERS UNCONDITIONALLY. Everybody warned not to fire on Italian planes which are supposed to fly over and land in Africa.

September 9-1943-Started on mission to Naples, Italy 04:00 where the Americans, British and Canadians are invading with the aid of the Italians. Had to turn back before reaching target with one engine out. We were leading the Squadron again.

September 12, 1943-Went on mission to Mignona, Italy 06:30. Carried 6000 lbs. demos. (demolition bombs). Little flak although rather accurate and no fighters seen.

September 13, 1943-Went on mission to Consilina, Italy (06:45). Carried 3600 lbs. demos. (demolition bombs) and bombed German troop concentrations in support of our own invasion forces. Ran into bad weather near target but finally found and bombed it. Very little flak which was very accurate. No fighters seen.

September 14, 1943-Went on mission to bomb troop concentrations near Salerno, Italy 06:20. Carried 3600 lbs. demos. (demolition bombs). All the invasion barges, convoys and warships shelling the coast were clearly visible below. No flak or fighters were seen. I flew the plane part way back but formation flying is not too good!

September 25, 1943-Went on another mission to Bolzano, Italy 08:15. Our ship led the Squadron. The flak over Bolzano was some of the most accurate I have ever seen. Because of bad weather and visibility the Group lead ship did not drop it’s bombs and we had to make a run with it over the secondary target of Verona. There the flak was much worse and for the first time I could hear the explosions of the flak shells under the plane and feel the concussion, they were so close. I could hear the flak fragments raining into the ship and was expecting the nose of the ship to catch some any moment when Sgt. Walker called over the interphone that he was hit. He came out and Taylor went back to apply first aid, but it was so cold he couldn’t use his hands. We broke away from the formation and headed for the coast indicating 210 MPH so we could lose our altitude over the water. Our Squadron followed but had to scatter when we ran into a bad cloud front. I thought the nose was about air tight but it was raining, sleeting and snowing so hard that snow was covering everything inside. We hit the coast just as we came out of the cloud at the point where we went in, so as to miss flak and let down. The rest of our Squadron found us along with several other planes that had scattered all over the sky. Sgt. Walker was found to have glass fragments in his face about the eyes. Reports are that he will not lose his eyesight and will be OK. Our plane had 20 to 30 holes in it making the wings, tail and bomb bay look like a sieve.

September 28, 1943-Went on another mission to Bolzano Italy 09:00 to destroy a bridge over which vital supplies are going to German army. Carried five 1000 pounders. Extremely bad weather on entire trip. Had to turn back near target because of inability to see any part of Italy through clouds below. Ran into cloud front immediately after, which was even worse that that on September 25th. Heavy Ice and snow forming on wings made it necessary to salvo bombs. All planes in Group had to scatter because of inability to see each other, which was still dangerous because the planes were flying at different directions in the clouds. Hit the deck south of Spezia and headed home. Shot at by enemy boats near Corsicane Elba. Landed at base 01:00 hour late after an unsuccessful mission. However, we did better than some other planes which had close calls due to poor navigation by letting down over inland Italy.

Editors Note: This was the last entry in James Boston’s diary. His diary and other personal effects were returned to his next of kin by the Personnel Supply section of the 32nd Squadron. Information received later by members of the Ground Echelon revealed that plane No. 25137 had been named twice. The first name given was “Lead Foot” (Pictured below, left.) for the Crew Chief, Eugene Gardner’s nick name and the second was “Carol Jean IV” (Pictured below, right.) for the Pilot’s girl friend. Below is the official report of the lost plane and crew:

25137, "LEAD FOOT/CAROL JEAN IV" (Click the names to view our Nose Art Gallery, then click your "back" button to return to this page.) MIA Turin October 30, 1943 on its 86th mission. Charles Clowe crew, Wright, Boston, Robinson, Haberberger, Padgett, Service, Headding, Dill. All KIA. (MACR 1060).

The final entries in his diary are by his brother John I. Boston in 1995:

My parents received a letter from the War Department stating that he was missing in action. They said his Squadron was on a mission or returning from a mission when his plane developed engine problems. The crew bailed out in the Mediterranean. The position was noted but search planes returned but there were no survivors. Since there was a German submarine base in the area the thought was that they may have picked up and held the crew as POWs. We lived in hope that he would be released at the end of the war. About one year after the war ended my Mother received a letter from the War Department saying that the crew from one of the planes in their Squadron saw all 10 parachutes open and could see them being dragged across high waves and it was assumed that all drowned. Frank was a kind, easy going and very intelligent young man. We were very close as brothers. In my last letter from him he said he would like to go in some kind of business together. Though World War 11 ended over 50 years ago there has hardly been a day that I have not thought of him and how good it would have been to grow old with him around. John I. Boston


 The Reunion:
 A World War II Bomber Pilot,
 His Fighter Escort, and One Whopper
 of a Coincidence

 by John Fleischman

HERB HEILBRUN KEEPS EVERYTHING. He has every canceled check he ever wrote. He has the manufacturer’s manual for the B-17G he picked up at the Boeing factory in Seattle on October 12, 1944, and the flight log that records the 7,075 miles and 41 hours of his flight from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Foggia, Italy, via Newfoundland, the Azores, and North Africa. He has one of the 89 chunks of shrapnel that ventilated his bomber on Christmas Day 1944, while his squadron was attacking refineries at Brux, Czechoslovakia. He has the government-issue rubber oxygen mask and canvas flier’s helmet that he wore 30,000 feet over Brux. And he has the diary he kept to detail his 262 hours in combat, piloting a B-17G from Italy up the Adriatic, over the Alps, and into the industrial heart of Nazi Germany. He knows to the minute how long he was in combat and on what dates he flew against which targets.

IN 1995, Herb read in the Cincinnati paper that the city was honoring the local chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen. Red tails, Herb remembered. The Tuskegees were the all-black 332nd Fighter Group. They flew red-tail P-51s on missions escorting bomber squadrons from Italy into Germany. Herb could still remember hearing, amid the radio chatter over the target, the distinctive voices of the Tuskegee Airmen. He felt that his thanks were overdue.

“THE MAYOR WAS MAKING A PRESENTATION on Fountain Square,” Herb recalls. “I went down to the hotel where they were having some sort of reception and I told somebody that I flew B-17s in Italy and that the Tuskegee Airmen escorted me. I said that if there’s a flier around here that was over there, I’d like to give him a hug for saving my behind. Then someone said, ‘There’s a fellow over there. I think he did that.’”

THE MAN WAS NAMED JOHN LEAHR. When the two were introduced, Herb hugged John and said: “I’ve been waiting 50 years to meet one of you guys. You saved my tail on many a day.”

THE BLACK EX-FIGHTER PILOT AND THE WHITE EX-BOMBER PILOT BECAME FRIENDS. They went out for lunch. They visited each other’s homes for dinner. They began matching up dates and other details of combat missions they’d flown. John had indeed flown cover on at least two of Herb’s 35 missions: Brux on December 16th and Blechemmer on December 17th. Brux on the 16th was bad but not as bad as Brux on the 25th, Herb recalled. On that mission – Christmas Day – his fuel tanks were hit, his high-altitude oxygen system was hit, and his armor gunner ended up getting wounded in the foot.

AS THE TWO GOT TO KNOW EACH OTHER, they discovered other things in common. The men had been born within a mile of each other and only seven months apart. Both had come up through Cincinnati public schools, and both had managed to scrape together two years of college during the Depression. Both had enlisted in the Air Corps within weeks of Pearl Harbor. Both had to wait months to be called for flying school, so both took jobs at the same airplane engine factory: Wright Aeronautical in Lockland, Ohio. Herb tested engines, firing up GR-2600-655 Cyclones on test stands. John worked in the plant foundry. The work was filthy, hot, and done exclusively by blacks, he recalls.Herb Heilbrun, 301st Bomb Group

HERB GOT ASSIGNED TO ITALY as part of the 32nd Squadron of the 301st Bomb Group. He arrived well schooled in the elaborate squadron takeoff ritual that quickly launched and stacked dozens of bombers into box formations. Rising from fields all around Foggia, the bomber echelons assembled themselves until hundreds of aircraft were swarming up the Adriatic. The first time Herb saw one of the enormous boxes, it took his breath away.

John Leahr, 332nd Fighter GroupA FEW THOUSAND FEET above the B-17s and off to the side, John Leahr flew escort in a P-51. “I’d always wanted to fly,” he recalls. “It fascinated me, but I’d never been up in an airplane in my life.” Word that the corps had been forced to train blacks as pilots electrified the black community, John recalls, and he rushed to join the War Department’s prewar Civilian Pilot Training program. The CPT assigned black pilots to get their primary training at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Traveling to the deep south in that era “scared me to death,” John recalls. “There were so many stories. At that time, there was no federal anti-lynch law, and black people were beaten up and killed and nothing was done about it.”

THE AIR CORPS WANTED ONLY ENOUGH BLACK PILOTS to fill a handful of token squadrons, so the washout rate at Tuskegee was ferocious. John’s flying career almost crashed on takeoff. “It was when I was ready to solo,” he recalls. “I was lined up to take off and I thought I’d cleared myself good. So I started down the field and then I heard a strange noise and I looked up. Here’s an airplane coming right down straight on top of me… My prop hit the tail wheel of this other airplane and made a nice clanking noise.

“MY INSTRUCTOR WAS WAY DOWN ON THE OTHER END OF THE FIELD. I didn’t think he knew what’d happened. I thought that if I didn’t get this airplane off the ground now, I would probably never fly. If you hit another airplane, what that’s a washout. So I took the plane off without checking the prop. And that plane tried to slow roll on me all the way around the field. I got it up in the air, holding full rudder and stick to keep that plane straight.”

AFTER A BRIEF FLIGHT, JOHN MANAGED TO LAND. “The instructor came running up shouting, ‘Did you his that other airplane?’ “I played dumb and said, ‘I don’t think so’… He told me the commanding officer wanted to see me. I knew what that meant. I was going to be washed out.

“I REPORTED IN THE FINEST MILITARY MANNER, and he was sitting there ignoring me for a while and then suddenly he’s roaring at me, ‘You darn near killed an instructor and another student!’ and so and so forth. He gave me a good chewing out. Then he said, ‘Go on and get out of here and be more careful.’ Man, was I happy.” In July 1943, John earned his wings.

THE FOLLOWING FEBRUARY, his squadron landed in Italy. The black airmen lived apart from the white Air Corps. “The whole crew, everyone – mechanics, cooks, squadron commander, everybody – we were completely segregated,” says John. The pilots flew hand-me-down aircraft. When John’s squadron first went into combat with the 12th Tactical Air Force in February 1944, they were the only Americans in Europe flying the cranky and obsolete P-39 Airacobra. That July, the squadron was given weary P-51Bs and –Cs left them by white squadrons trading up to the more advanced P-51Ds.

ON A MISSION, the bombers would be about two hours out when the fighter escorts caught up with them. On the intercom of his B-17, Herb could hear his gunners sight them, high above the box, cutting S turns to eat up the difference in ground speed between bombers and fighters. The escorts were supposed to handle enemy interceptors, but nothing seemed to lessen the flak. The Germans moved mobile flak units around to surprise the Allies while they were crossing the Po Valley or near the mountain passes that they followed into Austria and Germany. And once the bombers reached their target, all the anti-aircraft guns on earth seemed to be waiting for them, altitude fuses set. It was the engineer’s job to dress the pilot for the bomb run – helmet and a heavy flak jacket shaped like an umpire’s chest protector. Herb would tuck the tail between his legs, then continue on with his squadron toward the target.

“YOU'D SEE THOSE POOR BOMBER BOYS line up and go straight into that flak,” John says. “It would be a beautiful clear day and you’d look up into a blue sky, it would be beautiful. But when those bombers would line up, it would look like one hell of a thunderstorm where that flak would come up bursting. And those bombers would fly right through it.

“WE WATCHED THOSE GUYS GO THROUGH HELL. We’re sitting out on the side waiting for them to come out and we could see them getting hit. If they got hit in the bomb bay, the plane just exploded into a great big ball of fire. The whole plane blew up and then it was nothing.

“WHEN THEY CAME OFF TARGET, that’s when the enemy fighters used to really get them. These guys would come off the target all shot up. Maybe they’d have a couple of engines knocked out. Maybe on fire. That’s when we would try to pick them up. They’d call us ‘Little Friend’ – ‘Little Friend, I’m going down.’ Or ‘Little Friend, I’m losing altitude. Can you see us? The pilot’s dead. Or the copilot’s injured. Stay with us. Little Friend, stay with us.’ That’s when those enemy fighters would come to shoot those poor guys down like sitting ducks.

“SOMETIMES THEY COULD GET THE PLANE together and get away from the target. Some might crash-land it if they could find a good place or some would bail out all together safely. In some instances, we were able to escort them far enough from the target so that they could make it on back. We would be running out of gas. We knew to the minute how long we had before we wouldn’t make it back ourselves. The stragglers would be very slow, traveling on two engines, but we stayed with them long enough to get them out of range of enemy fighters.” The Tuskegee squadrons, John says, never lost a bomber they were escorting home.

JOHN WAS EVENTUALLY RETURNED TO THE STATES so he could get advanced training to become a flight instructor at Tuskegee. He found that the racial climate back home had not changed. He recalls an incident in Memphis, where he had been sent by the military for a goiter operation. While convalescing, he and three other black officers had gone into town, and at a bus stop were accosted by a drunk. “He was a big redneck, a thug if there ever was one,” John says. “He stopped the four of us while we were waiting to transfer, right down there in the heart of town. We were in uniform. I was in full dress, with my decorations on, when this guy comes up and says: “I’ll be damned. Look at these niggers. And nigger officers.’ And then he says: “Two of them got wigs on. Damn, I’ve killed a lot of niggers, but I never killed any nigger officers. I’m gonna kill you niggers’” Luckily, the intervention of a passing white sailor and the arrival of a bus allowed the officers to escape.

ONCE HE WAS OUT OF THE MILITARY, John discovered that he was a pretty good salesman. He sold securities and managed a brokerage office before retiring as an office administrator from Cincinnati Gas & Electric. Herb became a salesman too, selling radio ads and then commercial real estate (He’s still doing a deal or two.) Today, John is a widower with children and grandchildren, as well as his step-children and step-grandchildren, plus the kids who attend his wife Carol’s in-home daycare center. When their paths crossed at the Tuskegee Airmen’s reception, the men were living 10 minutes apart.

ONE NIGHT, HERB RECALLS, “Johnny and I were having dinner, and he said, ‘You know, I grew up in Avondale.’ And that’s when I said, ‘So did I.’ And I remember what he said: ‘There were only five black families in Avondale, and I went to a school on Clinton Springs Avenue. It was an old mansion.’ And I said, ‘I went to that school. I lived on Warwick right where it came into Clinton Springs, and I would just walk up Warwick and right into school.’ Well then he said, ‘I don’t remember you.’ And I said, ‘I don’t remember you.’”

THAT WASN'T SURPRISING. When it came to racial matters, Cincinnati had Southern ways. During World War II, Cincinnati’s railroad station had the distinction of being the southbound point where passenger segregation began. Most of Cincinnati’s hotels, restaurants, and even hamburger stands were for whites only.

STILL AFTER HERB LEARNED that he and John had gone to the same school, he wondered if they had ever intersected. When he got home he went through his photo albums, of course he still had his second grade picture.

THE PHOTOGRAPH shows 40 kids in the class; 38 are white and two – a boy and a girl – are black. John recalls what happened next: “Herb sent [the picture] to me with a little note that said, ‘John, this thing is getting crazier and crazier by the minute. If that little black guy in this picture is you, well, that kid behind him who is almost touching him is me.’” It was true.

TODAY, JOHN AND HERB take out the picture to show a visitor. “So that’s me right there, and that’s Herb right there,” John says, tapping the white boy with the home-barbered bangs standing right behind him. Their teacher is in the back row. The two agree that Miss Pitchel was a tough cookie.

“AND SEE THAT BLACK GIRL THERE?" SAYS HERB. “I remember her name was Mary Louise Hillman, because my mother’s name was Mary Louise Heilbrun.”

“HERB, DO YOU KNOW SHE'S STILL LIVING RIGHT DOWN THE STREET from the school on Clinton Springs?” says John. “She’s not in the same house she was living in but she’s in the same neighborhood.”

“NOW ISN'T THAT SOMETHING?” says Herb, admiring the photo again. “This was 1928. That’s a few weeks ago.”

FOR THE LAST 25 YEARS, John has been campaigning to tell people about the role of the Tuskegee airmen in World War II and in the country’s racial history. Time is the enemy now for the Tuskegees. These are their last years to speak for themselves, putting on record not just their valor at war but the ugliness they confronted at home.

AFTER THE TWO REUNITED, John enlisted Herb in his campaign. Together, they speak at schools, clubs, and to any other group that will listen. The Kroger Company in Cincinnati had them address a corporate banquet.

TODAY, THEY ARE SCHEDULED TO SPEAK at the suburban Cincinnati campus of Raymond Walters College. Herb is waiting in the driveway when John drives up. John climbs out to contemplate Herb’s nearly vertical backyard that drops into a ravine. “I mowed that once a week for 30 years,” says Herb. “Then I hired this kid to do it for me. I got smart.”

“YOU GOT OLD,” says John.

THE TWO LOAD THE CAR with their Tuskegee Airmen displays and take off. John drives like a pilot, checking the instruments, scanning the horizon, and carefully watching his tail. THEIR COLLEGE AUDIENCE TODAY turns out to be senior citizens enrolled in an “Institute for Learning in Retirement” course on World War II. At first it seems John and Herb will be preaching to the choir, until they observe that many taking their seats in the lecture hall see to be only in their early 70s – too young to have gone to their war. Which is fine with John and Herb. Fresh ears are always in short supply.

JOINING JOHN AND HERB TODAY IS LESLIE EDWARDS, a Tuskegee ground crew chief who witnessed the nearly forgotten 1945 “Freeman Field Mutiny.” On a small training field near Seymour, Indiana, 162 black officers were court-martialed after refusing the base commander’s order to sign a pledge that they would stay away from the whites-only officers’ club. (The NAACP sent Thurgood Marshall to their defense, and though a handful of officers were convicted, General George Marshall eventually overturned the convictions.)

JOHN BEGINS BY SHOWING A VIDEO – a segment from a TV documentary on the Tuskegees. He talks about his training, about shipping out, and about getting jumped over Linz, Austria, by 40 German Bf 109s. Two of his wingmates were shot down at once, his flight leader was driven off, and, surrounded by enemy aircraft, he discovered that his machine guns had frozen at the high altitude and were unable to fire. He tells the audience that he owed his escape to a mixture or aerial acrobatics and applied religion.

WHEN IT'S HERB'S TURN, he tells the audience about the bomber war. He tells them about the wooden boards in the briefing room where each crew member’s last name was posted on a metal strip; one morning Herb watched the operations officer take down a stack of strips and toss them in the trash. They were shot down, the officer explained. They’re not coming back. Herb reaches into his pocket and with a grin holds up a battered metal strip with “Heilbrun” written in white. The audience claps.

HE TALKS ABOUT HIS HOMECOMING IN 1945, about meeting John all those years later, and about piecing together their past. Herb puts up a projection slide of the photograph of Miss Pitchel’s class. The picture never misses.

GETTING TO KNOW JOHN and hearing about the Tuskegees’ war opened his eyes, he says. “He gave me a real education. I’m an honorary member of the Tuskegee Airmen, and I consider it a great honor.

“IN ALL THOSE MISSIONS, I was never under fighter attack,” he says. “If it weren’t for men like John Leahr, I wouldn’t be here. So that’s one reason I like John Leahr. Actually that’s the main reason I like John Leahr.” They hug. The audience laughs.

ONE ARM AROUND JOHN, Herb says that the two have one request. “Don’t forget us,” he says.

Reprinted from Air and Space/Smithsonian,Vol. 16, No. 3, August/September 2001, pp. 26-29. Copyright  2001 by John Fleischman. Reproduced with the kind permission of the author.




Text taken from Art's Diary Entries and published in His Book

Shadow Casters Published Jan 2000

Shadow Casters Reunited is in the works and should be out soon.


January 31st, 1944

  We flew our B-17 to our new base at Lucera Italy north of Foggia and was assigned to the 32nd Bomb Squadron of the 301st Bomb Group. This was the heart of wheat country and all the time I was there I only saw one thrashing machine for wheat.  The whole harvest was done by hand, mostly by women using hand scythes, shovels and horses.  The men passed their time by sitting on the street corners downtown, drinking wine.

  Most of the store’s windows in Foggia were broken and looted.  Sewer and water systems were almost nil.


February 1st to the 13th, 1944
I worked details of all kinds.  We set up our tent on an Italian farm.  We had made an overnight raid on the farmer’s big, beautiful haystack, stuffing the hay into our mattress covers for a more comfortable sleep.  The next morning the farmer came to complain about his vanished haystack.  We sent him on his way with no compensation.

At this time I received my first letter from my wife since I had left the states.  Mail for us was not up to par yet but the longer we waited the better the mail became.  I spilled hot water and scalded my foot.  This injury made it a little tough to walk for a while.

I checked the bulletin board every day to see if my name was on the Battle Order for my first Mission .  I was getting anxious to get started.  The waiting was very tough.

The weather is cold at night, but not bad in daylight.  We were fortunate to have a nice, dry bed.  The poor fellows on the ground up on the front lines sure didn’t.  The food was fair.  A lot of things like eggs, milk and potatoes were powdered, but we had three meals a day, along with salt tablets and the ever present Malaria pills, bad coffee and bad water.

In regard to heating our tents, we had on our field an 80,000 gasoline storage tank which should have 100 octane gasoline for the planes. Somehow the octane was not up to par, so we were told we could use this gas for heating. We were getting gas from this big tank outlet pipe of about three inches in diameter, trying to fill a five gallon Jerry gas can.  A lot of waste but it sure helped to keep us warm.


February 14th, 1944

My first combat mission. The moment of truth had finally arrived.  I was scared but eager to get airborne, not knowing what to expect, hoping for the best for all of our crew.  We had a good breakfast.  Always on mission days we received a good breakfast.  Then a cold ride on a truck out to the aircraft.  Waiting for us, and loaded with bombs were the beautiful B17’s.

Then the quite was shattered with the roar of the four engine planes starting their engines.  I have my heated suit on, Mae West jacket, throat mike, oxygen mask at hand.  My parachute, chest type, hanging on a hook near by.  We taxi forward onto the runway waiting for our turn to take off.  Brakes on, engines and superchargers at full power.  Then, brakes’ release and we start rolling.  This is the real thing!  Practice time was over.  It takes the full runway, with a full load of 1000 pound bombs, 2800 gallons of gas, crew and ammunition.

Finally, we are airborne and begin the formation pattern with the other aircraft.  The formation separated just enough to for all  gunners to test fire our machine guns.  We will go on oxygen at 10,000 feet.  As we enter enemy skies, we watch for German airplanes.  Our primary target is Verona , Italy   which was clouded over forcing us to go on to the secondary target of Brescia , Italy .

We hit the railroad yards here we ran into fairly  heavy flak and ran into 28 enemy ME109’ fighters .  I got away a few shots at them, then our P47 escort took over for us.  My journal entry for this flight reads,  “I was scared as hell.”  But it was a good mission.

We had a number of flak holes in our aircraft.  One hole in the wing was big enough to stick an arm in.  It was very cold at 50 degrees below zero.

 On the way home I saw Mount Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri.  I was happy to get home and through this first mission safely.

 From 1944 one of the major causes of B17 casualties was anti- aircraft fire from the ground.  The German word for this was (Fleigerabwehrkannon.)  This was shortened to the word, “flak” which was picked up by the allies and a new word entered the language.



July 26th, 1944

These will be my last missions.  Number 49 and 50. I prayed for it to get all of us through this one safe and sound.  But it was five hours and 30 minutes of Hell and Destruction. As it turned out, this mission is to the Airdrome in Weiner Neudorf , Austria .

 ……..It was almost the last time I would fly again.  Anywhere ........


United States Army Award Narrative

For Gallantry In Action and Heroism In Aerial Flight

In The Mediterranean Theater Of Operations.


For gallantry in action on July 26 1944 , while on a highly strategic bombing mission against the important enemy aircraft engine factory at Weiner Neudorf , Austria . About thirty (30) miles from the IP, 24,000 ft. altitude, and at 11:04 hours, this heroic crew was attacked by between fifty (50) and Seventy (70) enemy fighters of the Me-109 and the FW 190 types. The fighters were sighted and called out by the enlisted crew members, massing for attack at six o’clock and about two-thousand yard out. The initial attack consisted of three (3) waves of eighteen (18) fighters abreast, firing rockets at about one-thousand yards range, then continuing their attack with 20mm cannon and machine gun fire at extremely close range. The attack was so intense and violent that almost simultaneously the B-17 aircraft flying in the 22,23 and 31 positions were destroyed. The fighters rallied and continued to attack with added vigor and in the next six or seven minutes of intensified aerial combat eight (8) additional B-17 aircraft were shot down. Two of these were flying 12 and 13 positions, leaving only two (2) aircraft in the diamond squadron; the two remaining aircraft flying 21 and 11 positions. So pressing was the enemy attack that enemy fighters were observed firing at this crew’s aircraft from ranges as close as fifty (50) feet. Their aircraft received in these attacks approximately six hundred (600) direct hits from enemy 20mm cannon and machine gun fire. This concentrated enemy fire destroyed one-half of the rudder, the left elevator and elevator trim tab, jamming these controls in position. Many hits were sustained in the fuselage and wings, severly damaging both wing spars, puncturing both inboard propellers and destroying and setting fire to all radio equipment and the oxygen system from the radio room to the tail. The tail guns were destroyed and the tail gunner received very serious injury. During this action eight (8) enemy fighters were destroyed by the gunners, two of which were destroyed by the tail gunner before his injury. The situation was so critical it was impossible for the gunners to maintain an account on probables and damaged enemy aircraft, recognizing only those seen to explode from their fire. In addition to successfully warding off the persistant attacks from fighters, the gunners also managed to extinguish the three different fires that had started during this engagement. After the first attack, the pilot and co-pilot found that their ship could only be controled by the combined efforts of the two of them. The formation entered heavy clouds and their ship could no longer keep in contact with what was left of the group. Shortly after this the ship emerged from the clouds and salvoed its bombs on the town of Murzsteg , Austria . Shortly after, their ship was again attacked by enemy fighters. Between fifteen (15) and twenty (20) enemy aircraft participated in this assualt which bore the same furiosity as the first attacks. Though alone and against such tremendous odds, this valiant crew fought off attack after attack, destroying two (2) more enemy fighters in the conflict. Disregarding the fact that his turret was hit by 20mm cannon, on fire and without any oxygen, The ball-turret operator continued to suppress fighter attacks. Finally, from lack of oxygen, he passed out while firing at a FW-190 that was making a vicious pass on his ship. The left waist gunner pulled him from the turret, extinguishing the fire and reviving the strickened gunner with oxygen from the one remaining walk-around bottle. After being revived, the ball-turret gunner insisted on returning to his position where he remained until his aircraft was in safe territory. With five (5) of the ship’s guns inoperative, a running battle insued until the pilot manuvered the crippled aircraft into some clouds and lost the remaining enemy fighters. Even though many different headings were used, the air speed ranged from 150 to 240. The master compass was shot out and the ground could not be seen because of the weather. The excellent pilotage of the navigator and bombardier kept the aircraft out of flak and fighter areas on the rest of the return trip until the crippled ship was safely home. The return trip was accomplished in about two (2) hours. Five (5) of the enlisted crew-members were without oxygen the whole time at least for a period of fourty-five (45) minutes above 20,000 feet altitude. Through the most ardous eforts of the pilot and co-pilot the badly damaged ship was landed at home base without further injury to plane or crew.  For two (2) of the crew members, this was their fiftieth mission six others being in their late forties; one having 33 and another having 20.



John W. Kelly, First Lieutenant, 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group.  Residence at time of appointment: Bothel , Washington State.        

John H. Kletke, JR Second Lieutenant, 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group.  Residence at time of appointment, Covington , Kentucky .

Richard J. Larkin, Second Lieutenant, 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group.  Residence at time of appointment, Manchester , New Hampshire .

Robert S. McArthur, Second Lieutenant 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group.  Residence at time of appointment, Vidalia , Georgia .

Elliot L. Bryan, Technical Sergeant, 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group.  Residence at time of enlistment, Kalamazoo , Michigan .

Clarence L. Murphy, Technical Sergeant, 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group..  Residence at time of enlistment Masillon , Ohio .

Albert F. Bernard, Staff Sergeant, 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group.  Residence at time of enlistment, Alpena , Michigan .

K. J. McClure, Staff Sergeant, 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group.  Residence at time of enlistment, Independence , Kansas .

Eugene McKiney, Staff Sergeant, 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group.  Residence at time of enlistment, Cleveland , Ohio .

Arthur B. Unruh, Staff Sergeant, 32nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group.  Residence at time of enlistment, Hutchinson , Kansas .  


            (I would receive this award State-side at a later date with a letter from the President, Franklin D. Roosevelt.)

July 26th, 1944   (Continued)

On the ground back at Home Base, I stood on good, old terra firma.  Hardly believing what had just happened to us, I kissed the ground and kissed that bullet riddled old B17 airplane that brought us home.

The crew stood there knowing that there were only two planes that had made it back. I know we all are saying a little prayer for ourselves and for the crews that had not returned.

As I walk around the battered airplane, my knees begin to tremble and the fear that I didn’t have time for in the air takes hold of my mind and body.  Gradually, the shock receded to a bearable level.  I was alive!  I had made it. This was my last mission.  I don’t have to check the Battle Order anymore.

For this mission, our entire crew was awarded the Silver Star medal for Gallantry in Action.  I would also receive a written award for valor in action from the MAAF 15th Air Force.  It is signed by General Ira Eaker, Lieutenant General  US Army Commanding.  These awards will be given to me stateside, along with my five Air Medals.  One (1) for shooting down an ME 410 German fighter bomber.

As I stand here, so many things go through my mind.  I recall sorrow, excitement, thrills, joy, loneliness.  All the good, the bad that has happened to me and my pals.  All the sights I have seen, all the places I’ve been.  I have wondered so many times why others go down, and I don’t.  I feel very humble and thankful.  Now my thoughts and efforts focus on getting home to the U.S.A. .

Note: In regard to my 50th mission, this fact occurred to myself and the crew that near the end of the war conventional German fighters were having a hard time getting at the Bombers because of the Fighter escorts.  So the German High Command adopted a new tactic that the Japanese used, called ramming.  The very young and the very dedicated pilots were trained to fly such planes as the Messerschmitt 109 directly at and on into the Bomber formations, firing all the way in, hoping they could survive the defensive firepower of the Bomber guns.  Then they could ram the Bombers.

On my last mission there were German planes as close as fifty feet from our Bombers trying to ram us with their fighters. This is why we were able to knock so many of them out of the sky.  Some of these pilots looked like mere 16 or 17 year old kids.

Some of the B17’s shot down over Germany were taken in, repaired and rebuilt by the Germans.  They were used to teach German pilots to shadow the American B17 formations, and to radio the German fighter pilots the altitude and course of the Americans.  They were even used to shoot down straggling B17’s that had been hit and in trouble keeping up with the formation.

51st Mission

Much excitement and reminiscing as an Old Airman flies again

On The 2nd of July 2003 almost 60 years after my last combat mission I finally took a ride in the Commemorative Air Force's Sentimental Journey out of Flagstaf, Arizona at the Arlington Washington Air Show for my 51st and Final Mission. I thank Her Crew and Supporters for a memorable day for myself, my Wife and my friends. God Bless America and all of those men that didn't come home to grow up.

Robert Schwantes
1st Lt. Robert Schwantes combat story as told to his Grandson

I thought you might be interested in this segment of a High School assignment given to my grandson since it included a segment with the 301st bomb group, 32nd Bomb squadron. He was asked to consult with Grandpa on his life as a teenager. So we sat down and tried to establish it from the fragmented memory of his 85-year-old grandpa.


March 1943, I enlisted in U.S. Army Air Corp at age 17. At Traux Field Madison Wisconsin. Nine months later received the pilot wings and Commission as 2nd Lt. from the Air Corp, South East Training Command. 2 April 1944 294th AAF Base unit Salt Lake, Utah. Assigned crew number #4409 and the following personnel to my crew. John Anderson Co-Pilot, George Ancil Bombardier, Bruce Howard Navigator, Floyd Smith Top Turret, Earl Kasdorf, Radio Operator, Robert Shaughnessy, Ball Turret, Walter Merkel, Waist gunner, Leanord Schelot, Waist gunner and Joseph Kruczok, Tail gunner. July 1944 Transferred to Hunter Field, Savannah, Ga.


The final crew checks, physicals, operational equipment and clothing was issued and we passed the test. I was assigned 4-engine bomber SN.44-6342 (B-17-G). Hunter Field ground crew performed complete pre-flight and maintenance of the aircraft and fueled it for flight. I performed ground check and flight check with Hunter Field ground crew chief. We took special care of the assigned aircraft since we were under the opinion that this was our plane and we would fly it in combat. The Formal acceptance of Assigned aircraft number 44-6342 (B-17-G) at Hunter Field, GA. On July 1944 Received orders for assignment to join the 301st Bomb Group 32nd Bomb Squadron in North Africa. I joined Bruce Howard my navigator at Hunter Field, GA. operations and together we established a flight plan for the transatlantic crossing. Upon completion of the flight plan we assembled the crew and told them about the flight plan to North Africa. The look on their faces was one of, I hope to hell you guys know what you are doing.


First stop was Gander Newfoundland. Then fueled and flight checked the plane before proceeding, after weather delay in Gander on trans Atlantic crossing. Lots of joking about swim gear etc. during flight delay, but most of crew had serious concerns about the flight. This was a very intimidating undertaking for this nineteen-year-old 2nd Lt. A single plane crossing, lots of ocean, no navigational aids, and a night time take off for daylight arrival at the Azores. Landed in Azores @10:07AM, 3rd August. Approximately 9 hour flight over water to Air basein Azores for a refueling. An in rout sunrise with nothing but water all around was a rather intimidating experience. Upon landing in the Azores we gave our navigator an “A” for flight plan, and in-flight course corrections based on star checks and early morning drift readings from ocean waves below. 3rd to 8th Aug 1944. We flew from the Azores to Marrakech French Morocco, then to Tunis Tunisia and to Lucera just 9 miles north west of Foggia Italy. This was the operational base for the 32nd Squadron of the 301 Bomb Group.


At 32nd Squadron operations check-in the Operations Officer, Donald Ewing informed us that there would be no permanent plane assignments and we were expected to fly any bomber judged to be operationally ready for the assigned mission target. Our plane SN #44-6342 was taken over by Major Harding and Amazin Maizie nose art was attached. We were scheduled combat flight assignments regularly from 10 Aug 1944, one day after check in, through 20 January 1945 ending our combat tour with the completion of 50 combat missions in six major European air operations. These air operations were Rome Arno, Rhineland, North Apennines, Southern France, the Balkans, and the air war over Germany. The total combat flight hours logged was 236 hrs 20 min.


Upon combat tour completion our crew was intact except for our navigator Lt. Bruce Howard shot down flying as lead navigator with another crew and Lt. George Ancil relieved from active combat flight duty. Lt. Howard escaped capture and was later returned to the squadron. As I try to recall individual combat missions flown from notes I found in some old papers, they all seem now at the age of 85, as one big block of memories. The mission dates I was able to establish seem to be awful close together but I do recall flying combat missions almost daily. The mission dates recorded by Donald Ewing, operations officer in December of 1944 upon combat assignment completion were as follows. Aug. 13, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 26, 28. Sept. 1, 5,

10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 20, 21, Oct.10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 20, 23, 25. Nov. 4, 5, 7, 16, 18, 20, 22. Dec.11, 16. Most of these missions were flown with the originally assigned crew. On some missions members of other crews were used to fill out our crew. Some mission targets seem to stand out in my memory at this time

as difficult missions but I cannot seem to separate their associated actions. Those that stand out in my memory are highlighted below. I can’t recall any freebies or milk runs and I will attempt to note the most

memorable targets best as I can. 13 Aug 1944.


Our 1st combat mission, Target Savona, Italy. Our crew was assigned this mission two days after arrival, no ck- out or pre -combat flight prep. I did not know or speak with any of the flight crews assigned to this mission prior to the preflight briefing. The preflight operational briefing was brief with Target description rout to target IP, bomb run and exit rally point, every thing seemed overwhelming. This first mission was an eye opener to this young pilot, many aircraft fully bomb loaded, fully fueled, planes flying extremely close together during formation assembly above the air base. Planes seemed to be going over, under and sliding up to you from all directions before settling into a six-element formation and joining up with two other 6 aircraft elements for the groups entrail climb to our assigned altitude and flight to the assigned target.


To me this first flight assembly routine was a frightening experience. 18 Aug 1944 Target Ploesti Rumania Oil Refinery (Deep penetration rough target) Thoughts about the possibility of not reaching the age of 20 settled in. Next day or remainder of the week thinking replaced long-range planning. This third mission was a real wake up call to air combat and the effect of an unchanging bomb run into a heavily defended target. 20 August 1944 Target Oswiecim Refinery, Poland (Deep penetration double mission). I thought being a fighter pilot might have been a better assignment, as I became aware of our escort flying above the flack and their shorter mission flight times. The unvarying altitude and airspeed, straight and level flight from the IP to target were a problem and anxiety of mine. Bomber Aircraft during this phase were very easy targets. 10 September 1944 Lobau Refineries Vienna Austria (Deep penetration double mission). Vienna targets were always rough ones, remembered as heavily defended, lots of flack and opposition. 13 Sept 1944 Blechhammer, North Oil Refinery, Germany (Deep penetration double mission). 13 October 1944 Blechhammer, Germany (Deep penetration double mission).


14 Sept 1944 promoted to 1st Lt. 17 October 1944 Blechhammer, Germany (Deep penetration double mission). Mission duration 9 Hrs. This would be our third trip into this target. This mission was a repeat of the first two. The missions are long and fighter escort short duration. Flack and opposition big problem due to triple visit and the same scripted flight plan to and out of target area as the two previous missions. On one of these missions I recall the fighter escort was forced to drop its external tanks as German fighters in the northern Adriatic region engaged us. This shortened their escort time considerably. 20 October 1944 Brux Oil Refinery, Germany (Deep penetration double mission). Mission duration 9 Hrs. Back into the long deep penetration flack and opposition in and out of target area. We always seemed to hit target areas around noon and come in from the north and rallying out to the southeast. Target area scripts never seemed to change.


Altitudes over target 22,000, or 24 or 26,000 ft. Groups in trail. I always had a problem with this repeated scenario. 22 November Regensburg, Germany. Difficult target. There was one mission I recall where we took a bigger hit than usual but can’t remember which one. This may have been it. 18 November 1944 Florisdorf Refinery, Vienna Austria (Deep penetration double mission). The Vienna refineries were always heavily defended. To me Vienna will always be remembered as big trouble not great music. 16 December 1944 Brux, Czechoslovakia (Deep penetration double mission). Mission duration 9 Hrs. This was our last assigned combat mission. This was a mission filled with high anxiety and nervous apprehension. I recall the opposition flack was moderate to high, aircraft damage slight, trip home uneventful. Shouts of we did it at engines off. Everyone was in high emotional spirit and looking forward to going home, combat tour completed.


January 1945 I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Received the DFC from General Lawrence. Upon presentation he asked, how old are you? I do remember the expression on his face when I told him I was 19. 21 January 1945 – Crew # 4409 minus our navigator and bombardier received orders transferring us to Naples Italy unassigned, to await transport by troop ship back to USA. I had completed my combat tour with 50 combat missions and 263hrs, 20min of combat flight hrs. The Distinguished Flying Cross, Three Air Medals and the European theater ribbon with silver star for participating in combat missions of 5 major air campaigns. I do recognize some of the names on your web sight, Joe Brensinger and colorful crew who occupied the tents next to ours. He shipped out of Hunter Field GA. At the same time as our crew, July of 1944.


Lt. Ewing was the operational officer and Col Harding the C.O. I do remember but many others I do not recall. Since I am now 85 years most of my squadron associates are no longer available and I don’t recall any other names listed on the 32nd web sight. However, the information on your site was interesting. I wish I could be more definitive for this teen age period in my life with the 301st Bomb Group, 32nd Bomb Squadron. If there is anyone out there that can fill in the blanks I would appreciate their help. Robert O. Schwantes April 8, 2010.

Top Row left to Right: John Anderson Co-Pilot, Bruce Howard Navigator, George Ancil Bombardier, Robert Schwantes Pilot. 
Front Row: Joseph Kruczok Tail gunner, Floyd Smith Engineer Top Turret gunner, Robert Shaughnessy Ball Turret, Earl Kasdorf Radio Operator, Leanord Schelot Waist gunner and Walter Merkel Waist gunner.


Survivor Tells Harrowing Tale of B-17 “Laura” Crash

A month after Allied forces landed on the shores of France in 1944 and began their push towards Berlin, Germany, American Forces launched bombing raids on airplane factories in Wiener Neodorf, Austria.

During the course of these raids, some 425 bombers of the 15th Air Force were sent on missions. Two of those planes, AAF Serial No.42-3157 or "Laura" and AAF 4232107 crashed in the eastern region of Styria near St. Jakob im Walde, Austria on July 26, 1944.

Bill Brainard, a radio operator on Laura, now of West Palm Beach Florida, recalls his memories of that day. The plane carried a crew of a 10, five of whom would perish, including the pilot Captain Leo J. MacDonald of Elgin. Brainard's harrowing tale reminds us of the sacrifices made by many of our veterans.

"As a member of the 15th USAF, the 301st Bomb Group H, 32nd Bomb Squadron, I was assigned to be the radio operator on a make-up crew to take part in an air raid July 26, 1944 on an aircraft engine factory in Wiener Neudorf, Austria. We would be flying in a B-17F serial No. 42-3157 with the name of 'Laura.' She was then commonly referred to as simply No. 157 in many records, by its crew and also by the men in the air control towers. Our airfield and base of operation was located in the Italian town of Lucera, a neighbor of Foggia.

At the mission briefing, after breakfast at 4:30 a.m., we learned which plane we would be flying in and also that 1st Lt. Leo J. McDonald would be our pilot. Our co-pilot would be 2nd Lt. Kenneth B. Kai-Kee. Also on board were 2nd Lt. Thomas J. Steed as the Navigator, 2nd Lt. Richard C.Winsor as the Bombardier. The Engineer and top turret gunner would be T.Sgt. Johnny E. Allen.

These five crew members are all positioned to the rear of the bomb bay. The Radio Operator/gunner would be T. Sgt. William W. Brainard, the ball turret gunner would be S. Sgt. Edward W. Forys, and the waist gunner on the left side would be S.Sgt. Edward M. Shallcross and S.Sgt. Wallace A. Tate on the right side. Last, but not least, the tail gunner would be S.Sgt. William H. Jameson. These five crew members had stations aft of the bomb bay. Other info regarding the mission was also delivered.

After the briefing, Gl trucks transported the crews and their flight gear to their particular plane. In general, each plane was deemed ready to fly, but the crews were to inspect their station and report any problems they might find to the ground crew chiefs standing by each plane. Prior to boarding the aircraft there was usually time for the flight crew to gather under one of the wings to have a little chat session, ten minutes perhaps to get to know each other a little better. Lt. McDonald led things off by introducing himself and telling us a little about his experiences flying similar type bombers in the Aleutian Islands combating the Japanese. I don't think all of us even knew that we were fighting in that battle zone. We were highly interested to learn of his flying experience finishing a tour of 50 missions or so. It gave us more confidence in his ability to fly.

Then, Bill Jameson started telling us that this mission we were headed out on would be his 51st and he had volunteered to go on it because he could go home afterward.

By the way, it was Ed Forys's first mission. He added how lucky he had been so far. I recall that Lt. McDonald spoke up quickly to say facetiously, words to the effect that he would not like to hear him talk about how lucky he had been. He went on to say that one of his flying buddies in the Aleutians had mentioned how lucky he had been just prior to going on a mission and he never came back. That turned out to be a rather prophetic statement.

Soon thereafter we were in the air on our way to the target. Shortly after crossing the Austrian border at about 5 minutes to 11 a.m., I was scanning the skies off our left wing. Way out at 9 o'clock level coming out of the clouds I spotted con trails probably nine to 10 miles away. I notified the pilot right away over the interphone system which everyone would hear. He came back calmly, "I see them now; I hope they are our escort!" And, those were the last words that our makeup crew would hear from Leo.

I switched back to our base radio channel to pick up an 11 a.m. signal for my log but I was worried about that 'hope' word from Lt. McDonald so I switched back to the interphone just in time to hear the tail gunner yell, "They look like ME-109s; God (expletive) they are ME-109s!" And the machine guns started blurting their fury - both ours and the enemy's. I grabbed the radio gun and started firing at an echelon of six to eight German fighters that were sitting on our tail about 50 to 60 yards behind and above our turbulence. We could see the 109 guns six to eight mounted in the wings spitting bursts of fire with every tracer bullet they fired.

My gun only held about 75 to 100 rounds and they were getting low. It was also getting time to get the chute on. While reaching for my chute on the floor, the plane gave a quick lunge upward and the floor came up to meet my face. I was pinned to it for several seconds and when I could move again I glanced upward and noticed through the bomb bay door that the bomb bay was no longer there. Looking down I could see the front end of "Laura" headed earthward at a steep angle, engines still running it seemed. I looked to the rear and the tail too was missing and I could see none of the crew so I squatted on the door threshold, grabbed my knees and rolled out.

I delayed pulling the rip cord until I had gone way down stairs, perhaps to 1,000 feet. My chute opened gently and I was drifting in the direction I was facing. I happened to land on a farm's newly mowed field which was lucky for me because there were
many trees nearby. It was a perfect landing.

However for Lt. McDonald, Lt. Kai-Kee, Lt. Winsor, T. Sgt. Allen, and S. Sgt. Forys, Richard Winsor it was a horrible landing. They were all killed in action and we that lived often have to wonder, "Why them and not us?"          

Crew of B-17 F 42-3157 “Laura” (BS32)
Crash site: St. Jakob/W., Schaberreiter (Kropfhofer)

KILLED IN ACTION (26.7.1944) 
Leo J. McDonald, Pilot (IL, USA) ID 01683543  buried in St. Louis/USA
Kenneth B. Kai-Kee, Co-Pilot (CA, USA)  ID 0-756250 buried in St. Louis/USA
Edward W. Forys, Ball Turret Gunner (RI, USA) ID 11110502 T 43-44 buried in St. Avold/F
Richard C Winsor, Bombardier (FL, USA) ID 0-751954  
Johnny E. Allen, Engineer (FL, USA)  ID 14000100 buried in St. Louis/USA
Thomas J. Steed, Navigator (IL, USA) ID 0-712123 Waldbach 12:50
William W. Brainard, Radio Operator (FL, USA) ID 14107284   
Milton Edgar Shallcross, Waist Gunner (OH, USA) ID 15324659 Waldbach 12:50
Wallace A. Tate, Waist Gunner (OH, USA) ID 15332197 Waldbach 12:50
William H. Jameson, Tail Gunner (SC, USA) ID 14125486 Wenigzell 13:15
  …….buried in the cemetery of St. Jakolb im Walde, (exhumed after war)
  …….not identified at the time of burial in St. Jakob im Walde

LAURA” B-17 F 42-1357 MOMENTS AFTER EXPLODING –7/26/1944



By: Bill Brainard May 30, 2010

plaqueLast year 2009, May 30th, in the ancient rural town of Saint Jakob im Walde, Austria, there was a commemoration planned by the town folks and the area veteran organizations rejoicing in 64 years of peace since WW II. At the same time they would be honoring their Austrian war veterans, they also would pay respect to the veterans from each side of the war who had engaged in a horrible air battle above their town on the day of July 26, 1944. That day two American B-17 bombers crash landed in the farming fields nearby the town. Each of those planes had a ten man crew and I was a member of one of the crews. The memorial plaque to be dedicated in their honor lists the names of those fliers who were killed in action and those who survived the turmoil to live another day. And while the people would be in a joyous mood they would also happily celebrate their beloved town’s 800th Anniversary WOW! For the Town celebrations the known living American crew members or close relatives thereof, were cordially invited to the ceremonies by the Town’s people. Hence, the Brainard’s, Rainey & Bill, from Florida and thewreaths Spencer’s, Gail & Tom, from California, representing the 32nd Bomb Squadron, were proud to join the gathering. Gail is a second cousin of our copilot, 2nd Lt. Kenneth B. Kai-Kee. Apparently at 87 years of age, I was the only crew member from either plane that was well enough to make the trip. Two of my buddies and crewmates, Ed Shallcross and Bill Jameson, were alive but not well enough to go abroad. Ed passed on in September 8, 2009.

Another American and good friend of the four of us made the trip to Austria. His name is Lynn Keener, a Texan. Now retired he volunteers in honor of his Dad, part time helping with the upkeep of the 301st Bomb Group archival records for the four squadrons, 419th, 353rd, 352nd and 32nd. Lynn’s father was an armourer waist gunner flying with the 352nd squadron. Their crew arrived for combat duty in early February, 1945. He accumulated 21 missions prior to the war ending. There is a young Austrian, a native of St. Jakob, whose name is, Christian Arzberger, he was very instrumental in the planning stages of their excellent memorial. In his youth visiting some of the bomber crash sites with his father, he became interested in knowing more about the men flying in those big war planes? Eventually, when older he began his research of many of the downed bombers, mostly B-17s and B-24s from the 15th U.S. Army Air Force, recording the names of crew members and many burial sites across the Austrian lands of men killed in action and also the names of some who lived for another day. With this information he then set about contacting everyone he could reach in the States and elsewhere, such as crew members or close relatives of one, for further information. And he has not stopped yet. The two crews honored during the recent ceremonies were the McManaman Crew and the McDonald Crew, my mates, flying in B-17’s of the 32nd Squadron, 301st Bomb Group of the 15th USAAF. About two years ago Christian first contacted me and for well over a year by our hit and miss questioning via the computer E-mail system we discovered many things. Such as,Bill precisely the meadow where my chute and I landed, exactly where I
hid out that day until nightfall when I decided to move on but knew not where? We learned that it was Mr. Jakob Lang, a farmer and a shoe cobbler, who captured me the following morning about 6:00 AM as I was stepping out of the woods to get my first sip of water in 26 hours from a little field stream. He said, “Hallo,” and I said, “Hello,” He came closer to me when I told him I had, “Nix pistole”. Actually we had just a few steps to take to be at the front door of his farmhouse. There, he offered me a drink of fresh water plus a bowl of rye cereal in goats milk, a new type breakfast for me but I loved it. He had not wanted me to drink the polluted stream water, I gathered. His treatment of me was calm and firm but not antagonistic. Sitting in his kitchen, I noticed on top of the upper cabinet two beautiful porcelain containers, one labeled ZUCKAR the other KAFFEE. Gee, already I was able to read the language. Christain chased down the jars to the Lang’s grand daughter’s home, where she now has them displayed. He took pictures of the jars and sent them to me. Probably Mrs. Lang would have been impressed that I remembered them. zucker

After I had eaten we tried talking (?) and then we walked less than100 yards from his farmhouse to the main crash site of our plane, an older B-17F model, referred to by the control tower crew as #157 with the name “Laura”. I had flown in her on one previous flight, again in “coffin’s comer”, on the outside of the formation and to the rear. The reason, she dropped back a little in the formation when her bomb bay doors were open. On my first mission in “Laura” we did have better luck getting back to our Base. Coincidentally, Chris discovered that I had hidden out under a bush in front of a farmer’s fenced dairy cow pasture, about100 feet out from the farmhouse. Well, dammed if that farm and the milk cow, “Bossy”, weren’t the property of Christian’s grandfather’s brother, can you believe it? His name was Johann Arzberger!

Christian located and took pictures where the front end of our plane, which included the bomb bay section, came down to earth. When I last saw that site there was a large hole in the ground perhaps 8 feet deep and 25 feet across with pieces of the plane here and there around the embankment. Mr. Lang having seen the crash site the day before, asked me if the several visible greenish oxygen bottles were bombs? I said “no”. Then, he pointed to what was an end of one of the six, one thousand pound bombs, we were hauling. Since there was still some smoldering embers I said, “ ya ya boom-boom, lets move on. I had felt the explosion concussion wave of one of those thousand pounders cooked off by the heat of the fire, the previous morning. At that same time, I was shedding the heated suit lining. It got hot in a hurry, out in the sunshine. In less than three minutes I went from a temperature of 10 below 0 to 95 in the shade and altitude about 2,700 ft. I’ve leaned.

FYI: Our flight suit jacket and trousers each had removable electrical heat liners. Minus the liners the suits were designed to appear as every day wear. Mine lasted me the entire nine months. It was finally burned due to lice and nits infestation. Oh, man, was I ever glad to get rid of that bunch. Then we moved over to the fuselage section which had landed within our view. It had flattened out like a pancake from the impact forces, so flat that I was unable to see if any men might be inside. I could see one crew member’s head crushed into the frame of the left waist gun port but he was unidentifiable. In time I learned he had to have been, Ed Forys, our ball turret gunner. Later in prison camp, I learned the three other gunners from the rear of our plane were also in Stalag Luft IV. They told me that only the navigator, 2nd Lt. Thomas Steed made it out of the front end of the plane. Those crew members who were killed in action are, 2nd Lt. Leo McDonald, pilot, 2nd Lt. Kenneth B. Kai- Kee, copilot, 2nd Lt. Richard Winsor, bombardier and T-Sgt. Johnny Allen, engineer & top turret. For a time I thought I was the only one of our crew who made it out of the plane alive.

houseSgt. Ed Forys’ head set and ball turret hydraulic power lines were severed by the plane’s ripping explosion. He had to hand-crank himself to the interior exiting position of the fuselage. He did get out of the ball turret but too late to get his chute on and then jump clear of the plane. There is not room to wear a chute in the ball. He was on his first mission and he could have been wounded, as it happened to Bill Jameson in the tail section. Our bombardier was blown out of the nose as the plastic nose cone broke away due to the explosion. He was not wearing a chute. On the ground, Lt. Steed, after capture, was taken to where Winsor’s body came to rest to identify him. Lt. Steed fighting the wind pressure had pulled himself through that same opening in the nose. His chute was blossoming just moments before it got hung up in some tall tree tops, which probably saved his life. He was able to climb down to the ground. It was reported back at Base by the ball gunner, Albert Bernard, flying off our right wing with pilot, John Kelly’s crew, that our plane suddenly zoomed upward 50 feet then zoomed downward peeling to the left, then, momentarily leveled off at about 1000 yards below the formation, and then it blew apart. He saw only one chute open and that had to have been our tail gunner, Bill Jameson, who was dumped out of the tail section when it tore away. He has no recollection as to how his chute got opened. Bill is still among the living and with a piece of shrapnel still lodged in his neck. Three or four times a year we do a little chatting over the phone. Bill volunteered to fly that day because he wanted to get his 50 mission tour over and get back to the States, ending up with 51 missions. It was a double mission and turned out to be one more mission than he needed, wouldn’t you say. But think about it, he’d have missed out being a POW for the next nine months! If it weren’t for bad luck he’d have no luck at all, an old quote. Since the plastic nose cone blew out and the tail section blew away, as did the fuselage, it seems the explosion must have taken place in the bomb bay. Probably gas fumes ignited, because just outside the bomb bay wall, our right inboard engine had been reported on fire by Sgt. Bernard back at Base. Sgt. Ed Shellcross, the left waist gunner with his oxygen mask shot away and Sgt. Wally Tate, R. waist gunner, wounded, bailed out about two minutes prior to the explosion. Wally’s chute harness got hung up on the rear exit door, dangling half in and half out of the plane. Ed, next to jump, saw the problem and yanked the door jettison cable and out they went door and all. Later I’m sure Wally said, “Thank you, Ed”. At the crash site the tail section of our plane could also be seen in the distance, perhaps 100 yards away, but we did not go to it. Leaving the wreckage site we went through the woods, not too far, to the meadow where I had drifted to earth. Mr. Lang wanted my chute. I had hidden it in a rock out cropping. He took it away from a young lady who had just found it. Unhappily her plans for a new silk dress were spoiled, but he told her it had to be turned in to the authorities.

The McManaman crew’s crash landing came first and within two city block of where the McDonald crew ended up, but trees blocked any view of each other. Just moments before our plane pulled up and out of the formation Lt. McManaman’s plane peeled left coming dangerously close over the top of our plane as I was firing away at the ME-109s on our tail. A little alarmed I wondered, where the hell are they going? Their plane, a B-17G with chin turret, appeared under control then but probably it was not. Now off on their own they were no doubt jumped by the German fighter planes. Because of my delayed jump I went down stairs quickly and saw no planes, friend or foe, nor did I see any other parachutes as I was coming down. I did see several crash site fires, our planes and theirs, sprinkled around on the horizon but once on the ground I had no idea of their directions from me. It was a surprise to me that our plane’s nose section was so nearby where I landed. The plane of course was on the ground several seconds before me. It must have been behind me descending however, the fuselage section I had just tumbled out of did pass me just missed my chute by 20 feet or so. Once again luck was on my side.

packAfter we put the chute in his Austrain backpack, on my back, it was on to the Lang farm for a short while before heading into the town of Ratten’s police station and jail for lunch and a one night stay. My next stop by rail was to Graz, Austria for a day or two in the guardhouse of a GAF Primary Training Base. From there by rail again, about ten POWs with guards were off to an ancient prison in Budapest, Hungary. We were placed in a large cell holding 25 enlisted men awaiting interrogation. After the individual sessions were finished the group then traveled 7 days in a boxcar, our destination was Stalag Luft IV in northem Poland. The food ration for each man was one small loaf of rye bread plus what the guards could drum up at any station where we stopped. At Luft IV, for the next six months we lived and slept in barracks until the Russians broke out of Warsaw causing our camp’s evacuation, Feb. 6, 1945, Then, it was three more cold months on the road walking toward the west for about 500 miles, sleeping in farm barns and winding up my POW days until the war was over!

The experience was something I lived through but I would not bother doing again. I had one shower in the nine months. That was in the Budapest prison just a few days after being captured. If I had known what had happened to so many of our Jewish friends in other places when offered a hot shower I would have bowed out of that one. While in the camp barracks, breakfast was a tall pitcher of ersatz barley coffee for each of the ten rooms, anything else eaten was from your Red Cross Parcel which was supposed to be issued once a week. That almost never happened. It was more like 1/4 parcel per week. Lunch every day was a watery broth? Supper was a bowl of mashed potatoes, routinely, but never any meat. No toilet facilities or running water placed in the barracks, you waited until morning or used one or the other of two tall pails furnished for the purposes. We drew for ‘low card’ every morning for the “full to the brim” pails, emptying duty. The duce of clubs was the ultimate loser. There was one twenty-hole privy for each five barracks, and two per compound. About 200 POWs were housed in each barracks. Luft IV had 4 individually fenced and abutting compounds, holding 10,000 GI POWs all flying enlisted men. Half of one compound were British fliers. No inter compound visiting was allowed except for a few G.I camp leaders entered with the latest news from British BBC, all on the QT. “Shhhh, here comes a guard.

stories(Note: In my book, “My Flight Time Stories”, on page 39A and page 41 are sketches of our POW camp) It was one of the coldest winters on record for that neck of the woods of northern Poland and Germany, snow abounded as far as the eye could see. While hiking along on one occasion, just prior to crossing the Oder River bridges, we 2500 POWs stopped in the middle of nowhere and were told to bunk down on the road side snow banks. I recall that night was February 14th, 1945, St. Valentine’s Day and thinking, as I tried to get to sleep, it would be nicer snuggling with your sweetheart than this pile of stupid snow. It was good to have a pleasant thought now and then. However, woe, to the guy whose bowels would go astray along the way. It happened so often, one walking by hardly noticed poor devils squatting along the roadside, cold, aching and probably messing up their only breeches with no place to clean up, etc. The poor diet brought these problems on big time.

On the march you were on your own for breakfast and lunch. In the evening the big farms had to fill the bowls of as many as 2500 POWs with a serving of mashed potatoes for supper. Once we were locked up, we took from the barn bins, anything that seemed edible. On the road we rested ten minutes out of the hour and knocked off an hour for lunch. We averaged about 14 kilometers each day we pounded the cobble stones roads. You had to be good buddies with someone, like Orville Betschart and I were, to watch over your things. When your buddy had duties to take care of, yeah you would not think so, but things like your meager horde of food could disappear if left unwatched. During the lunch hour he and I would quickly de-snow and dig a small hole in the sand, each of us then buried a potato with only a portion of it exposed. With scrounged kindling, we would build a small fire on top of the potatoes lasting about 20 minutes, then scrape the fire away, grab the hot potatoes and eat that portion which was well cooked. Then brush off the dirt and put the raw part back in your nap sack for the next day’s lunch. Being a Califomia farm boy, Orville, knew some survival techniques which helped us get by. He and I first met on our boxcar trip to Stalag Luft IV. (Note) Attempting to tell the stories of the past along with the recent stories and jumping back and forth in time every other paragraph seems to be a problem for me. So I apologize for the time table disconnects that pop up.

On the day of July 26, 1944 about five of 11 o’clock AM, 26 American B-17 bombers of the 301st Bomb Group, two planes in trouble had returned to Base early, were flying a course to bomb an aircraft engine factory in Wiener Neudorf, Austria. I was a radio operator and gunner on one of the bombers. I had noticed a lot of con trails about10 miles out off our left wing at 9 o’clock level and so notified our pilot, he said, “I see them now, keep your eyes on them, I hope they’re our escort”. Soon in the cloudy skies over St. Jakob all hell broke loose. Our fighter escort missed the rendezvous point, which the German Air Force was probably well aware. In less than 4 minutes from the time I fired my first round both the plane and I were on the ground so, were 4 other planes from our squadron of seven planes. One plane lasted another 10 minutes before crashing and only two planes made it back to Base in Italy.

groupFor some unknown reason our 301st Bomb Group’s lead pilot missed getting the Base, “RECALL” message that the raid had been cancelled due to bad weather. Instead of the planned 425 bombers and 366 fighter escorts it was just the 26 of us. We were out numbered about 6 to 1, and that sure makes a difference. The all Negro fighter squadron of the 15th AAF was alerted to come to our aid but they got there way too late. Most of our damages came about in the first five minutes of battle. However one of their P-38 fighter planes that did get in at the tail end of the battle went down. The pilot became a POW like many of us that day. More than 60 years went by before I ever heard that the entire mission had been called off. And so it was the outcome of these circumstances for two of those flight crews that fateful day which brought about their recognition 65 years later by the Town’s people. Some of them still remember that air battle as it was going on over their heads.

The Brainards and the Spencers arrived in, St Jakob im Walde, Friday mid morning May 29th and drove to the lodge, Gasthof Lueger Hotel. Lynn Keener, and his Austrian friend Richard Pieber from Graz were there to meet and greet us. Christian and Raphael, his nephew, age 10 joined us awhile later in the lobby. Two reporters from the Federal Austrian Television station Mr. Brossmann the interviewer and Mr. Gert Baldauf, the cameraman, joined us at the Hotel. After lunch we visited a nearby church for an hour or more. Christian had his museum of plane parts and pieces taken from the crash sites, lots of posters, maps and related pictures taken in the vicinities. Also on display were many of his E-mail correspondence letters of interest regarding his research. Christian gave me a framed piece of aluminum found at “Laura’s” crash site, which I now show off in my home.

partsThen back at the Hotel we prepared for our afternoon field trip. We first drove to the meadow where I had entered their territory via the parachute. Surprisingly after 65 years to me things looked pretty much as they did way back when. The old Arzberger farm and the neighboring farm are there as they were then. Then, I only saw the one farm house since I would not stand up to look over the fence. Their two meadows are now separated by an electrical wire cattle fence in lieu of the beautiful split logfence I recall. Where we stopped to view the two farm meadows at this time was the opposite end, perhaps 500 yards, from my original landing spot The pine trees or woods serve a purpose some of the trees are harvested when needed to provide heat in the winter. The woods always have had a replanted pattern, then and now. The access dome to the only underground shelter for miles, they have said, was built jointly by the neighbors back then and is gone now. I saw people leaving the shelter access dome after the air raid alert was over. They excitedly entered their nearby meeting room, talking loudly in German! It was hearing the strange language, when it hit me, I was a long way from home and wondering what was to happen next? Back undercover of my bush I dozed about 2 hours? Only Bossy the cow saw the stranger hanging out in the brush.

Fast forward, next we drove over to the Lang farm area not too far away. It is now owned and rented out by another family whose farm land abuts the same property. The owner came out to greet us but she felt it might be an imposition on the people renting Lang’s farm for us to wander through the house. So she invited us in to her house for a chat and a glass of beer. Her sons joined the session. That was an interesting time in as much as she had memories too of the day the two planes crashed on the nearby farms. They knew some English as do most Europeans. Tom Spencer knew some German I learned. It was now getting on toward late afternoon and we had yet to visit the crash site of “Laura” so we thanked the lovely lady for her hospitality and drove on to the place where our plane came down to earth less than a half mile. It’s in the hills of the Alps so the route was anything but a straight line. We stopped along the edge of a wooded area on a slight slope and Christian said this is it. field

Everyone in the three cars got out and walked to the spot. The deep hole has long since been filled. Pine saplings planted back then are now 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Christian told us that strangely just where the front end of our plane landed, burned more than half the gasoline left on board, and then at least one 1000# bomb cooked off, maybe two, there has never been any green underbrush growth beneath the trees like there is in the contingent wooded areas. Perhaps the soil being super heated by the fire and then the bomb bursting that ensued ruined the nutrients forever, just guessing? Tom and Gail dug around the site and found a few pieces of aluminum from our plane which they can treasure the rest of their lives. Being able to find those pieces seemed so unlikely after all those years, it was really amazing. Evening dinner at the Hotel catered to the American group and Christian’s family, wife Monica, son Alexander and daughter Anna. After eating we chatted for awhile with our new friends. Then it was off to bed.

The TV reporters took lots of film as we made our scheduled visits. They interviewed the five Americans, Lynn, Gail, Tom, Rainey and me Saturday morning to be broadcast to the Austrian people at a later time. We did the interviews and then had lunch at the hotel with the entire group at the table. The afternoon field trip was to be a drive to the village of Ratten, Austria. There we would try to locate the old police station where Mr. Lang and I with the chute had years ago walked one hour from his farmhouse. Since my last visit the three story police station has been converted into a beautiful six unit apartment complex.

Lynn and his Austrian friend, Richard Pieber, from Graz in one car, the TV reporters Wolfgang and Gert in their car and Tom, Gail, Rainey and I were in our rental car making up our group excursion. In Ratten we circled the cars in a parking lot to figure out what our course should be to find the jail. It is a small town so it had to be quite near. In the no. 3 car of our parade we followed the other two and off we went down the main street. Within about six blocks from our circling spot, looking out the rear door window on the right side we passed a building and I said to Rainey, “that’s it!” We caught up with the other two cars turned them around and scooted back to the building. Sure enough I was right. We stopped and after some persuasion that we meant no harm as we were standing out in the rain and talking to one of the top floor tenants. He directed us around to the back door to let us in. The land sloped front to back and at the basement level the back door was at ground level. We, including the reporter and cameraman, all entered the back door and there, smaller than I remebandmbered, was the detention cell where I once slept the night away that July 27, 1944. I mentioned that the sloped built-in-bed I had slept on was missing. Our interpreter replied indicating they had only removed that wood bunk bed about two years ago. Today the cell is their firewood storage area. To me it was rather an eerie sensation being in the cell once again but it was reassuring that I could leave when the visiting was over. Our mission was accomplished. It was then time to drive back to the Hotel and ready ourselves for the main evening ceremonies, the big parade, the plaque dedication and the huge banquet. By the way we discovered interestingly that Gert our TV photographer had spent a part of his life in the Chicago, Illinois, area. flags

The evenings were cool so we allowed time to get back from Ratten to dress for the weather. The program called for a parade with eight marching military bands representing various chapters of the WW11 Austrian Veteran Associations of the surrounding area. Wives of the band members and other marching Vets paraded too with the bands leading the way. There was also a contingent of younger men and women, probably the sons and daughters of the WWII Vets, who also took pride in being in the parade. Each group had their flag bearers carrying the Austrian national flag and their organization’s flag, it did appear. The flag poles appeared to be heavy, well varnished and of a similar size perhaps 2” in diameter. Perhaps, the type pole has some historic significance. Anyway you could see the pride on their faces as they held their large flags high never letting them touch the ground. It seemed each chapter had their flag honor guard with rifles firing straight up into the air at the proper moment. The estimate was that over 700 folks would take part in the marching. The streets were also lined with spectators, I have no idea as to how many there were but you could tell they were enjoying themselves.

The St. Jakob im Walde’s Veterans Memorial Park, which I might add was very beautifully designed and well kept, was along the parade route. It was in this Park where the large memorial stone and plaque commemorating each of the 10 crew members from each of the American B-17 planes. They had crash landed nearby the town after an air battle that took place high in the sky over their town that day of July 26, 1944. Those that perished that day are so noted on the plaque with a small cross next to their name.

helmetsSince I was the only living crew member able to be present on the dedication day I had the honor of removing the veiled dignity clothe from the monument. At that moment of unveiling there was a rifle salute by the Honor Guard. It was an emotional time for all those present and I felt especially honored. Christian Arzberger and I spoke to the gathered people about the historical background of the dedication ceremony and my small part in it. Following the parade and ceremonies everyone was invited to the dinner banquet. The building was huge and nearby. The main course of the meal was a delicious steak. One of the bands played on into the night. There were speeches, food, singing, beer and laughter. Too soon the party ended, all enjoyed the fun.

On behalf of the five Americans, Lynn, Gail, Tom, Rainey and Bill, I would like to thank the Austrian people of St. Jakob im Walde, their Veteran organizations, the TV reporters and especially, Christian Arzberger, for having us, Over There!

We Americans were all proud and honored to meet our American Embassy envoy, Lt. Colonel Rich Mc Cleary, for taking the time to come down from Vienna to greet us and attend the St. Jakob dedication ceremonies which meant so much to us.

Sunday morning, it was sad to say goodbye to Austria and her people, but we were scheduled that day to fly back to the USA, St. Jakob, only 234 years old! Happy Fourth of July! Thanks again! We love you!

Bill Brainard’s email is:
• THE END - 


Rommel’s Defeat in North Africa

A see-saw series of battles for control of Libya and parts of Egypt  reached a climax in the Second Battle of El Alamein when British Commonwealth forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery delivered a decisive defeat to the Axis forces and pushed them back to Tunisia. After the late 1942 Allied Operation Torch landings in North-West Africa, and subsequent battles against Vichy France forces (who then changed sides). Hitler finally decided to bring Rommel home to Germany due to his illness after the Germans loss at El Alamein with the British.     

On May 13 1943, German and Italian troops surrendered in North Africa. In the last week of April, the British swept through all enemy resistance as the US Forces maneuvered through the hills, while being inflected with heavy casualties, but emerged victorious. Since the Supplies had run out the Axis troops were starving and out of ammunition, the Allies Forces attacked the Axis convoys to prevent any reinforcements and supplies reaching them. In the beginning of early May they unleashed a Flurry of artillery shells before moving in the Soldier and armor Into Axis held positions.

General Omar Bradley in the end the US lost 47 tanks. When they broke through, it was like a dame breach with a great force that they flooded into Tunis the capital city, completely surprising Jerry who put up a resistance until they literally ran out of fuel and ammunition, as the Germans stood defenseless. On the 12th and 13th of May after 3 long exhaustive years of fighting, the Afrika Axis Korps surrendered. In Tunisia alone Jerry lost 40,000 men and gave up 275,000 POW's, Italians included. The British had 35,000 casualties, the French 16,000 and the US Forces 14,000.

The 301st Bomb Group along with the 32nd Bomb Squadron dropped the below safe passes by the millions. They were successful because the Italians (see below) saw that the defeat was real and gave up by the hundreds of thousands.

Italian paper  Italian paper 2  



Commanding Officer Donald W. Ewing and Crew Parachute to safety from De De , Plane Number 29-7705


By Waist Gunner S/Sgt. Edward Oulette from Lynn, Maine

EwingThe mission to Blechammer, Germany on December 26, 1944, started out to be a routine flight and no one seemed to expect more than the usual amount of excitement. About the only thing of any concern to happen before we reached the target area, was a little display of independence by the automatic pilot. Our pilot, C.O. Major Ewing, set it up to his satisfaction only to have it pull a little maneuver of its own but outside of confusing the hell out of the formation of ships that were following us and scaring hell out of us, no harm was done.

We flew in 29-7705 De De, a mickey ship, comely know as 705 and the favorite of Colonel Harding, our ex C.O. of the 32nd Bomb Squadron. The colonel demanded that all his crew always wear a pink elephant emblem with an upturned trunk and that's what was painted on the side of the plane. It must have been of some value once the Colonel and his crew flew their 50 and finished uneventfully. Speaking of elephants, they say an elephant never forgets, and there were ten guys in 705 who'll never forget the flak that greeted us at the target.

We hit the initial point right on the button only to have to make a 360 to keep from rubbing noses with another group chiseling in on our right. "Frenchy" Oulette the Group Waist Gunner was throwing out chaff like a demon all this time, and he swears to this day that the reason the flak was so bad over the target was because we ran out of chaff before bombs away. Could be but for some reason they were hitting us with everything they had. Half way down the run the bombardier who claimed to be pretty busy all this time took time out to take note of the evidence of the gunners accuracy "this damn nose is full of holes!" He sounded like he thought he was the only guy getting shot at but there wasn't one man in the crew who couldn't count many a close hit. In fact the ship was so full of holes that if it had started raining all of us would have drowned to death. About this time when the flak really started hitting close and the ship was bouncing like a toy balloon, the bombardier asked the pilot to level the ship. Major Ewing rang out with "This so and so is as level as it's ever going to be!" Now the bombardier didn't like to doubt his word, but the ship was in about a 45 degree bank at this time and looking out the side window you could see the ground below, but the pilot said she was level-so level she was. The target was smoked over and we couldn't see it.

DEDEWe wished and hoped the flak gunners were having the same trouble seeing us that we were having seeing the refinery but they weren't and every shell had out altitude speed, also our names, ranks, serial numbers, date of birth and shoe size. Bombs finally went away, that is all but one contrary so and so which insisted on hanging up while the bombs above it bounced off to the tune of "The Anvil Chorus." We rallied to the right, the formation rallied to the right, the flak rallied to the right, everything rallied to the right! By this time, one engine feathered, one engine wouldn't work, the bombsight was gone, flux gate compass was off, the A.F.C.E. was only half operative and the ship looked like a flying hunk of Swiss cheese…everything was swell. As someone pointed out about the only thing in working order was the relief tube and it was too late to use that. We couldn't contact the rest of the group and the Major decided we couldn't make it back to our own base. He asked the navigator Howard for a heading to the nearest Russian controlled territory and he got it-that fast. We were losing altitude and the ship was hard to hold on a straight course, impossible would be more like it. The engine that wouldn't feather was giving us plenty of trouble and the ship was shaking like hell, the crew was doing a little shaking on its own too! Sgt. Shutt was busy all this time trying to get the radio to work but it was too badly damaged. We were still heading for the Russian front and the navigator was really sweating it out. To make the tension a little greater on him, it was his last mission and his wife was expecting a baby any day. F/O Poe, now Lt. Poe was holding down the tail position, (I really mean holding down) was still yelling about the smoke he could see from the target area. He was riding as Tail Observer and was in the best position to see it.

Everyone started throwing out all the equipment we could, anything we could rip loose we salvaged. Someone grabbed the Mickey man, but the Major said no soap. About the time the flak suits were being thrown out, someone below started shooting more flak at us. It didn't last long, but even the few minutes it did last it was too much for us in the situation we were in. Howard was doing a good job and we soon spotted an airport we believed was behind the Russian lines. Oulette was busy throwing out the guts of the guns when Martin, the engineer, called out fighters. We could see about four of them. Oulette and Chichetti knew they couldn't fix the guns up fast enough and were just contemplating throwing them at the fighters when they identified them as Russian. We dipped the left wing three to five times, we rocked the wing three to five times, we fired red flares all over the sky as per S.O.P and then prayed like hell. The plane was getting harder to handle by the minute and the Major called on Lt. Hurley, the co-pilot to help hold right rudder. They damn near pushed it through the nose.

About this time we were over the field. We hoped we'd be able to land at coming in on a "wing and a Prayer." Major Ewing asked us if we wanted to bail out or try to land and we all decided to try to land. We wanted to count the holes in the ship anyway. The prop on number one engine was red hot and in trying to shake it off, it came back through the cowling, ripped it off, started the engine on fire and cut through the wing. That was it. We'd had it! Morgan the Mickey man led the way and made a running exit out the waist door and didn't stop running until his chute opened. The waist gunners, ball turret, radio operator and tail followed and could thank the engineer for their safety. As there was no interphone contact with the rear of the ship when the command to bail out was given, Martin went back and made sure that everyone got out. The navigator went back to the waist to bail when he saw the bombardier having trouble getting the nose escape hatch open. The bombardier, co-pilot and pilot bailed out in quick succession after finally opening the hatch. Everyone's chute opened and we all hit the ground in the near vicinity of the town of Mielic, Poland, a Russian controlled area three miles from the front lines. While dropping we could see old 705 in a shallow bank explode and fall to the ground below us. Russian soldiers and civilians surrounded us all, some with automatic rifles, some with bayonets or with pistols. They fired a couple of shots over Major Ewing's head which incidentally is the first time anyone's gone over his head since he was made C. O. of our squadron. Chichetti broke a couple of bones in his foot when he hit the ground and Howard was knocked unconscious and had to be carted away. The rest were okay. A little shaken up but nothing serious.

crewWe met two Russian fighter pilots here. One had shot down a ME 109 that had followed us. There also was an FW 190 following us. He buzzed the wreckage of our ship and headed back across the front. The interrogator asked us questions pertaining to our mission, target number of planes and facts about our base and crew. We gave them as little information as we could, not thinking it advisable at the time to tell them what we did know. The Group of 4 was then taken to another house, obviously the headquarters of that area, where a General talked to them. He repeated the same questions they had heard from the Colonel and added a few of his own. He was interested in their opinion of how the war would end, so Raymond Graham Hurley obliged by giving his views on the subject. All this time there was a little Russian doctor standing in the background, a female doctor and very nice to say the least. This Doctor Kildareski kept asking if any of us were injured. She seemed interested almost eager to pre-flight one of the group and the feelings were mutual. The only one who was the least bit injured was Lt. Howard who in landing had bruised his "flux-gate compass". For some unknown reason he didn't care to have the matter checked into. That was the biggest mistake in the whole episode as far as a couple of the boys were concerned. We'll never forget that doctor though. She was really sharp. She wore a uniform much like the General's and even wore a few medals. Of course her medals stuck out at a little different angle than the General's, but we overlooked that. As an interpreter at this place, there was a Russian officer who could speak a little English. He greeted us with a "good night". We didn't know whether to stay or go and continued with "I have to ask you one question, please." His English was good at times, a little amazing, but we managed to understand him pretty well. Finally the question and answer game was over and we drove the main part of Mielic in American jeeps. We ended up after a fairly long and cold ride to a former German SS camp waiting for the others of our crew to meet us.

We met another Russian officer who could really speak English so from then on we were on guard about cracks we made. Some more questions and then a wait of a couple of hours and the Major and 6 more of the crew came in. There was a general shaking of hands, describing of experiences and complimenting on jobs. Chichetti was having a pretty bad time with his foot and had to be carried all the time. By this time it was again time to eat and all but Chichetti walked a few blocks to a dining room where we had pork and rice, dill pickles, dark bread and hot tea. Chichetti was served his meal on a cot by a Russian gal who immediately received admiring glances from at least one member of our crew, all to no avail. Our Russian friend who looked a lot like Napoleon and to be aware of the resemblance, then took us back to the room where we had met and from there to a hospital where we were put up for the night. There was a Russian truck driver that the boy nicknamed "Herman", who stuck with us all the time. He was quite a character. He did everything but was our backs for us. It was "Herman" who drove us to the town of Kolbuszowa, Poland after a good night's sleep. We stopped on the way while Herman and a Russian officer who looked like one of the Smith brothers from the cough drop fame, repaired the car we were using. While they were working on the motor, we were working on some Russian soldiers and picked up quite a few souvenirs. We were finally on our way again and after an hour more driving we reached Kolbuzowa. Here we parted company with Herman and rewarded him with a parachute for his long and faithful service. In Kolbuszowa they put us up in a house which we supposed had been taken over by the Russians for us. The house was pretty nice, equipped with beds and straw mattresses, hot and cold running Polish girls and a Russian female barber. We all got a swell shave from the barber, in fact Hurley went back for three within a half hour. Captain Bessarabenko, who could speak English pretty well, took us under his wing and saw that we were well taken care of. They gave us a Russian orderly who the boys promptly named "Shorty" and put a phone in the place to give him something to do. Oulette, Martin and Shutt held an English class with "Shorty" as the pupil several times daily and he showed promising results. After the first day he answered the phone with "blow it out" and after the second day he saluted all offices with the same greeting even the Major. Oulette was taken to a corporal right after that, never could figure why. Our first meal here brought us a new character, this time a Polish mess officer. He was quite a guy and really put on the feed for us. Huge breakfast, pickles, cheese, fish, meat and an even larger lunch and dinner. Every meal we toasted Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill with Vodka. Martin lost his voice after the second meal. This mess officer kept yelling "Tak", "Tak" all through the meal and told us a joke to explain his constant use of the word. We never did completely understand the damn thing except that is had something to do with strip tease and that much we understood. Back at the house there was a couple of cute Polish girls and Martin, Shutt and Oulette immediately began looking into the Polish question. Bessarabenko had his hands full keeping the boys away from the girls, he never did succeed entirely. They were feeding us so often and so much the Poles make us a ball to toss around out of a potato wrapped in an escape map and we also did a little wood chopping. The Major saw us playing catch and came up the remark that it was the first time he'd ever seen any of us on the ball. He must have been kidding. About this time Martin took out cross country with one little gal and was very gallantly carrying her basket to market for her. He didn't get far as old mother Bessarabenko was right on the job and stopped him before he could do any good or bad whichever the case may be. Although we liked the Russian treatment, we didn't care much for their "revolutionary latrine". It was out of this world. You had to be an accomplished artist to use it, have an eagle eye and a keen sense of balance and a cast iron stomach also helped. I believe Poe was the first of our crew to attempt it. Major Ewing heard about his bravery and awarded him an Oak Leaf Cluster on the spot. The rest of us even with the possibility of getting a cluster as a reward, kept away from the place, even the Major himself.

It was here in Kolbuszuwa that Capt. Bessarabenko pinned a medal on the Major. It was the Russian Purple Shaftski or something and was pretty sharp. It didn't take long for us all to see that the Russians were interested in rank and medals. As a result we caught the Major in the corner with a can of white paint working over his leaf. He wasn't the only one. Poe scraped the blue off his bar and Morgan immediately mailed a letter to the Squadron to forward his sharpshooter medals, 6.2 mortar and all.

Bessarabenko gave us his picture before we left and his address. We all promised to write. He insisted that we sing "Three Blind Mice" and "How Dry I Am", the two American songs he knew and each night before going to bed he told us one of his Russian bedtime stories.

We left Kolbuszowa on December 29. Bessarabenko rode in the truck with us to an airport north of Raesjow, Poland and there we parted company. Here we met a few other boys, all victims of ack ack sharpshooters. They had been waiting for the C-47 to pick them up and take them to Poltava, the American field in Russia. They put us all together in an underground barracks, sort of a semi-upholstered gopher hole, really sharp. The weather was bad and the field was closed. We were pretty anxious to get on to Poltava but couldn't do anything about it for a couple of days. While we were there, the un-holy three, Shutt, Martin and Oulette picked up another comrade. This one they nicknamed "Oswald" and he was all out for us. He stole some general's car and rode the boys all over the country. He rode us to the mess hall, fixed us up with a private dining room and was working on a few more luxuries but couldn't quite make it. Failing in his last attempt, the boys broke him to a comrade 3rd class. Morgan had a little trouble trying to out drink a couple of Russians and almost died in the attempt. He moaned and groaned in a car dugout until we finally took him out by popular request and dumped him into the nearest snow bank. After 2 hours on ice he was almost as good as new.

crew2A ship from Poltava finally came in, but could only take a few of the 30 men there. They headed for Lublin, Poland to pick up some wounded airmen and couldn't take us all. They wanted to be fair about deciding who to take with them so Major Ewing with his two headed Ruble in his pocket suggested a chance. A few hours later we were on our way to Lublin.

Our C-47 landed in Lublin the same day, December 31st, after about a four hour hop. We got the usual treatment that we had been getting from all the places we had stopped so far, the usual questions and all. New Years' Eve is a big night to the Russians, so that night we saw their display of anti-aircraft and fireworks celebrating the new year. The whole sky was lit up. A little later that evening practically the whole crew was also lit up in a little display of fireworks of their own. I had quite a brawl with our crew out drinking the Russians and with their own vodka.

On New Year's day we took off for Poltava the only American base left in Russia. Everyone was little air sick after a rough trip, these Russians can't navigate above 3000 feet seems like. The trip was more or less just a long distance buzz job. We arrived in Poltava, got clean clothes, showers and shaves which we all needed pretty bad. We had all been a little constipated ever since looking at the Russian latrine. But a dash of dynamite and exlax and everything fixed us up okay.

Our stay at Poltava was really swell, at least we all enjoyed it. The 32nd Bomb Squadron sort of took over, especially in regards to the liquid refreshment department. But we all figured we had cause to elaborate and celebrate as we did every night we were there. We really got plenty of attention while we were there too, in fact every night the C.O. came to see us at about midnight to very nicely ask us to shut the hell up. They were happy to see us when we came there but I've got a sneaking suspicion they were even happier to see us go. Reluctantly they bid us goodbye on January 4th and away we went, this time heading for Teheran, Iran. That was really the spot, a beautiful field, sort of a summer resort with soldiers. It was really great. They had a bevy of beautiful polish refugees working all over the place, in the bar and in the mess hall. Hurley and a few of the boys tried dating every one they saw using all the Polish they had picked up on the trip which amounted to Yaksimach (how are you?), dobja (good), Jenkuyou (thank you) and also doma spots (the translation of which is pretty hard to explain). It was amazing how many girls refused even with our fluent display of their language. A few of the boys did finally latch on to a couple and Hurley was so impressed with his choice that he wanted to take them back with him. Major Ewing said it wasn't the proper thing to do and he wouldn't allow it and besides the inspectors found her hiding in one our barracks bags when we got on the plane.

The next stop on our cooks tour was Palestine but we only stayed there long enough to cheat a little Arab boy out of a mess of oranges and then went to Cairo. Cairo is a pretty nice place but we really got terrible food while we were there. We all got a big kick out of some corporal who mistook the Major's leaf for a gravy spot on his collar or something and proceeded to give him a hard time. After a short thousand word lecture by the Major the Corporal was a little more rank conscious, in fact he saluted the next private he saw.

We stayed in Cairo a few days, drank some very expensive orange pop and then they finally forced us on a plane and back to sunny Italy we went. We landed in Bari and then back to Foggia, back to combat and if that isn't the saddest story you ever heard I'll miss my guess. All in all we had a fairly rough time and it sort of bothered some of the boys, but it didn't bother me.




From Boyd Thompson's 32nd Bomb Squadron, 1942 -1945, Web-Site, produced and maintained for Boyd Thompson by the F & B Services