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Old 06-02-2010, 05:39 PM
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Lauri Pekuri - The Ace in Soviet POW. Finland
Written by Ossi Juntunen .

Lauri Pekuri was born on 6 Nov 1916 in Helsinki. (His original surname was Ohukainen which he abandoned as he got married. Connotations of his original name include "crépe" and "Stan Laurel".) As a young boy he decided to become a pilot and spent his time and energy consequently, in Civil Guard activities and constructing and flying model aircraft. He dropped out of school at the age of 17. In his obituary he is described as "purposeful person", a trait shown early.

In 1937 he applied for FAF training but was rejected, and he did his military duty in the Army. He was demobilised as Field Artillery Res. Ensign. He reapplied for pilot training and was accepted in 1939 for a Reserve Officer Pilot course. During training he completed his formal education and continued in the Cadet School in spring 1940.

Lt. Pekuri, with 160 hours of flying experience, was posted in Fighter Squadron 24 in August 1941 together with his friend Hans Wind. Both men were thrilled for getting a chance to serve in the best squadron of the FAF. Type training for the Brewster comprised four takeoffs and landings, then the newcomers were considered prepared for real missions.

During the first mission Lt. Pekuri loaded his guns and turned the safety off immediately after takeoff. When he responed to a radio message he by accident pushed the trigger instead of the transmitter tangent, nearly hitting his leader! The greenhorn pilot was much ashamed, but the older pilots were forgiving.

Pekuri fought his first successful battle on the 4th October 1941. Lt. Pekuri and Flt.Mstr. Turkka were escorting a Blenheim that had dropped leaflets to Medvedyegorsk. As they were returning, a lone I-153 tried to intercept the bomber and was engaged by Pekuri, flying BW-354. He ordered Turkka to stay by the bomber while he took on the enemy.

Two inexperienced fighter pilots were having a "turning contest" at 1500 m, just at the cloudbase. Turkka advised Pekuri to pull up and make use of his superior speed, but due to the cloud he could not do that. The Soviet pilot, however, was not able to turn his very manouverable plane tighter than the BW. The pilots circled "back to back" until both found themselves in the cloud and had to resort to instrument flying. Pekuri emerged cautiously from the bottom of the cloud and immediately saw the I-153 come tumbling out of the cloud, totally disoriented. The Finnish pilot fired a salvo in the Tchaika which continued its dive in the forest below. The wreck was later found and Pekuri's first victory confirmed.

Pekuri continued flying in Eastern Carelia and gained some victories and experience. On 10 Jan 1942 the 2nd Flight of LeLv24 was providing air cover for a field artillery battery placed in the middle of a frozen lake. Soviet fighters tried to strafe the guns, but BWs intercepted them. Pekuri shot down one MiG-3 and began to chanse another, but found that only his fuselage 7.7 mm gun was working. The panicked enemy pilot flew in a straight course to East without any evasive action. Seeing that the back armour of the MiG held, the Finnish pilot tried to damage the tail of the enemy, forgetting to look around. Another MiG surprised him, BW-351 was hit in one wing and another projectile smashed the fuel tank selector before holing the main fuel tank. Pekuri pulled a turn, the enemy pilot was not willing to continue the fight and disappeared to the East. The BW was leaking fuel and the pilot could not switch to another tank. He turned back and flew with full power until the holed fuel tank was empty. At the moment he was near Medvedyegorsk. Fortunately his fighter had been experimentally fitted with a ski undercarriage, so forced landing on a lake near the artillery battery he had been protecting was successful. Luckily, the suspicious artillerymen did not shoot Pekuri, who in gratitude treated them with brandy found in the rescue kit of the fighter. BW-351 was easily repaired and returned to service. Her pilot decided to be more careful in future.

The BW pilots based at Tiiksjarvi met Hurricane Mk.II fighters in spring 1942. On 30 March Pekuri led the flight to the enemy a/b Segezha to challenge the adversary. In response 12 Hurricanes took off. In the ensuing battle 8 enemies were shot down, Pekuri claimed one of them.

Some days later, on the 6th April 13.45 hrs Pekuri again led the flight on a recce mission to the Murmansk Railway. The mission was carried out and the BWs were just preparing to land as there was an alert of several dozens of enemy a/c approaching the base. Despite low fuel - the mission had lasted nearly 2 hours - the BWs turned to meet the enemy. 10 km from the base the Finnish pilots saw ten DB-3 bombers escorted by 20 Hurricanes. The defender was in an unfavourable position below the enemy, with 15 minutes worth of fuel. Pekuri ordered the six foremost Brewster pairs to engage the fighters, leaving one pair to attack the bombers. The result of the battle was 12 enemy fighters and two bombers shot down, the base AAA got three more fighters, without any losses to the BWs. Pekuri had shot down three Hurricanes as he landed at 15.50 hrs.

Then the spring thaw, "rasputisa", made the runways soggy and useless for weeks starting mid April 1942. The enemy had suffered heavy losses in aircraft and pilots which further dampened the air activities in the Maaselka front, until they got replacements in June 1942.

Lt. Pekuri was leading a Division (four a/c) on an interception mission on 25th June 1942 near Segezha. They failed to find the enemy but a radio message from Flt.Mstr. Juutilainen was received, requesting assistance in battle against superior enemy near Segezha. Pekuri's Division arrived at the scene at 5000m, the leader ordered the second pair to engage while Pekuri and his wingman, a newcomer Sgt. Anttila, provided top cover.

As more Hurricanes were seen to arrive to join the uneven fight, Juutilainen gave a general order to disengage. To enable this, Pekuri and Anttila tied the new enemies in a dogfight. But Anttila, in his first real dogfight, was not able to shake the enemy off and disengage. Pekuri saw how an enemy got behind his wingman, but he was too far away to be able to help in time. The Hurricane had fired fatal hits in Anttila's fighter before Pekuri got her in his gunsight and shot her down. (Sgt. Anttila made a successful forced landing and saved himself after two days' march in the wilderness.) Pekuri dived steeply to shake the enemies off and headed for the home base at a low altitude.

He had flown some 40 km and began to calm down from the exitement of the battle. He was thinking about the fate of his wingman as he suddenly heard cracking noises in the fuselage of his BW-372 and flames burst out of the engine, which stopped immediately. The damaged fighter decelerated rapidly, and the attacking Hurricane overshot her, filling the windscreen of the BW. Instinctively Pekuri pushed the trigger and the enemy fighter burst in flames and exploded.

Pekuri was far too low to use his parachute. He opened the cockpit canopy, and seeing a small lake ahead, decided to belly land there. Flames reached the cockpit and the pilot had to touch down at a too great speed. As the BW hit the water she nosed over and began to sink. The pilot got out of the plane and surfaced in burning fuel. Flames signed his cheeks and brows before he could dive again. Submerged, he saw how the burning slick extended. Pekuri resurfaced and saw he had 200 m to swim. He got rid of his parachute, then he kicked off his boots. Nearly exhausted he swam slowly on his back until his head touched the stones of the beach.

Pekuri had breathed some water, but he recovered quite soon. He was in enemy territory, but there was no trench line in the wilderness. He also had lost his map but he knew the lie of the land quite well, having flown dozens of missions there. He headed to the West, taking direction from the sun for the nearest Finnish stronghold. He also was virtually barefoot and expected to meet an enemy patrol any moment. After a few hours jogging he was tripped over by a steel wire that had been left in a disassembled minefield. The pilot was now sure he was heading for the right direction, and soon he found a live minefield which he slowly crossed, examining each spot with his hand before putting his foot down. Then he heard somebody sing a ditty in Finnish, and having got closer to the stronghold managed to persuade the infantrymen that he was a Finnish pilot, shot down 6 hours ago.

Maj. Magnusson offered Lt. Pekuri a recovery furlough but he declined. He was to get married on the 12th July and he did not want to change his plans. Instead he wanted to regain his self-confidence, which he did by flying six more missions before his wedding furlough.

Air activity at Maaselkä slackened as the German army found it impossible to make a breakthrough to the Murmansk Railway at Kiestinki. Mannerheim refused to co-operate, and without Finnish troops Germans could not operate in the unfamiliar subarctic terrain. Pekuri and his fellow pilots had shot down 50 enemy planes and lost four of their own, and one pilot while based at Tiiksjärvi. Splendid fishing waters and hunting grounds had to be abandoned as the BWs were transferred to the Carelian Isthmus in November 1942.

In early 1943 Lt. Pekuri was one of the pilots selected for the new Fighter Squadron 34 (LeLv 34) to be equipped with Messerschmitt 109 fighters. The personnell was summarily trained in Germany and the new equipment received. Pekuri served in capt. Ervi's flight that was assigned to defend Helsinki, and it was mostly boring on duty readiness.

In June 1943 Pekuri was promoted to Captain and he took over the 1st Flight from Capt. Ervi. The flight was moved to Suulajarvi to support LeLv24. Pekuri scrored only two victories in 1943.

In March 1944 Capt. Pekuri received orders to destroy a troublesome artillery observation balloon, and he selected "Illu" Juutilainen as his wingman for the task. The two pilots approached the target at very low altitude, "hopping" over the front line barbed wire entanglements, hoping to surprise the balloon crew. But the balloon was not there, only the defensive AA guns were, and a lucky Soviet gunner hit Pekuri's Me by chance. A single 40mm shell hit the fuselage just through the national insignia and exploded inside, destroying the radio and some of the tailplane controls. Juutilainen saw how pieces of metal sheet hung below the fuselage, as if the Me had had an open bomb door. Pekuri managed to control his fighter and even land without major problems. As he taxied to the dispersal the damaged fuselage was bent by its own weight...

Then Capt. Pekuri was assigned to fly new Messerschmitts from Germany to Finland, he made four trips, but he preferred fighting duties.

During the first days of the enemy offensive in June 1944 Pekuri shot down on 14 June one P-39 and one La-5 while escorting bombers.

On 16 June 1944 Immola air base was cleared to make room for the Luftwaffe Kampfgruppe Kuhlmey. The new base was Lappeenranta, and for the transfer flight Pekuri put on his best uniform and boots to spare them from the rigors of truck transport. As the fighters were grouping after takeoff, they received orders by radio to intercept ground attack planes harassing Finnish troops at Kivennapa. 16 Me's headed for the target and found about a dozen unescorted Il-2s. The enemy jettisoned their bombs, turned South and tightened their formation at a very low altitude for mutual protection.

Capt. Puhakka and his 3rd Flight attacked first, and Pekuri saw how Puhakka shot one enemy in flames at his second firing pass. Then the 2nd Flight attacked, and during his second pass Pekuri hit the pilot of one Stormovik. The enemy plane tilted slowly to the left, then dived and exploded upon impact with the ground. The Finnish pilot managed to avoid the debris flying in the air, then he pulled up for another attack.

During his fourth firing pass Pekuri heard a loud bang in the front of his fighter. Immediately the engine stopped and began to develop thick smoke. He had been hit by the Stormovik gunners or AA guns. A second later flames emerged from the seams of the engine covers.

Pekuri had "next to none" altitude and the stopped, unfeathered propeller decreased his airspeed. Instinctively he converted his remaining speed into altitude as smoke filled the cockpit. He had to bail out, but he did not have enough altitude for a regular parachute jump. He ejected the cockpit canopy, opened his harness and squatted on the seat. Quickly he glanced at the instrument panel through the smoke: altimeter reading was 100m, airspeed below 200 kmh.

Pekuri kicked the stick and the resulting centrifugal force popped the pilot out. A buckle of his harness hit him in the face, breaking a tooth, and a fraction of a second later the horizontal stabilizer grazed the back of his head. Fortunately the pilot did not pass out, he pulled the release of his chute. He was spinning in the air, then the chute harness jerked him just as his feet hit the ground!

The wreck of his MT-420 was burning fiercely about 100m away. Pekuri knew the place, it was the small auxiliary airstrip Jäppilä, near Ino. A Me passed overhead, so his pilots had seen him bail out. Pekuri heard a Soviet AA MG firing as he ran for the cover of the forest.

When safe, Pekuri thought of his chances. He was deep behind enemy lines, he had forgotten his compass in the pocket of his regular uniform, and he did not have any food. Also his map had been torn into shreds during the jump. But it was not the first time he was in such a situation. He had a rough map of the Isthmus in his mind. The enemy was advancing along the main roads, he would stay out of them and find Finnish troops.

The enemy was at that time advancing very fast; Capt. Pekuri managed to hide and run for five days and advance 60 km before he was caught sleeping in a barn. His days in the enemy rear were full of action but being unrelated to aviation not described here.

Capt. Pekuri was handed over to the GRU (Red Army Counterintelligence Service) by his captors. As interrogations started, Pekuri stuck to the Geneva Convention of treatment and rights of POWz, just telling his name and rank. His first interrogation streak took three days and nights. He was deprived of sleep, food and drink, threatened but not beaten. Then Pekuri feigned submission and described accurately a/b Suulajarvi - which was now in the hands of enemy. He was transferred one location after another, subjected to ever new interrogations, his wedding ring, watch, boots, even underwear were gradually robbed from him.

Once he was beaten: a Finnish speaking GRU Major told him that "it is your duty to help to crush the criminal activities of Hitler's gang by honestly answering all questions" (1993, p.7. Pekuri did not respond. The Major pulled his pistol and said: "I am going to count to three, if you by that time do not promise to answer my questions, I shall shoot you!" Looking at the pistol muzzle 2m away, the Finnish Captain decided that if that was not another empty threat, it would be better to die with clean conscience. He remained silent. The Major counted to three, then fired. The bullet hit the wall behind Pekuri, who said in a calm voice: " Your shot poorly, try again." The Major hit him in the face and Pekuri feigned K.O.

Interrogations continued day after another. One day Pekuri saw in the next cell a captured Finnish pilot, Lt. T. of his squadron. GRU had managed to break his will, and T. had told all he knew about Pekuri. Now the Soviets had some "real evidence". Pekuri was told his crimes: "You have destroyed some 20 Soviet aircraft and killed several Soviet airmen defending this country and the freedom of other nations, and other Soviet soldiers. You have lied in interrogations and refused to co-operate to crush the enemies of Soviet Nations. All these factors shall affect your fate." (1993, p.90)

Next day Pekuri was allowed to wash and shave himself for the first time in several weeks, and the day after that he was ordered to sign his interrogation protocols. They were in Russian, and Pekuri refused to take a pen in his hand. A GRU captain told him in Finnish: "You are more stupid than old women in Leningrad. You have sealed your fate. You shall never get back to Finland!" (1993, p. 9

Pekuri was transported by train with about 100 Finnish POWs to Leningrad, where he was separated and sent to Fort Petropavlovsk, in the center of the city. There he spent about 8 weeks in a cell with half a dozen Soviet soldiers beingh tried for collaborating with Germans. It was the advice of his cellmates that saved Pekuri's life as he got dysentry and was told to wait 3 weeks for medical assistance. By this time the Armistice between Finland and Soviet Union had been concluded, but Pekuri had not received any news during his inprisonment.

From Ft. Petropavlovsk Pekuri was transferred to Shpalernaya Prison, where his father had been imprisoned 1918 and had escaped having bribed a guard. Now Capt. Pekuri was put in one 2x3m cell with five other captured Finnish Army officers without knowing why he was there and how long they would be held there.

Then one day a "tour" of POW camps started. In Camp Tcherepovetch he saw in the sick bay malnourished and sick men. "Skeletons like this were stumbling about in every POW camp, both in defeated and victorious countries' camps. The defeated ones were the only ones publicly condemned", Pekuri wrote in 1993.

Capt. Pekuri was returned to Finland weighing 48kg in the first lot of repatriation comprising 1241 men. After 3 weeks of quarantaine camp he could proceed to a/b Utti to report to Col. Magnusson who immediately granted him recovery furlough.

Capt Pekuri continued his service in the FAF. His career advanced, he became a part time one man evaluation team as FAF acquired new equipment in the 50's and 60's. He flew the MiG-15, Hawker Hunter, Folland Gnat, Mystere IV, Saab Lansen and also MiG-17, Mirage III, Saab Draken. He became the first Finnish citizen to break the sound barrier, in a RAF Hunter. In the Soviet Union he experienced matter-of-factly treatment, his time as POW was not referred to by anybody, including himself.

Pekuri retired as Colonel having finally commanded the Carelian Fighter Wing in 1968. He continued working in civilian aviation, as the manager of aviation maintenance training for Wihuri Oy.

He moved to Spain in the 80's but then the memories of 1944 came back and haunted him in his sleep. Many a time he woke up, not knowing whether he was in Shpalernaya or at home, until he wrote a book about his experiences (see list of sources). Then the ghosts of past left him alone for good.

One more time he was drawn into publicity as his old fighter BW-372 was retrieved from the unnamed Carelian lake in 1998. (check the link for more details: http://www.danford.et/buff.htm )

Col. Pekuri died on the 3rd Aug 1999, survived by his widow and five children.

(Sources: Pekuri, Lauri, Spalernajan sotavanki, Juva 1993 Hurtti Ukko, no. 2, 1942)

PS. Lt. T. 23 yrs in age, was on a bomber escort mission on 26 June 1944 as his fighter was shot down at 11.00 hrs. T. bailed out wounded and was captured. During interrogations a Soviet Major suggested to him that if he agreed to "supply military data for considerable financial remuneration" he could be sent home. T. agreed, to get home, without any real intent to become an enemy agent. Some time later he was sent across a waterway in the night and was met on the opposite side by a man in Finnish Army Sergeant uniform. On 10th July 1944 T. reported to his commander. He was transferred to rear echelon duties in another branch of the military for the rest of the war. T. had flown some 150 missions and scored 7 confirmed victories. T. died in Helsinki in the 1970's.
(Source: Hyvönen, Jaakko, Kohtalokkaat lennot 1939-1944, Vaasa 1982)
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Old 06-06-2010, 09:02 PM
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December, 1945
Statement of George R. Derdzinski
Navigator 1034
457th Bomb Group
751 Bomb Squadron

On May 28, 1944, 24th Mission, my crew, consisting of:
Pilot - Lt. Clyde Knipfer
Co-Pilot - Lt. Richard A. Bruha
Bombardier - Lt. Stanley V. Gray
Navigator - Myself................
and 5 other members were assigned to No. 5 position in the high box of our wing. The target was the airdrome at Dessau, Germany. The weather was perfect; visibility unlimited. The wing was rather spread out due to poor timing on assembly. We observed slight ineffective flak over the French coast on our way in.

After that, the mission was routine and uneventful until we entered Germany proper. At that time our fighter escort chancel reported heavy enemy fighter concentrations ahead. Within a half hour, we observed enemy fighter attacks directed at groups head of us. At approximately the Initial Point, which was 8 minutes from the target, our formation was attacked by a heavy concentration of ME-109's, FW-190's, and JU-88's. They came in at 3 O'clock level, in group formation in what can best be described as an entire formation attacking on a pursuit curve. This was the first time we had observed such tactics in our 24 missions. Needless to say they came in with their "lights blinking" (editors note - meaning, wing guns firing) and we returned the compliment.

The ship to our right was hit and smoke poured out of one of the engines, though there was no visible fire. A split second later, our left wing was hit and set afire. Our fighter escort which was too spread out to cope with the unorthodox enemy concentration was rather ineffective up to this time.
As soon as we were hit we left the formation and the pilot gave the bail out alarm and contacted all 9 crew members for confirmation, after which the pilot, the bombardier and the engineer bailed out at approximately 18,000 feet. The plane maintained perfect flight with the left wing still burning. When I prepared to leave the nose, I was surprised to see the co-pilot was still in the cockpit. After a damn short discussion, we decided to try for Switzerland (for all practical purposes Switzerland and Sweden were equi-distant, we chose Switzerland because the winds were more favorable for a southern course.)

At this point there were six crew members still in the ship. When the co-pilot made our plan known to the rest of the crew, three members, the tail-gunner, waist gunner and radio operator decided to bail out. The co-pilot, ball turret gunner and I, continued on course unmolested to Switzerland (at 18 thousand feet) with the wing fire showing signs of dying out. Then it became larger again. Finally, with the flame beginning to warm the seat of the ball turret gunner's pants and when gas fumes were evident throughout the ship, the three remaining crew members hit the silk (18 thousand feet) in the vicinity of Fulda, Germany.

On my way down I observed light flak, the first since we had left formation, directed at our ship, which was flying lazy circles on automatic pilot. I landed in a pasture, hid my parachute and made for a nearby woods. About 15 minutes later as I ran I heard voices, gun fire and soon the forest was alive with German civilians and soldiers. I hid in a ditch only to be discovered by a German soldier of the Luftwaffe.

I was immediately marched to a small town just east of Fulda and ushered into the Burgermeister's office. There I saw my co-pilot but we did not recognize each other. The town people came into the office one by one to pass their individual comments and returned to the street until quite a congregation had gathered. A few minutes later, the ball turret gunner, Sgt. Nicholas D. Furrie, appeared with an "escort". Sometime later (we bailed out at about 12:30 PM) the German army or rather a Lieutenant and 6 enlisted men came to claim us. They took us by truck to a quartermaster camp in the city of Fulda. At this point, Lt. Richard Bruha and myself were placed in a cell with a Lt. Kieley, who flew with another group in our wing. We spent two days at this location with intermittent individual interviews by a German officer. There was damn little food. Early one morning we were marched to the railroad station (Lt. Kieley had to be given assistance because of a sprained ankle.)

When the train finally arrived we were crowded into it. We arrived at Du-Lag Luft near Frankfort late that night. We went thru the usual routine there; solitary confinement and persuasive but ineffective interrogation by a German major. After two days, I was shipped along with some 50 other prisoners to an outdoor camp, the name of which I forget, where we received our issue of Red Cross clothing and our first shower and shave since we went down. After some 7 to 10 days, we were finally sent to the permanent camp at Stalag Luft III at Sagan, Germany.

There we found a rather well organized (under the circumstances) group in the west compound commanded by Col. Daar H. Alkire. I was assigned to block 169 where we lived 15 men to a room (there until Jan. 1945).
At that time the Russian advance was in full swing and they were threatening Breslau. We were marched out at 1 AM on a Sunday morning after approximately two hours notice by the German commander. The temperature was below zero and there was a heavy snow on the ground. We were issued a Red Cross parcel each as we left the gate. The entire camp marched to Spremberg, Germany. I don't remember how long it took. The weather was severe, our clothing inadequate, and many of the men including myself suffered from frozen feet and fatigue. The German guards, most of whom were quite old, did little better, As a matter of fact two of them died on this march. Although I had heard of rumors of loss of American prisoners, I do not positively know of any myself.

At Spremberg we were loaded 50 men to a car on the original 40 and 8 cards of the first world war. Some days later we arrived at Nurnberg for a 1 month stay which can best be described as a nightmare. The prison camp was located within 3 miles of the railroad yards, the primary target for our bombers at Nurnberg. The food situation was appalling; even the German soldiers did not get enough to eat. There was no Red Cross food and the railroad yards were bombed nightly and daily by our own Eighth Air Force and the R.A.F. respectively.

At about this time, Red Cross representatives made an appearance at the camp and informed us that our Government had consigned 50 white U.S. Army trucks to the Swiss Government for the purpose of supplying Red Cross food to us. Two weeks later, after his visit, the first Red Cross truck appeared. From that time on we were put on half ration of Red Cross food.

This camp was filthy and crawling with bugs. We were well satisfied upon receipt of a day's notice that we would march toward the Swiss border. It was early in April that the march began and by this time Col. Alkire was issuing orders to the German commander. The weather was warm, the white trucks supplied our food, and we were not required to march more than 8 hours in a single day. It was quite different than the march of the previous winter. After approximately two weeks on the road, we arrived at Moosburg, where we found the camp dirty and full of bugs but adequate food though never plentiful.

On May 28, 1945, early in the morning, we received the first indication that our liberation was in the offing. The German commander officially turned the entire camp over to our Senior officers. At noon, as two P-51's gave us quite an air show at low altitude, we observed an American tank followed by more coming over a not too distant hill. Although there was some scattered fire in the camp itself, the opposition to the 14th Armored Division, our liberators, was negligible.
A half hour later the American flag went up over the town of Moosburg. Later that same day, other Third Army units moved in. About a week later we were flown to Paris, from there to La Havre (a month stay in Le Havre) and then Home via Camp Kilmer, N.J.

After a 90 day leave I received my certificate of service at the AAFPDC, San Antonio, Texas. My terminal leave was completed on Dec, 12, 1945. At the time of separation I had been in grade as a 2nd. Lt. for 26 months.
George R. Derdzinski 
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Old 06-06-2010, 09:05 PM
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On a mission to Merseberg (No 146) on Nov 8th, 1944, two planes of the 457th mysteriously collided while in formation. One of the planes was s/n 42-38064 named "Arf & Arf" piloted by Lt Arnet L Furr. The other plane involved in the collision was s/n 44-8418 named "Bad Time Inc II". The pilot of Bad Times Inc II was James Elduff. The copilot of "Bad Times Inc II" was Lt James Jenkins, Jr.

The official account says that "Arf & Arf" was cut in two by "Bad Time Inc II". The two portions of "Arf & Arf" spiraled into the sea with no survivors. "Bad Time Inc", while badly damaged, was able to return to base and flew again only to crash land in Belgium while on a mission to Euskirchen several months later

In the June 1991 issue of the Association Newsletter is a letter written to the Association by George Crockett regarding this incident. It is published here in it's entirety.

"Reading Lt Jenkins (Copilot on "Bad Time Inc.) article in a previous issue of the Newsletter brought back many vivid, but sad memories. I remember sitting across from Warren Rankin and Leroy Wetzel at breakfast on the morning of Nov 8th, 1944. It was to be the last time we would eat together or see one another. Our mission was to be the Luena synthetic oil plant at Merseberg. Fourteen of our planes were assigned to it. We had already crossed the channel when we were recalled due to bad weather.

As we were returning over the coast, we were met with a "flak" barrage and flew through it without any apparent damage. We were flying above and to the left of Lt Elduff. I was the right waist gunner on Joe Coleman's crew "Rattle Snake Daddy". Lt. Furr's, "Arf & Arf" was to the right and below Lt Elduff's "Bad Time Inc.". As I looked down on Furr's plane, I waved to their left waist gunner, and he waved back. As I watched, they started edging closer and were climbing closer to our level. At the time I thought they were just tightening the formation but they suddenly climbed up and under Lt. Elduff and hit him. The next thing I saw was "Arf & Arf" in two parts plumeting towards the water.

Contrary to the account in Col. Byers "Flak Dodger", one chute did open. We were instructed to 'hold position'. Joe (our pilot) said "To hell with you, I'm going down" and we went. We were going to try and drop a raft. We made two passes about 30 feet off the water and managed to drop a raft near him, thanks to Tom Crowley (our bombardier) who was calling the shots. The man in the water was Glen Wisdom. He made it to the raft and waved. We thought he had been saved but could not get any information on him. As we left the area, there was a swarm of fighters circling over him and the "flak" started up again trying to reach them.

It was hard to return to our hut and find their bunks empty and their personal effects gone. A lot of us cried to ourselves that night. We were given a 48 hour leave and found ourselves drowning our sorrows in London. When we got back, there was a new crew in their bunks and business went on as usual. There were two other survivors from that crew. Ed Rambler had left the crew a month before and Sgt Ramoe went to the hospital with severe abdominal pains the night before. He was replaced by Sgt Brunsvold, flight engineer. Joe must have caught "hell" for doing what he did but I thought he deserved a medal."

Explosion in Mid-Air

In the Honor Roll section of the Archives there is the following paragraph about the loss of Aircraft #42-97088 and the crew of Lt Jack W. Gazzale:
Plane s/n 42-97088 was forming up in formation over England when it's wing tip appeared to burst into flame. Several of the crew bailed out and shortly thereafter the plane exploded. The pilot, Lt Jack W. Gazzale, was blown clear of the plane and parachuted to the earth as did five other members of his crew. Three of the crew were killed in the explosion and Lt Fred Oglesby lost his leg from an injury."

Two weeks ago I happened to converse with Jack Gazzale (the first time ever) and he has given me a more detailed account of what happened on that fateful day. He wrote down his memory of this event some years ago and has kindly given me permission to post it here. The following is an account of that mission and what he and his crew experienced:

On July 11th, 1944 we were just forming up on a mission to Munich, the fourth largest city in Germany. Our target was to be a jet aircraft plant located in the city and over 1200 heavy bombers were dispatched to the target. This was the Group's 86th mission and my 11th mission.
Our crew was made up of me, Jack W. Gazzale (Pilot), Jim Philips (Copilot), Fred Oglesby (Navigator), Ralph Hipsman (Engineer), Everett Broadie (Nose Gunner), his brother Robert Broadie (Tail Gunner), Bob Ehlert (Ball Turret Gunner), Burt Chenkin (Radioman), and William Becker (Waist Gunner).

At approximately 0930 and about one hour after takeoff and still forming up over England, the crew began to smell fuel. Suddenly the left wing was engulfed in flames and exploded, sending the aircraft into a severe spin preventing anyone from moving to an exit.Seconds later the main fuel tanks and possibly the bomb load exploded and the aircraft disintegrated. I was blown from the plane still strapped in my seat and Oglesby and Evertt Broadie (in the nose) were ejected through the nose section, severing Oglesby's left leg. Oglesby related that, as he fell toward earth unconscious, he became aware of something slapping him in the face and it was his boot and the severed leg. He pulled the ripcord and noticed his blood soaked parachute deploy before passing out again.
Witnesses on the ground reported seeing me plummeting toward the ground still strapped into my seat and at the last possible moment, unbuckling my seatbelt and pulling the ripcord. I received only minor injuries, but the trauma of injury and lost crew members was devastating.

Oglesby, bleeding profusely from his severe injury, was in a way, lucky. He landed in a tree beside the road just as an ambulance and crew came by on their way to a hospital with plasma. They and some farmers immediately removed Fred from the tree and applied emergency first aid, although they were unable to save his leg, he did survive and died only last year. Jim Phillips, Ralph Hipsman and Everett Broadie were lost in this crash.

The debris covered a five mile long path with an engine at the beginning and the largest piece, the tail section, at the other. Some debris fell on a B-24 base, causing a departing B-24 to abort it's takeoff after being hit by some of the debris.

Fred Oglesby and I are Colonels in the Confederate Air Force and I have the distinction of being a charter member of the High Sky Wing. Oglesby was a member of the Arizona Wing, which operates the B-17 "Sentimental Journey", whose markings are those of the 457th Bomb Group.
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Old 06-06-2010, 09:08 PM
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Major Raymond Syptak

The sixth of June, 1994, was the 50th anniversary of the greatest event that occurred in World War ll, and perhaps the event which the success, or lack thereof, would change the course of civilization for years to come.

This event, referred to as "D" Day, was the beginning of the invasion of Western Europe by Allied forces to free the Western European countries from the control of Nazi Germany, and which led to the ultimate defeat of that country.

The 50th anniversary of that event was celebrated by the Allied participants, in the area in which it occurred, which was Normandy, France. Many participants who survived the landings and subsequent battles gave their accounts of the invasion. These accounts were interesting and informative, and received world wide news coverage. D-Day occurred almost mid-way in my combat tour in England, flying bombing missions in B-17s over continental Europe. It occurred to me that perhaps a resume of my experiences during that tour might be of interest to my descendants and others.

To give the proper perspective, I must go back far enough to show how it came about that I was in that particular situation at that particular time.

It goes way back to my decision to go to Texas A&M. This was in 1937. At that time, A&M was a college for men only and participation in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) was mandatory for all able-bodied students. The ROTC program had several military specialities, one of which had to be selected upon entry. There was the Infantry, Field Artillery, Cavalry, and others. I knew nothing of any of them, but my good brother-in-law, John B.Woiton, had finished A&M, and he advised me to take the Infantry.

The first two years of ROTC training was mandatory for all. At the beginning of the Junior year, it became optional. To continue in the ROTC required the approval of the Army staff at the college. If approved, you entered into a contract with the Army. One reason for my desire for continuation in the program was monetary. We were paid the grand amount of 25 cents a day. While that was not much, over the period of two years it just about paid for the required uniform. By completing the additional two years, and upon graduation, you became a Second Lieutenant in the Army Reserve.

I realized after experiencing some of the training that there were more desirable specialities in the Army then the Infantry. The Infantrymen were called "Paddle Feet". They were the ones who carried the rifles and did all of the walking and close-in fighting in battles.

A few weeks before graduation, a notice was posted on the bulletin board, stating that students majoring in certain subjects, mine being one, could request transfer to the Army Air Corps, non-rated. At that time, I didn't know what "non-rated" meant, but this seemed to be a great opportunity to leave the Infantry. So I applied for transfer.

The time was now the early part of 1941, and Hitler had already taken over a lot of Europe. Also, it had been announced that all ROTC graduates would go on active duty for one year upon graduation. My duty station was to be Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where I reported on June 20, 1941 after graduating. After a couple of weeks of some rugged Infantry training, lo and behold, my transfer to the Army Air Corps came through, and I was to report to McClelland Field, in Sacramento, California. I immediately called my dear wife, Vera Mae, who was still working for the Agricultural Adjustment Administration in College Station. I told her to terminate her employment, and I would pick her up and we would be going to California to live.

While still at Fort Sam Houston, I remember listening to the radio, and the program was interrupted with the announcement that Germany had invaded the Soviet Union. Since Germany had been so successful in the past by taking over one country after the other in a very short period of time, seemingly invincible, and since the Soviet Union had had difficulty in taking little Finland, this was very bad news. If Russia (Soviet Union) were to fall, it meant Hitler would control all of Europe, except Great Britain. At that time, Britain was being pounded by German bombers. l thought if the Soviets fell, the British would probably give up. Things did not look very good.

In the next few months, Germany marched through Poland and Russia,and seemed to have little opposition. The German army was approaching Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).

After a few pleasant months at McClelland Field, Pear1 Harbor, was attacked by bombers from aircraft carriers of Imperial Japan. This was on a Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. We lived in a house in North Sacramento. That morning I went to the drug store to get a newspaper. While in the store, the announcement of the attack came over the radio in the store. I went back to the house, and received a call to report to the base immediately. All officers were issued pistols to be worn at all times. This base, like all others, went on a war time alert. All leaves were cancelled and a seven day work week was put into effect.

As I previously said, I was non-rated, which meant that I was not a pilot, navigator, or any other aircraft crew speciality. After becoming acquainted with the pilots on the base, I started considering the possibility of applying for pilot training. As a non-flying Air Corps officer, there was no possibility of participating in any combat. It, like the Quartermaster Corps, was one of the best assignments to survive the war. However,like many others, I was interested in doing all that I could to insure victory for the United States. So I thought I should apply.

Physical examinations for pilot training were tough; however, l thought I could qualify, so I applied for pilot training and was accepted. Vera Mae, our nine month old son, Michael, and I reported to Santa Ana, California, for pre-flight pilot training in November, 1942. There were literally thousands of aviation cadets there, all with dreams of becoming pilots, navigators, or bombardiers. After six weeks of preflight training, I was transferred to Fort Stockton, Texas, for primary pilot training in the Stearman (PT17) aircraft. This was a bi-wing, open cockpit trainer. The instructors were all civilians.

The first ride in the airplane with the instructor was my second flight in an airplane. After about seven hours of training, I was allowed to solo. I passed the various check rides and finished the course with a total of sixty hours. Approximately one-half of the class washed out (were eliminated). Then to basic training at Pecos, Texas, in a single engine, low wing trainer, referred to by some as the "Vultee Vibrator". After another seventy hours or so, I finished this course successfully and was transferred to Marfa, Texas for advanced training in a twin-engine trainer, the AT-17. Upon graduation from pilot training, and receiving my pilot's wings, I was transferred to Moses Lake, Washington, for my first encounter with the B-17 bomber, the Flying Fortress. This was in August, 1943.

At this base, B-17 crews were formed and trained for eventual assignment to tactical units. After getting a crew, and, in retrospect, some sorry training, we were transferred to the 457th Bombardment Group at Ephrata, Washington. This was in October, 1943. The group had just been activated and we were among the first crews to arrive.

After additional training with the group at Ephrata, we were transferred to Wendover, Utah, for a short time, and then to Grand Island, Nebraska, our staging area. From there the group was transferred to England to participate in the war against Germany. This was January, 1944. I had gotten a brand new B-17 a couple of days before we departed Grand Island on the 23rd January, 1944.The flight to England involved a stop-over in Goose Bay, Labrador, where we stayed for a couple of days waiting for favorable winds. We launched along with other crews from Goose Bay about ten o'clock one night.

To put things in perspective against I now had about 700 hours of flying time, including student pilot time. The navigator had navigated only one flight in the B-17, since in the States, with all the radio stations, a navigator was not needed. So here we were, flying across the Atlantic where the successful arrival at the destination was up to this navigator. However, after several hours,during which the navigator stated he was not sure of our position, we could see land in the breaks of the clouds. Now the only problem was to find the correct air base, which was in Ireland. The ceiling of the clouds was approximately 500 feet, which didn't help. Finally, after some "stooging around", we found the base and landed.

We were one of the few crews who landed at the prescribed base. One crew landed on the beach. Others were at various bases. There were instances when a crew missed the British Isles completely and landed in France or Spain. Such was the capability of the bomber crews at that time. After two or three days, we were led in formation to our home base-to-be, which was called Glatton It was near Peterborough, about 75 miles north of London.

The quarters were quonset huts. There were no closets. The latrine was in a separate building, which contained showers, with cold water only. The mess hall was initially manned by the British. The food was inedible. Fortunately, we had some "K" rations that we could eat. Later our Group mess personnel took over. Then we had powdered eggs and milk. It still wasn't that good, but better. Lots of Brussels sprouts.

Initially we had some training flights to practice assembling in formation over a designated radio beacon. The normal formation for target bombing was an 18 ship formation. The Group aircraft complement was 60 B-17's. Finally, on February 25, I flew my first mission with my crew. The target was in Augsburg, Germany. I saw lots of German fighters, B-17s going down, some blowing up. My co-pilot was hit in the knee with a piece of shrapnel from flak. He was hospitalized for ten days or so. After landing we were told that there were 35 holes in the airplane; however, fortunately none resulted in damage to essential functions of the airplane.

At this time, the policy was that if one completed 25 missions, this constituted a tour, and one would be returned to the States. After that first mission, I remember asking myself "How can you possibly get through 25 of these?"

The day time formation bombing by the American forces, with the ultimate goal of destroying the war making capability of the German and Italian forces in Europe, was unique in warfare. While it didn't quite accomplish its goal in Europe, at least, it reduced the enemy capability sufficiently to allow army forces to win their battles and eventually win the war. One reason it was not completely successful was the inadequate power of the bombs used. We didn't have the atom or nuke bombs then. Life, at that time, consisted of work and very little sleep for me. I went over as an aircraft commander with a crew of nine other people. Their duties on the crew were: 1 co-pilot, 1 bombardier, 1 navigator, 1 radio operator/gunner, 1 engineer/gunner, 2 waist gunners, 1 ball turret gunner,and 1 tail gunner.

The B-17 was equipped with 11 guns. There were three gun turrets with two .50 caliber guns each. One was in the nose and was controlled by the bombardier. There was also a gun there controlled by the navigator. Another turret was just back of the pilots and on top, and was controlled by the flight engineer. Behind the bomb bay was the radio rooms which had a gun controlled by the radio man. In the bottom of the aircraft was the so-called ball turret. This was a big ball, barely big enough for a man to crawl into and be able to aim and fire the guns. There were two waist guns,one on each side, and the guns in the tail of the aircraft. These were controlled by individual gunners.

Shortly after arrival in England, l assumed the duties of Operations Officer of one of the squadrons (751st Squadron). In this capacity, I was responsible for the activities of the combat crews in the squadron. This involved assigning duties, scheduling training, and assigning crews to positions in the flying formations on the bombing misslons. We averaged fifteen to twenty crews per squadron, and the number was dependent upon losses sustained and the availability of replacements.

The missions were scheduled 8th Air Force Headquarters.

Weather over England,and especially over Europe, was the primary determinant of whether and when and how many sorties would be flown on a given day. Most take-offs for the missions were usually around six o'clock in the morning. This required getting the crews to briefing by two o'clock. Breakfast was served before briefing.

We were usually alerted for a mission the day before by six o'clock in the evening. After such an alert, the crew composition and positions in the formation were assigned. Theoretically, I could go to bed after this and be able to sleep until one o'clock or so. However, many times there were changes in the number of aircraft to be scheduled. This required changes in the number of crews and their positions. This was all done at Group operations. That reduced the time for sleeping. After the bombers took off on the mission, there was crew training and other things to take care of during the day. Then the aircraft returned around two o'clock in the afternoon.

Later I was assigned duties as Squadron Commander (749th Squadron) which allowed time for more sleep. At one point, I needed sleep so badly that I thought if my plane was shot down and I could have a successful bail-out, I would take it. Nothing to do in POW camps but sleep.

The initial missions produced various results, mostly bad. On one of these, the group failed to get assembled, resulting in some aircraft returning to base while others joined other formations. We were still learning.

Formation assembly was accomplished over a radio beacon. The lead ship took off, went to the designated beacon, and circled. While circling, multi-colored flares were fired. The colors identified the group. With so many airplanes in the air, this identification was necessary. It also identified the lead ship. The other aircraft followed at 30 second intervals and joined the circling formation. At the designated time after the group formation, the formation departed en route to the designated target. With so many bombers in the air over England at one time, meeting designated times over checkpoints was critical, as was time over the target. There were some air collisions.

Initially, weather over intended targets determined how many formations would be scheduled, if any. About mid-way in my tour, radar bombing, though somewhat unreliable and imprecise, was available. This considerably increased bombing and mission activity.

After two or three months, our bombing results improved considerably. Also, German fighter defenses diminished. This was due to shortage of aircraft fuel, fighters available, and pilots. Initially, the fighters attacked the bomber formations either singly or in small groups. Later,due to fewer fighters and inexperienced pilots, they attacked in larger group formations. With this tactic, the number of our planes attacked on any particular day was limited. However, the ones that were attacked suffered many losses. In fact, one group, the 100th, was almost completely wiped out on three different occasions. Our losses on missions varied. Sometimes we lost none. Sometimes two or three and up to five. There were nine losses on one particular mission. (Merseberg, Nov 2nd, 1944) We started with 60 airplanes in the group and by June or July had lost 60. Of course, replacements were provided.

The flak was intense at times, especially over prime targets. After D-Day, and as the Germans were pushed back, the flak was more intense because they moved their flak guns back to add to the defense of targets still under their control. However, I never sweated the flak like I did the German fighters. By the time D-Day came along on June 6th, I had flown about 15 missions. Some were rough (holes in airplanes), some easy, called "milk runs". I had no brakes on landing on one mission. The aircraft ran off the runway, but settled in the soft English mud with no damage.

I did not fly on the missions for D-Day. I had led the mission on June 4th, so it wasn't my time to lead. I remember listening to General Eisenhower announcing the invasion to the world and invoking the blessings of Almighty God for its success. It was successful, despite many casualties and Iosses. We lost no aircraft in the Group on D-Day.

As I have previously stated, the all-out bombing effort by the United States was unique in warfare. It was also unique, naturally, in the lives of the crew members who flew the missions. Reactions varied. At the beginning of a tour, most crew members assumed a fatalistic attitude of "I'm either going to make it,or I'm not". But, after completing half the required total, if successful, there was more anxiety. The thought then became, "If I have completed one half of the missions, I might make it". Then "sweating" the missions increased. Very few refused to continue and very few wound up in rest centers. The worst time for most occurred during the time between crew briefing and take-off. They then knew what the target was to be, and an estimate of the defenses that might be encountered. Also, after getting their equipment and going to their airplane, there was nothing to do but "sweat". I saw some vomit during this time, particularly on a rough target. Once the crew became airborne, there were crew duties to perform which required their concentration.

My seventeenth mission, flown on June 14th, 1944 was the roughest, from a life-threatening stand point. The target was the Le Bourget airport in Paris, which, of course, was being used by the Germans. This was not supposed to be a difficult mission because the distance was not great and it was in France, rather than in Germany. The assembly and flight to the target was uneventful.

I was the deputy leader on this trip. When flying as a leader or deputy leader, that individual occupied the co-pilot's seat in the airplane. The responsibility for the crew was the pilot's, who, in effect, was the aircraft commander. The leader was concerned with the success of the mission.

When we were on the bomb run we were attacked by numerous German fighters. Our aircraft received numerous hits, which resulted in the loss of one engine, all hydraulic pressure, all communication equipment, even within the aircraft, and all engine instruments. Additionally, there were explosions and fire in the cockpit. The explosions were caused by the flares that were to be used in the formation assembly, but were not used since we were the deputy lead. Apparently the fighter attack had ignited the flares. It was obvious that the three of us in the cockpit were going to have to leave that area. There were two doors, one in the back leading to the bomb bay and to the rear of the aircraft, and one that led to the bombardier-navigator compartment in the front of the aircraft. The aircraft was, at this time, on automatic pilot. I got out of my seat and went below. I told the people there that we were on fire and would have to bail out. Someone tried to jettison the escape hatch but it wouldn't jettison, which closed off that avenue of escape. By this time, things became real confusing. We were at 25,000 feet, and I had been without oxygen for a time. My instincts told me if I didn't get some oxygen soon, I would pass out. I started back to the cockpit. By this time, the fire had almost gone out. The floor of the cockpit was made of wood and it was still smoldering. I encountered the engineer, who had been fighting the fire. His clothes were smoldering, also, so I extinguished that fire with my hands. They got a fairly good burn, which I didn't notice at the time.

I finally managed to get back to the co-pilot's seat and grabbed the oxygen hose and started sucking on it. I don't know what happened to my oxygen mask. As I started to be able to focus my eyes, I noticed that the airplane was flying fairly level. I looked at the altimeter and we were down to 20,000 feet.

I asked the engineer (Sgt Paul A. Birchen) where the pilot was, and he informed me that he had bailed out through the bomb bay.

Since the airplane was still flying relatively well, and since the fire was out, why not try to get back to England? But I had a very sick airplane. One engine was out and the prop was windmilling and couldn't be feathered. Another engine was smoking real badly but was still running. All engine instruments were out. We were all alone in the air now, since, with all the problems and confusion, we could not stay with the group. Also, with the bad engine, we couldn't have kept up anyway.

We were now in the situation, a lone bomber, that normally invited further fighter attacks. I moved over to the pilot's seat. I further reduced our altitude because, among other things, it was easier to maintain air speed at a lower altitude. There were some clouds around and I tried, as much as possible, to stay in the clouds to avoid additional fighter attacks. After considerable anxiety, we approached the English Channel with a sigh of relief. We saw no more German fighters. Eventually we approached our base. Since we had no communication equipment, we could not ask for landing information. With no hydraulic pressure, we had no brakes on landing.

I tried to make the approach so that I would land as near the beginning of the runway as possible. We landed, and one of the gunners released his parachute, that he had attached securely to a part of the airplane. This helped slow our landing roll. We stopped before reaching the end of the runway. The fire in the cockpit had been of such magnitude that they retired the airplane because they were afraid some of the aircraft structure may have been weakened.

Following that mission, I was sent to Scotland for several days, and later was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for the Le Bourget mission. (Sgt Birchen, the engineer, also received the Silver Star for his gallentry in action). The remaining missions on my tour were relatively uneventful except one, in which clouds were such that the formation could not get above them. B-17 formation can not be maintained in the clouds, so all planes scattered and it was again single planes returning to England. Fortunately, we encountered no fighters. I guess they didn't like the weather, either.

Upon completion of my tour, the war was going good for the Allies. I packed my bags and went by train to a base in England that provided air transportation to the States. After a few days wait, I finally got on an airplane and arrived in New York around the middle of December, 1944. After processing at a base there, I caught a train for San Antonio. Upon arrival there, I was met by my wonderful wife and two year old son. A fitting climax to the most eventful year of my life.

The war ended in Europe May 8, 1945. The 457th Bomb Group returned to the States in May, 1945,and was disbanded in June, 1945.

The Group flew 236 combat missions and lost 94 aircraft.

In addition to the awards previously mentioned (Silver Star, Purple Heart) I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the French Croix de Guerre. 
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Old 06-07-2010, 10:42 PM
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about 9 pages of a great story. its copyrighted so i will not post it here but can give you the link so you can read all for yourself. enjoy..it is worth it.

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Old 06-14-2010, 09:44 PM
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some 51 boys..

Duane W. Beeson

Born 1921 at Boise, Idaho. Duane enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941, assigned to RAF 71st "Eagle" Squadron, later transferred to 334th Squadron, 4th FG/8th USAAF. Nicknamed "Bee", he decorated his aircraft as "Boise Bee." Beeson was one of the few 4th FG pilots to achieve real success in the P-47, scoring 12+ victories in the Thunderbolt. He was promoted to CO of the 334th Squadron on March 15, 1944. He scored his remaining kills in a P-51 Mustang. Like Dick Bong, Beeson was a consistent fighter pilot, scoring single (or double) victories many times. From May 18, 1943 through April 5, 1944, Major Beeson shot down German planes on 15 different occasions, scoring most heavily in early 1944 over Germany itself. All but one of his kills were against single-engine fighters (FW-190s and Bf-109s).

On April 5, 1944, in his own words: "Our group was strafing aerodromes near Berlin. We had left one drome behind with many burning Ju-88's on the ground when another was sighted, so we went in to attack it. There were five Ju-88's parked wing-tip to wing-tip along the perimeter track, so I opened fire on them. The first one burst into flame and there were strikes all over the others, so I picked a big-assed Me-323 to shoot at next. Just as I opened fire and began to see some results, tracers flashed past my cockpit and my Mustang was hit. Leaving the aerodrome behind I climbed to 1,000 ft. and tried to get the engines running again but had no luck so decided to get out. Had lost altitude down to 400 ft. when I finally shoved the stick forward and bunted my way out of the a/c. The chute opened just in time to carry me over a fence and deposit my carcass in a field surrounded by many members of the "Super Race" -- including one blonde fraulein on a bicycle." He spent the next thirteen months as a POW.

Victories: 24.25; 19.5 air, 4.75 ground. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and many other decorations. Duane was promoted to Lt. Col. after the war and died of a brain tumor 15 Feb 1947. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Leonard 'Kit' Carson

Top scorer of the 357th Fighter Group with 18.5 victories (plus 3.5 more by strafing). Formed at Tonopah, Nevada, the 357th was the first P-51 equipped unit in the Eighth Air Force, beginning combat operations in February 1944. Its aircraft were among the most colorful, with red and yellow nose checkers and a variety of nicknames and nose art.

Carson was on the verge of heading for the Pacific with a P-39 outfit, but instead joined the 357th. His first victory was on April 8, 1944. His chosen technique for success was to bore in close to his victim, rather than rely on deflection shooting. He chalked up the bulk of his score during the final six months of the war, flying Nooky Booky IV. He ran 'Clobber College' the 357th's combat school, for a time, passing on his skills.

When training, he emphasized the challenges of flying seven-hour missions in the harsh weather of Northwestern Europe. He stressed the importance of the "two-ship" element, and the defensive strengths of the P-51. "Do anything you can to break his line of sight on you. Once you've done that, he can't lay a glove on you." He insisted that the new pilots master instrument flying, a necessity in the rain, snow, ice, and poor visibility of the ETO. "Anyone who has a casual attitude toward flying in this climate is going to wind up wearing an 8,000 pound coffin at the bottom of the North Sea." He noted that they should all become intimately familiar with the east coast of England, as the biggest aid in zeroing in on home base.

For gunnery, he encouraged the new pilots to close in from behind, noting the difficulties of deflection shooting. "Get dead astern and drive in to 200 yards or less, right down to 50 yards and fire a couple of one-second bursts." He told the pilots to think about six and seven hour missions, and to dress as if they "were going to have to walk out of Germany."

John Godfrey

He scored 18 victories with the famed 4th Fighter Group.

December 1, 1943 - John Godfrey got his first kill, a Bf-109, in a fairly uneventful bomber escort mission to Solingen, Germany.

March 8, 1944 - The Group was again back to Berlin. They found the B-17s near Gardelegen, Germany and relieved the escorting P-47s. The first German attack was by Bf-109s and was intercepted with 3 enemy aircraft destroyed. Then 60 plus approached and attacked in pairs and groups of four. Combat raged all over. Several B-17s went down and parachutes dotted the sky. Most of the Group got trapped east of Berlin and forced the pilots to fly onto Russia. This was the first time that Don Gentile and John Godfrey teamed up. They knocked down six between them, making Godfrey an ace. This also tied Gentile with Duane Beeson at 14 and began their famous scoring race.

April 22, 1944 - Colonel Blakeslee led a Fighter Sweep to Kassel-Hamm, Germany. As they passed Kassel at 18,000 feet, 20 plus Messerschmitts were spotted 12,000 feet below. The Group bounced the Germans after orbiting to lose altitude. Several of the Bf-109s attempted to shake the Mustangs by doing aerobatics right on the deck but the Group picked off one after another. Willard Millikan managed to shoot down four 109s. John Godfrey got three.

August 5, 1944 - John Godfrey returned from leave in the U.S. on July 24 and was up for the first time since to down a Bf-109 in the air and three Ju-52s on the ground. Fred Glover got a 109 also.

August 24, 1944 - The Group was on a penetration target support mission to Misburg and then on a target withdrawal support to Merseburg, Germany. John Godfrey and a few other 336th pilots strafed an airfield. Godfrey got four Ju-52s, Melvin Dickey got three and Pierce Wiggin got one. As they worked over the field, Godfrey's plane was hit and he was forced to belly in. He was captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW. It was later determined that Dickey, Godfrey's wingman, shot Godfrey down by accident.

Godfrey died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 1958.

Lt. Col. John B. England

Lt. Col. John B. England was born January 15, 1923, at Caruthersville, Missouri. He enlisted in the military as a private in April 1942, and after attending aviation cadet training, he was commissioned and assigned as a fighter pilot. In November 1943, he was assigned to the 357th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force in Great Britain, where he took part in 108 combat missions for a total of 460 combat hours in the North American P-51 Mustang.

During his tour in Europe, Colonel England destroyed 19 (17.5 air) German aircraft and, on one mission, destroyed four enemy planes. For this gallantry in action, he was awarded the Silver Star. He owed part of his success to the technological advances incorporated into the P-51: the K-14 gunsight and the G-suit. On September 13, 1944 he was leading 'Dollar Squadron' (the 362nd FS) at 8000 feet when he spotted a Bf-109 in a dive. It was soon overhauled as England closed to 800 yards at an altitude of 3000 feet. Seeing that his quarry was heading for an airfield, England wound his P-51 up to 400 mph and turned tightly to close the range to 500 yards. With the K-14 (deflection-compensating gunsight) locked on, England fired, and saw the strikes on the Bf-109's engine and cockpit before it crashed. He went on to down two more Bf-109s that mission.

He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters and the French Croix de Guerre. Colonel England returned to the United States in February 1945 and served with the Air Force until his death in 1954. Returning from a training flight in his F-86 "Sabre" aircraft November 21, 1954, Colonel England was killed while attempting to land at Toul Air Base, France. With the choice of trying to get over the barracks for a landing or swerving away for certain death, he choose the latter rather than risk sending other persons to their death. He turned left and crashed. Alexandria Air Force Base was renamed England Air Force Base June 23, 1955 in honor of Colonel England.

Ralph 'Kid' Hofer

Hofer scored 15 wins with the 334th FS of the 4th Fighter Group. He was tall and powerfully built; it was difficult to reconcile his frame with his chronic smile and guileless manner. He let his hair grow into a chestnut mane and he wore a snake ring and a blue & orange football jersey with the number 78 on it.

Hofer commenced bagging Huns as unceremoniously as he had enlisted in the RCAF. It was an accepted axiom that a pilot flew 10 or 11 missions before his eyes were good enough to even see a Hun, let alone bag one. But Kid Hofer bagged a 190 on his first mission and astonished all by gaily diving down to strafe a flak boat in the Channel. The veterans said pilots could not get a Jerry the first trip, but Hofer had combat film to show for it. It didn't take him long to become the only Flight Officer in England with five swastikas on his kite.

Hofer appeared to have a gay disregard for all the dangers European skies held. No other pilot in the group would prowl about there without a wing man, and preferably a squadron. Not so Hofer, who was out to see how many Huns he could bag. He got a bang out of the Salem Chamber of Commerce passing resolutions eulogizing his part in the global war and the newspaper clippings. One day he had to turn back from a mission because a wing tank wasn't feeding, but his mechanic quickly fixed it and Hofer took off before he was checked in. He took a spin around Holland and Belgium, scouring for Huns and blazing away at flak posts in the Zuider Zee. On his return he saw Lt. Col. Clark bouncing over the grass towards his plane. "I'm in for it now," Hofer murmured to his crew chief.

"Where the hell you been, Hofer?" Clark angrily asked.

"Sir, I had to turn back," said Hofer.

"But these guns have been fired. Explain that."

"Oh, that, sir, I -- well, I did that before I aborted," said Hofer. Another time he was on the tail of a Jerry blasting away. He could see the half-inch slugs ripping into the Hun, but the Hun suddenly pulled away and left him, for Hofer had used up the gas in his fuselage tank and had forgotten to switch over to his wing tanks. Meanwhile, another pilot whipped in and opened fire on Kid Hofer's Hun.

"Break! Break!" shouted Hofer.

The pilot, led to believe that a Jerry was barreling in on his tail, broke sharply to port and Hofer zoomed in to resume his firing and destroy the Hun.

On the June 26 shuttle mission, he flagrantly disobeyed Blakeslee's orders, and chased a German fighter to the deck; he failed to rejoin. He navigated to Kiev on his own, and rejoined the Group. On the return, he again disobeyed orders to go off on his own, this time rejoining the Group in Sicily. From here, Blakeslee organized a combined Fighter Sweep with the 352nd and the 325th. On this mission, Hofer was shot down and killed over Mostar, Yugoslavia. He was credited with 15 kills in the air, and 15 more on the ground.

William Whisner
Only one Air Force pilot was both an ace in two wars and a three-time winner of the DSC.

Lt. William Whisner joined the 352nd Fighter Group's 487th Squadron at Bodney, England, in the fall of 1943. He had the great good fortune to study air combat under two men who were to become masters of the art: Squadron Commander Maj. John C. Meyer and Capt. George Preddy, whose wing he often flew.

As with many of the top aces, Whisner's score mounted slowly at first. On Jan. 29, 1944, while flying a P-47, he downed his first enemy aircraft, an FW-190. The 352nd converted to P-51s in April. At the end of the following month, Whisner shot down a second -190 in a 15-minute dogfight against the best German pilot he encountered during the war. The next day, he shared an Bf-109 kill with Preddy; then it was home to the States on leave.

Whisner, now a captain, rejoined the 487th Squadron in the fall of 1944 . On Nov. 2, he downed a Bf-109 using the new K-14 gunsight. On Nov. 21 he led a flight of P-51s on an escort mission to Merseburg, Germany. As the bombers left their target, a large formation of enemy fighters struck. Meyer (now a lieutenant colonel) told Whisner to take a straggler in one of the enemy's three six-ship cover flights. In a linked series of attacks, Whisner shot down four FW-190s in the cover flight and probably got another.

With no more than two -190s left in the cover flight he had attacked, Whisner turned his attention to the main enemy formation, exploding a -190 that had not dropped its belly tank. Evading three -190s on his tail, he shot down another that was closing on one of his pilots. Then, low on ammunition, he joined up with Meyer and returned to Bodney.

Whisner was credited with five -190s and two probables that day. His score later was revised by the Air Force Historical Research Center to six destroyed, making that day one of the best for any USAAF pilot in the skies over Europe. For that achievement, Whisner was awarded his first Distinguished Service Cross--second only to the Medal of Honor.

During the Battle of the Bulge, which started on Dec. 16, the 487th Squadron was moved forward to airfield Y-29 near Asche, Belgium. On New Year's Day 1945, Whisner was one of 12 Mustang pilots led by Meyer that had started their takeoff roll when a large formation of FW-190s and Bf-109s hit the field. In the ensuing battle, fought at low altitude and before the 487th had time to form up, Whisner shot down a -190, then was hit by 20-mm fire. With his windshield and canopy covered by oil and one aileron damaged, Whisner stayed in the fight, shooting down two more -190s and an Bf-109. He was awarded a second DSC for that day's work--one of only 14 USAAF men to be so honored in World War II. (Meyer received his third DSC, the only Air Force pilot to receive three DSCs in World War II.) At the end of the war, Whisner had 15.5 victories, which put him in the top 20 USAAF aces of the European Theater.

Bill Whisner returned to combat in Korea, flying F-86s, and becoming the seventh jet ace of the Korean War and the first in the 51st Wing. Whisner was awarded a third Distinguished Service Cross, the only Air Force man other than Meyer to earn that distinction. He also became one of only six Air Force pilots who were aces in both World War II and Korea. In the post-Korea years, Whisner continued his career as a fighter pilot, winning the Bendix Trophy Race in 1953. After retiring as a colonel, he finally settled down in his home state of Louisiana. On July 21,1989, Col. William Whisner died of a yellow jacket sting.

Donald Bochkay
He flew with 363rd FS of the 357th Fighter Group. He scored 14.8 (13.5?) air-to-air victories (10.5 in Mustangs), the top ace of this group. the last victories being a trio of Fieseler Storches. Don Bochkay frequently flew as part of a flight of four pilots that included Jim Browning (7.5 wins), Chuck Yeager (11.5), Bud Anderson (16.25), and Bochkay himself. Major (from March 1945) Bochkay planned and led a number of successful missions against German jet bases during the closing weeks of the war, downing two Me-262s. His last three aircraft were all unnamed, but carried has large "winged ace" insignia on the engine cowlings. Bochkay was not credited with any air-to-ground victories.

But he was credited with the most memorable line uttered by any Eighth Air Force pilot in World War Two. He had managed to obtain some silk underwear, and was using the lure of the fine lingerie to impress an English barmaid. "Stick with me honey, and you'll be farting through silk."

In 1970 Don Bochkay visited Leiston, the 357th's base, and wrote this letter, which appeared in Bud Anderson's To Fly and Fight: Memoirs of a Triple Ace:

Dear Zack,
If you go to England and on to Leiston, don't be too disappointed in what you don't see there. I was there on our base in 1970. I was looking for a door off our hut that had a record of kills for Yeager, Browning, Anderson, Peters, and myself. Burned in with a hot poker.
I would have given $500 for that door. I didn't find it. I still have a hunch it exists.
Our base at Leiston was being chewed up by a concrete eater when I drove up un one of the runways. No one but us knows the feeling that went through me when I drove up on the active runway to see the big monsters destroying our base.
I relived a thousand days as I looked down that main runway, (thought) of boys who became men and did what they had to do, men who backed them to the hilt with their skills to make it possible.
I shed my tears at Leiston when I was there in '70, and I will remember it forever.
Have a good trip if you go to Leiston, and don't be ashamed to cry.
Yours, Don
He died unexpectedly in February 1981.

Bruce Carr
Thanks, Luftwaffe, for the ride home

Downed far behind enemy lines, an American P-51 pilot made a dramatic escape with the unintended help of the Luftwaffe.

Bruce Carr ended World War II as a lieutenant with 14 victories confirmed and the Distinguished Service Cross. Despite all that, he denies any claim to heroism--a doubtful assertion--but he can't disclaim his role in a daring experience, to our knowledge unique in the history of that war.

Bruce Carr was a P-51 pilot with the 354th Fighter Group. At the time of this adventure, the group was based in France. In October 1944, while on a mission over Czechoslovakia, he was downed by flak. After days of evading--cold, hungry, and physically exhausted--he decided it was better to turn himself in to the Luftwaffe than to risk capture by the locals. He knew from the surrounding air activity that there was a German airfield not far away.

Lieutenant Carr found his way to the field and hid in the forest outside a fence surrounding a revetment in the woods. An FW-190 was parked there; its ground crew was completing servicing the aircraft. It was full of fuel and ready to go. Carr's plan of surrender took a 180-degree turn to the positive side. Maybe he could "borrow" the enemy fighter and fly back to his base in France. If he were caught tinkering with the bird, things would not go well, but it was worth a shot.

As dusk fell, Carr slipped through the fence and climbed into the FW-190. In the failing light, he did his best to familiarize himself with the cockpit and get ready for a takeoff at dawn. All switches and gauges were labeled in German, hence of no help. Then by the gray light of dawn, the young lieutenant found the switches for gear and flaps. Now to start the engine and get on his way before the ground crew arrived to preflight the bird.

To the right of the seat was a handle that he guessed might have something to do with starting the engine. Already there were sounds of activity on the field, so he didn't have much time for experimenting. Cautiously, Carr pulled the handle. Nothing happened. He tried pushing it. He was rewarded by the sound of an inertial starter winding up. Pulling the handle must engage the starter, he guessed. He cracked the throttle, wound up the starter, and pulled. The engine came to life with a roar. Taxiing through the woods with no parachute, helmet, or radio, he could see a green field ahead and no signs of unfriendly reaction. Carr firewalled the throttle, then roared across the field and into the air, leveling off at treetop altitude. He saw no sign of pursuit as he headed for home. Flying the fighter was no problem. An airplane is an airplane, as they say. He didn't have time to consider what would happen at the field when the Germans discovered one of their planes was missing.

All went well until he reached the front lines. Every armed Allied soldier in range opened fire on him. There was little Lieutenant Carr could do in the way of evasive action since he was blowing leaves off the tops of trees, but his luck held. No hits.

Another problem lay ahead: the likelihood of being shot down by his own airfield defenses. Without a radio, he had no way of assuring them that this was a friendly FW-190. It was best to get on the ground as fast as possible. He came screaming in on the deck, pulled up, rolled over on his back, reefed it in for a short approach, dropped flaps, and pushed the button he thought would lower the landing gear. There was no reassuring thump of gear coming down. As he pulled up for another try, he could see the AA crews uncovering their 40-mm guns. With no parachute, his only option for avoiding another encounter with flak was to belly in. This he did without injury.

As the FW-190 ground to a stop, Lieutenant Carr was surrounded by MPs, whom he could not convince that he was a 354th pilot on a delayed return from a mission. Things grew more and more tense until the group commander, Col. George Bickell, arrived and stuck his head into the cockpit. His first words were, "Carr, where in hell have you been?"

After his extraordinary experience, Bruce Carr was back on operations in a few days. By April 15, he was credited with 7.5 more victories, five on one mission, putting him among the top 50 World War II AAF fighter aces. Today, retired Colonel Carr flies a P-51 owned by Dr. Joseph Newsome--but, he says, a little more conservatively than in years gone by. And with the consent of the owner.

Henry Brown

Beating Four Aces

Lt. Henry Brown pulled off one of the most amazing bluffs of the war.

Lt. Henry Brown was on his second tour in fighters, based at Steeple Morden, UK, with the 355th Fighter Group. On the morning of April 11, 1944, in his Hun Hunter From Texas, he was number four in the 354th Fighter Squadron's Blue Flight, escorting bombers to their target on the outskirts of Berlin.

After the bombers unloaded and headed for home, the 355th turned its escort duty over to another group and prepared to strafe targets of opportunity, the most dangerous of fighter tactics. The four squadrons fanned out, each to find its own targets. Blue Leader picked the Luftwaffe airfield at Strausberg to the east of Berlin. The four P-51s went down in a screaming 400-mph dive, their props cutting weeds as they came in over the field.

On the first pass, Lieutenant Brown burned a Ju-52, then riddled a Ju-88 bomber on his second pass. Spotting an FW-190 fighter taking off, he performed a chandelle to the left, pulling up behind the German fighter and shooting it down just as he ran out of ammunition. While Brown was busy reducing the Luftwaffe's inventory, the other three members of his flight had formed up and were on their way home.

Climbing to 15,000 feet, Lieutenant Brown saw four fighters in the distance, heading west. Maybe they were members of his group. As he closed on them, he discovered that they were Bf-109s--difficult to tell from P-51s at a distance. In perfect firing position but out of ammunition, he reduced power and slid into their blind spot at six o'clock low. Why had they not seen him? Then he spotted two Mustangs ahead and below. The -109s were so intent on hunting the Mustangs that they had not seen him.

Brown called a warning to the Mustangs, which broke sharply to the left with the -109s now almost in firing range. He told the Mustang pilots he would try to disrupt the enemy formation. At that moment, the Luftwaffe pilots picked up on Brown as he closed on their tails, not knowing he was out of ammunition. Henry Brown didn't pause to calculate his chance of survival. He saw what needed to be done, and he did it.

There followed a 20-minute engagement in which Brown outturned his four adversaries, who held all the aces, forcing them one by one to roll out of a Lufbery circle and dive for the ground. While Lieutenant Brown hovered constantly on the verge of a high-G blackout, the two Mustangs he had saved disappeared to the west, leaving him alone in an unfriendly sky.

Having won the Lufbery fight against incalculable odds, Henry Brown throttled back and turned for home. In that moment of relaxation, one of the -109s climbed back up and got on his tail. Suddenly, Hun Hunter was taking hits. Fortunately, the Luftwaffe pilot overshot, giving Brown time to split-S to the treetops. His sigh of relief was short-lived. There were holes in his left wing, but more serious, his compass had been shot out. With no friendly aircraft around, he could only guess at the correct heading for England.

Brown called in the blind, giving his approximate position and asking someone to tell him the sun position on his canopy for a rough heading to the UK. At length, a voice came back, telling him to put the sun on the second screw from the top of his left canopy railing. Correcting his course, he realized he soon was going to be above solid-to-broken clouds. No more ground checks. At last, through a small break in the clouds, he saw the coast of Holland.

A call to Air-Sea Rescue got him a rough heading to Steeple Morden. From there, he got a home steer from Steeple Morden tower. Six hours and 15 minutes after takeoff, Henry Brown touched down at home plate. He found out later that the two Mustang pilots he had saved, and who apparently had deserted him, also had been out of ammunition.

For a day marked by superior skill and unsurpassed valor, Henry Brown was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross to go with his Silver Star, multiple Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals, and a Purple Heart. He tallied 11 more air-to-air victories, ending the war with 14.2 (17.2?), plus more than 14 planes destroyed on the ground. What his score might have been had he not been downed by flak while strafing an airfield on Oct. 3, 1944, is only conjecture.

On the day he bellied in, his squadron operations officer, Maj. Chuck Lenfest, landed to rescue him, but Lenfest's P-51 became stuck in soft ground. Lt. Alvin White also landed in an attempted rescue. The downed men were escaping and did not see him. White was able to take off and returned home alone. Brown and Lenfest ended the war as guests of the Luftwaffe.

Henry Brown remained in the Air Force, serving among other assignments as test pilot, combat pilot in Vietnam, wing commander, and deputy director of Operations, 7th Air Force. He retired as a colonel in 1974, one of the most decorated Air Force officers, and now lives in Sumter, S.C.

Last edited by bobbysocks; 06-14-2010 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 06-15-2010, 08:50 PM
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a stuka pilot gives an interview...3 parts

#1 shot down in french campaign

#2 the greek campaign

#3 attack on malta convoys

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Old 06-15-2010, 09:04 PM
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Darrell R. Lindsey

On August 7, the Germans launched a counteroffensive aimed at securing Avranches, on the west coast of France. There they hoped to anchor a line that would confine the Allies to areas already held in Normandy and the Cotentin Peninsula. A key element for the German armies was transportation to move desperately needed supplies and reinforcements to the front. Most of the bridges over the Seine had been knocked out. One link that remained was the railroad bridge over the Oise River at L'Isle Adam, a few miles north of Paris. It was heavily defended by many batteries of 88-mm guns (a major threat to the B-26s that normally bombed from an altitude of 10,000 to 12,000 feet).

Ninth Air Force sent the 394th against the bridge on August 9, 1944. Leading 30 B-26s was 25-year-old Captain Darrell Lindsey, one of the group's veteran pilots. This was Lindsey's 46th mission, bringing him to 143 combat hours. He was known for his skill as a pilot and for coolness under fire. Both would be tested that day.

On reaching enemy territory, the formation encountered heavy flak, which continued with few interruptions as they approached the target area. Lindsey maneuvered the bombers past successive barrages with only minor damage. Before starting the bomb run, Lindsey's lead plane was hit, but was able to hold course. Worse was yet to come. On the bomb run, his right engine took a direct hit and burst into flame. The concussion hurled the B-26 out of formation, but Lindsey regained control and resumed the lead, his right wing sheathed in flame. The wing tank could explode at any moment, but rather than giving the signal to bail out and disrupt the formation at this critical point, Lindsey elected to continue the attack. This was a target that could help turn the tide of battle in Normandy.

Immediately after "bombs away," Lindsey ordered the crew to jump while he held the flaming Marauder in a steady descent. The last crewman to leave the plane was the bombardier. As he crawled out of the nose, he shouted that he would lower the landing gear so Lindsey could bail out from the nose of the aircraft.

Using all his piloting skill, Lindsey was barely able to keep control of the doomed bomber, its right wing now totally engulfed in flame. He knew that lowering the gear might throw the plane into an uncontrollable spin, probably making it impossibie for the bombardier to bail out. He told the man to leave through a waist window while the aircraft was still under control. By all logic, the tank should have blown by this time. It might hold long enough for the bombardier to jump. lt did, but before Captain Lindsey could leave the cockpit, the wing tank exploded. The B-26 went into a steep dive and hit the ground in a bail of fire.

For destroying four railroad bridges and an ammunition dump between August 7 and 9, 1944, the 394th Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation. On May 30, 1945, Captain Darrell R. Lindsey was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroism and self-sacrifice on August 9, 1944. The Medal was accepted by his widow, Evelyn. Captain Lindsey was the only Marauder crew member to be so honored in World War II.
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Old 06-21-2010, 05:53 PM
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scapled from the wichita eagle...pics @ http://www.kansas.com/2010/06/06/134...#ixzz0qcn8mwsc

Last Sunday, The Wichita Eagle published the story of Loren Corliss' harrowing escape from death 65 years ago during World War II.

His B-24 bomber was shot down by Japanese fighter planes over the Philippine island of Mindanao. He parachuted out and spent 45 days in the jungle before an Army seaplane rescued him and his crew along a beach where the surf crashed with violent force.

The date was Dec. 22, 1944.

No reader in Wichita was more intrigued by that story than a 92-year-old former farm kid from Perry, Okla., named Harold Strub.

In a desk drawer at home in east Wichita, Strub keeps a seaplane log book.

* * *

East Wichita, May 30, 2010

A retired Boeing worker, Harold Strub has lived in Wichita the past 59 years.

He saw the date Corliss mentioned regarding his rescue: Dec. 22, 1944.

Strub walked downstairs, frail and slow, to a desk, which happens to be a walnut desk he made in shop class in 1936 in high school.

He opened a drawer, pulled out an aging brown seaplane pilot's logbook, and turned the pages.

Within moments he put his finger on a log entry, neatly handwritten by him 66 years ago, about a harrowing seaplane rescue flight. The date on his logbook entry: Dec. 22, 1944.

Strub opened his Wichita phone book and found the name Loren Corliss, a stranger that Strub had never heard of. He dialed the number.

* * *

December 22, 1944

Mindanao, the Philippines

Off the beach on the east coast of the island, the wind was up, the waves looked appallingly high, and PBY Catalina seaplane pilot Harold Strub took a deep breath.

Off the beaches near Pensacola, Fla., during rescue flight training, the trainers had taught him how to land in a surf like that.

Strub was a tough, skinny Oklahoman, 26 years old, a veteran of many dangerous flights. But the instructions on how to land in a surf like this scared him:

1. Head your nose perpendicular to the waves.

2. Skim just above the waves at 80 mph.

3. Surf usually makes one big wave followed by five smaller waves; aim for the smaller waves.

4. Stall the engines just before you hit water.

5. Brace for impact.

Down below on the beach, though Strub could not see them, eight desperate and starving B-24 crew members waited for him.

They'd survived 45 days in the jungle. Filipino natives had brought them to this beach, to the base camp of an American guerrilla fighter named Wilson, a survivor of the battle for Corrigedor. Wilson had used his short-wave radio to call in the seaplane.

The Japanese patrolled this section of beach fairly often, shooting at anyone they regarded as a foe.

Strub had taken plenty of chances already in the war. He had one of the craziest jobs imaginable: fly a slow-moving seaplane right through the Japanese air forces, cruise above the islands of the Pacific, and rescue shot-down pilots and bomber crews after they parachuted into the sea during bombing missions.

It was harrowing work. At most, he could coax his seaplane up to 100 knots. A Japanese Zero could fly more than twice that speed.

During the course of the war, Strub had seen Zeros fly right past him. One Zero, during one rescue mission, buzzed right past his Catalina one day, just to show Strub that he was a dead man if the Japanese pilot chose to shoot.

But the Japanese let him be; they knew his seaplane was helpless, and that his job was to save lives, even the lives of Japanese pilots bobbing in the sea.

During 600 hours of combat rescue missions, Strub rescued 14 downed airmen from the sea.

Strub turned into the wind now, skimmed his Catalina into big swells.

At the last moment, Strub cut the engines, and felt a jolt as the plane hit the water. Another jolt as it hit a big wave.

Strub and his crew bobbed into the air, and then slammed down as wave after wave rolled under them.

He looked toward the beach and saw half-naked Filipino native boatmen trying to wrestle outrigger canoes into the surf toward him.

On the canoes, Strub could see the slumped forms of half-naked American airmen trying to float on the canoes out to Strub's plane.

Behind him, Strub heard his own crew begin to yell.

The big wave had torn a seam in the Catalina's aluminum skin.

Water was pouring into the seaplane. The crew turned on the plane's sump pump to pump out the water.

It was a race now, as the canoes approached.

Which would be faster: The water pouring out? Or the water pouring in?

* * *

June 3, 2010

A neighborhood in east Wichita.

The afternoon sun beat down hard in one 2010's first really hot days.

Loren Corliss, still in good shape after 88 summers, walked briskly up to a house, only 14 miles from his own, that he'd never visited before, home to a man he'd never seen face to face.

He felt a twinge of guilt; in the seaplane, after the seaplane pilot rescued them, Corliss had not even thanked the pilot. He'd been so jazzed about getting off Mindanao alive that he never even glanced into the seaplane's flight deck.

He'd just sat there shivering. In the steaming rain forest he'd stripped himself down to his GI shorts, but he was shivering now on the seaplane, wrapped in a GI blanket, thanking God that he'd made it away from the Japanese.

He remembered now, 66 years later, that he had never thanked the seaplane pilot, who had lifted them off the surf with guts and skill. When the pilot had landed them back at an island base halfway between Mindanao and New Guinea, the ground crew had taken Corliss off the plane and directly to the hospital. He'd never even seen the pilot.

At the screen door now, Corliss rang the doorbell.

* *

Mindanao, 1944

In the outrigger canoe, while the native boatmen wrestled them into the surf, Corliss hugged the wooden canoe, weak from starvation; in the previous 45 days, he'd lost 30 pounds.

He and his fellow B-24 survivors, stripping naked in the jungle, had picked hundreds of blood-sucking leeches off each other.

They were all terrified. They had fallen 10,000 feet through the air after their B-24 began to disintegrate. Their parachutes had landed them in a rain forest so thick they had to cut through vines with nearly every step.

In the canoe now, rolling up and down over the waves, Corliss saw the seaplane bobbing, and the seaplane crew members gesturing frantically at the native boatmen to hurry up. The seaplane boys looked frantic; their gestures said hurry- hurry-hurry-hurry.

They looked either angry or scared, Corliss wasn't sure which. Corliss thought it was because the Japanese were known to patrol this beach.

The natives rowed them beside the plane.

The Catalina crew members reached down and dragged them into the plane one by one. The pilot called out to the rescued men, asking one of them to climb into the nose: He yelled at the airmen that he wanted the plane's weight distributed more evenly, to help the plane lift off.

The pilot gunned the twin engines, turned directly into the waves and revved his engines every time a wave hurled them upward.

Corliss thought, as they hit wave after wave, that they'd never get off the ocean. He thought he was going to die. Corliss hoped and prayed that the pilot knew what he was doing.

He did not remember, 66 years later, any water sloshing around inside the plane. He would not hear, until 66 years later, about that hole in the seaplane's skin, and how the water poured in, or how the sump pump kept up with it.

All he would remember later was that they hurtled up over the rushing waves, and then hurtled downward on the far side of each wave, with the seaplane pilot gamely gunning the engines each time they went up.

At last, at the top of a wave, they lifted off.

They were free.

* * *

East Wichita, 2010

After Corliss rang the bell, the slim form of an elderly man appeared: pale, thin, balding, and frail, with a voice made faint by 92 years.

"Hello,'' the thin man said. The voice, barely audible, conveyed a warm and alert courtesy.

"Are you Harold?" Corliss asked.

"I am," said Harold Strub. "Please come in."

"Well," Corliss said, grasping the pilot's hand. "It is a small world after all, isn't it?"

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or rwenzl@wichitaeagle.com.

Read more: http://www.kansas.com/2010/06/06/134...#ixzz0rVoDPCtj
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Old 06-21-2010, 06:17 PM
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Default Jack Harrison, one of last survivors of The Great Escape, dies at 97

By Jim Mcbeth
Last updated at 11:48 AM on 8th June 2010

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...#ixzz0rVtuU5i1

In the end, it was only time from which he could not escape.

Jack Harrison, one of the last of those involved in the 'Great Escape', has passed away, peacefully and quietly, at the age of 97.

It has been 66 years since the dark night when he waited with bated breath, preparing to crawl through ‘Harry’ and under the wire of Stalag Luft III.

Many years after the war the former RAF pilot, and his brave and resourceful comrades, would be immortalised by the iconic 1963 film - starring Richard Attenborough and Steve McQueen - which remains the staple fare of every Christmas Day celebration.

But, by then, the most audacious - and tragic - prisoner-of-war break out of the Second World War was only a memory to the Scots veteran, who had long since returned to his ‘real life’ as a husband, father and classics teacher.

Mr Harrison would go on to live a long and fruitful life, spending the last two-and-a-half years of it in the veterans' hospital at Erskine, in Bishopton, Renfrewshire.

Yesterday a spokesman for the charity that runs the hospital said: ‘It is with the greatest of sadness that we announce the passing of Great Escape veteran Jack Harrison.

‘Mr Harrison, thought to be the last survivor of the escape, passed away with his son, Chris, and daughter, Jane, by his side.’

The success of the film The Great Escape may have elevated the humble Latin teacher to the status of a war hero. But to his family, he will forever be ‘dad’. In a joint statement yesterday, his two children paid tribute to him.

They said: ‘To others, he was considered a war hero, but to us he was much more than that. ‘He was a family man first and foremost. He was also a church elder, a Rotarian, scholar, traveller and athlete. He took up marathon running in his 70s to raise money for charity.

He was also a caring father and grandfather and he will be missed by the entire family.

‘We are indebted to Erskine for the care and attention that he and we have received over the past two and a half years.’

Throughout his long life, Mr Harrison played down his important role in the daring escape bid from Stammlager der Luftwaffe III - meaning a camp for airmen - which was established at Sagan, in what is now Poland.

He was being unduly modest. Mr Harrison played a key role in the plot.

He acted as a ‘runner’ for Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, who was played in the film by Richard Attenborough.

Bushell was the mastermind behind the digging of the three escape tunnels, which were started in April 1943 and codenamed Tom, Dick and Harry.

His plan was to dig down to a depth of 30ft and then tunnel on three fronts towards the perimeter of the camp and into the woods beyond.

Stalag Luft III, which lay 100 miles south-east of Berlin, was a massive facility.

At its height, 10,000 RAF officers and non-commissioned aircrew were held there.

Planning the Great Escape required daring and ingenuity.

The prisoners would disguise themselves as civilians and split into three groups.

One group would trek out of the region, while others would use the railway network to effect an escape.

In an interview with the Scottish Daily Mail in 2008, Mr Harrison said: ‘The Germans knew about tunnels at other camps, so we had to be very careful - or you could be shot.’

Tragically, that would be the fate of many of his comrades.

The Gestapo captured and executed 50 of them within days of the escape.

However, no threat of capture or death could have persuaded the airmen not to do their duty and attempt to make it back home to rejoin their units.

Their exhaustive and intricate plan included creating fake documents and tailoring clothes.

By then, they had begun by digging Tom, Dick and Harry.

Tom and Dick had to be abandoned, but Harry remained.

The dirt from the tunnel was carried secretly into the camp where it was disguised as vegetable and tomato patches.

It was hoped that on the night of the escape – 24 March, 1944 - around 200 prisoners would go through Harry to the outside.

Each of the escapees was given a number that indicated his place in the ‘queue’.

Mr Harrison was Prisoner Number 96 and waited in Hut 104 to take his turn.

He was dressed as a civilian engineer, with fake papers to prove it, when he heard gunfire from outside.

Mr Harrison said: ‘The 77th prisoner was escaping when I heard the shots.

‘I was 96th in line and I was ready to go into the tunnel. I had my kit, false ID, railway passes and German money.

‘But unfortunately, “Harry” had fallen 30ft short of the wire surrounding the camp.’

Only 76 men had emerged before a guard, who had gone to the woods to relieve himself, raised the alarm.

‘We heard a rifle shot and it was all over,’ said Mr Harrison, who added: ‘I quickly burned the forged documentation in the stove and changed out of the civilian clothing.

Of the 76 who made it out of the tunnel, only three – two Norwegians and a Dutchman - eventually made it home.

The others were recaptured.

In an attempt to put off other prisoners seeking to escape, Hitler, Goering and Himmler ordered that those who were recaptured should be executed.

Mr Harrison said: ‘I knew quite a few of the men who were shot. For a while, we thought we would be next.

‘It was an anxious time. I was a long way from home and a very long way from my real life.’

The Glasgow-born veteran had been working as a Latin and classics’ teacher at Dornoch Academy, in Sutherland, when he was called up to serve in the Royal Air Force as a pilot.

On his first mission, in November 1942, to bomb German supply ships at the Dutch port of Den Helder, his Lockheed Ventura was shot down.

He was captured and arrived later that month at Stalag Luft III.

Mr Harrison, who was also a grandfather, recalled how he was released.

‘I was liberated as the Russians advanced,' he said.

‘We were marched for two days and nights and eventually we were loaded on to rail trucks and taken across Germany.'

Mr Harrison eventually got home. He recalled: ‘I had married my school sweetheart, Jean, in 1940 and she was living with her parents.

‘After the war, I worked as a classics’ teacher at the Glasgow Academy and we lived in the city until the 1950s.'

The family moved to Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute, in 1958 when Mr Harrison took up a post as Director of Education for the area.

Mr Harrison is survived by his son and daughter and two grandchildren, Mark and Stuart.

Major Jim Panton, the Chief Executive of Erskine Hospital, said yesterday: ‘It was a privilege and an honour for Erskine to care for Jack over the past two years.

‘Although a very modest and private man, he will be greatly missed by all of the staff and veterans in our home.

‘Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.’
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