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T ik e S e s t 5 e a t in fk e -H o u s e

by John Robert Parsons

Copyright 1998 John Robert & Mai Parsons Lafayette, Indiana All Rights Reserved

Publisher John Robert and Mai Parsons 3504 South Ninth Street Lafayette, Indiana 47905 Printed by Western Publishing

F o rew o rd

This book is divided into four sections. The first section describes the time after being drafted, different missions, and being shot down and taken prisoner. The second section shows pictures relative to all that is mentioned in this book, a vivid description of the experiences. The third section takes you through the different prison camps and tells what was necessary in order to survive. The last section relates stories from the military reserve, life after the military and travels to Europe. Mai completes the book with her remembrances.

y A c U n o w l e d 0 m e K \f s

To my wife, Mai, who gave me the courage, desire and will to live to return to a wonderful lifetime of enjoyment. To my son, Randy, for encouraging me to write this book as a true documentation of the pains of war. And to my friend Babs Douglass of W est Lafayette, Indiana, for the typing, layout and design in preparation of this manuscript.

D e d ic a tio n This book is dedicated . . . . . . to all courageous Americans who have given their hearts and souls to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today . . . .. . . to the memory and spirit of those days when one and all stood united against a common enemy . . . . . . to honor my fellow B-17 crew membersbrothers in battlefriends for life . . . . . . to my beloved wife, Mai, and cherished son, Randy . . . May the skies remain forever blue. j The air eternally fresh And the grass always green. Ill see you down the road. T/Sgt. John Robert Parsons 8th Air Force 1st Division 91st Bomb Group 401st Squadron T/Sgt. J.R.P. Top Turret Gunner

T o M ai,

My Sweetheart . . . My Wife . . . My Lover . . . My Companion . . . My Caregiver . . . My Best Friend. Love Forever, Bobbie

p V e fa c e

One day in the clouds high over Nazi Germany, my Dad gripped his blazing .50 caliber machine guns, praying to God his bullets would blow the attacking fighter planes from the sky before their cannons would send his lumbering B-17 bomber crashing to the hostile ground below. Suddenly, he realized the fighter pilot was praying to the same God that he, too, would also somehow survive their deadly aerial battle and live to return to a waiting wife and family at home. Of all the harrowing experiences, brushes with certain catastrophe and the eventual despair of brutal captivity, I think Dads realization that day spoke volumes about the sensitivity and unique visions which characterized his life. Even in the desparate inhumanity of a life and death struggle, his respect lor his fellow man shown through. This book is more than a chronicle of my fathers war experiences. It provides insight into the strength and courage of a man possessed with a quiet dignity, respect, optimism and a keen appreciation for all the wondrous beauties of Gods creations. John Robert Parsons was a humble man, yet true to his convictions and filled with a gentle humor. His wartime legacy provided a never-ending spark of gratitude for the gifts of each day, right up until his last. The patience honed during his dehumanizing prisoner of war travails lived on throughout his life in a peaceful balance and acceptance for the many challenges of postwar life. Many of the war stories Dad shared during my childhood reflected his deep-seated sensitivity to and respect for others, even

his enemies. Through his stories and his actions he became a true role model. Dads stories and the way he lived his life inspired me to strive for the same qualities. His legacy will always be a personal challenge to follow his example and live up to the high standards of his heritage. Dad spoke often of his thankfulness for the gift of simple things. As long as he had blue skies, fresh air and green grass, everything was going to be all right. Today, I see my father perched awkwardly in the top turret of his noisy, rattlely, bomb-laden B-17. He is looking out across the rolling fields and meandering rivers of a foreign land, admiring the puffy clouds framing a fearsome airborne armada droning onto destiny. The racous purr of four rumbling radial engines brings a glow of satisfaction to his spirit. He spins the turret to take in yet another view and calmly surveys all he sees. His heart soars as the ironic beauty of the scene stirs his soul. He begins to smile and he settles back to forever enjoy . . . The Best Seat in the House! Adios, Dad, I love you.

C i v i l i a n fo S o l d i e r

As the interviewer was questioning me, he suddenly stopped and looked at mv left hand. He remarked, Married . . . no one will ever J know that you werent killed in the crash. I think that I will have you shot. And, with that, two approached me from behind and simultaneously clicked their heels together . . . resulting in a rifle-like sound. I thought that I had been shot and looked down at my chest. I fully expected to see masses of blood and my thoughts were, You son-of-a-bitch, you did have me shot. But I didnt see any blood. Instead they eased me up with a gun barrel under each armpit and directed me toward a window. Standing there, I looked below to see a firing squad. Suddenly, I heard a volley of shots. Then the squad marched back in front of my window. Their Commandant slowly put his pistol back in its holster. As all of this was happening, I quietly asked myself, How in the hell did a little Indiana country farm boy get in a mess like this? I am a member of an Indiana family whose roots, on both maternal and paternal sides of the family, go back to preRevolutionary days. Mathias Parsons, my great, great, great grandfather, served in the Revolutionary W ar and was a Prisoner of War. A great uncle, David Parsons, served as a youth of sixteen in the Civil W ar and my father served under Brigadier General John J. Pershing in 1917 during an expedition to capture Pancho Villa in Mexico. He served with the 4th Calvalry Regiment. My three brothers and I grew up on a small farm near Lafayette, Indiana. After graduating from Klondike High School in 1941, I started working for ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America) at the salary of thirty-five dollars per week. This rather beat the fifty cents a day that I had earned when threshing for farmers.

Mai and I m et during the summer of 1941. Mai was 17 and I was 19. W e had so much fun that summer and fall that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. W e became engaged at Christmas and we were married in St. Lawrence Catholic Church on May 6, 1942. W orld W ar II had been declared December 8, 1941. Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and President Roosevelt had declared war the following day. My two brothers, Charles Arthur and David Earl Parsons, had enlisted that same day. Charles served in the Army Signal Corps and David served in the Air Corps. Fortunately, neither saw enemy action during the war, but they were both sent to Germany and served in the Army of Occupation. Another brother, James Richard, served in the Navy in 1945. Shortly after Mai and I were married, I received my Greetings from Uncle Sam. I successfully passed the physical examinations and academic testing, and was inducted into the United States Air Corps on September 26, 1942. I had always had an interest in flying, dating from a fifty-cent ride on a Ford Tri-M otor hangared at Reimers Airport south of Lafayette. The plane had wicker seats and a curtain hanging between the pilot and his passengers. It was the ultimate thrill for a nine-year-old. Now I would be in the Air Corps. Maybe a crew member on a bomber. Maybe even a fighter pilot. At my first opportunity, I would apply for Cadet training. This school was often referred to as the school of 90-day wonders. In the short space of three months, Cadet training turned out pilots, co-pilots, bombardiers and navigators. So, with feelings of excitement and wonder, I went by train to Clearwater, Florida. The entire train was filled with draftees and G.I.s and was referred to as a troop train. I would journey on several troop trains in the coming year As we arrived in Clearwater, the Fort Benjamin Harrison Hotel loomed up beside the train. This luxury hotel would be our home for

the next month. Located a brief walk from the hotel was the picturesque Gulf of Mexico. Every morning, after breakfast, we would run to the beach and go through a period of calisthentics for three or four hours. Then we did double-time back to the hotel for lunch. The food served to us was the best ever. Afternoons were spent in lectures and seminars on military subjects. Evenings were generally spent goofing off. I tried to write to Mai every night and call her frequently. W e were looking forward to Mai joining me at my next base. Some of the guys would go down to the piers along the Gulf and wait for the shrimp boats to come in. They would buy the shrimp from the fishermen and bring them back to the hotel where the hotel chef would prepare them for dinner. That was a real treat.

S ilo x i

After a few weeks, we left by troop train for Keesler Air Force Base, an Aircraft Maintenance School, in Biloxi, Mississippi. Keesler AFB was to be my home for the next six months. Biloxi also was located directly on the Gulf of Mexico. It was a beautiful old city with many ante-bellum homes along the Gulf. Here too, were many fishermen who left each morning in their boats and returned in the evening with shrimp and oysters. I called Mai and urged her to join me in Biloxi. I was assigned to night classes, 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., with compulsory bed check at 1:00 p.m., which did not allow for any free time. In our classes we learned everything that had to do with the mechanics of a B-17. The B-17 was listed on the Air Force procurem ent tables as a heavy bombardment airplane. The Flying Fortress was a long-range heavy bomber whose function in time of war was daylight precision strategic bombardment over long distances. Targets, especially populated areas, were not bombed at random; there was a careful selection of targets and the mission of the heavy bombers was to destroy the enemy's means for making war, to make it impossible for the enemy to fight by denying them weapons, machines and fuel. Mai soon arrived by Greyhound bus. W e were able to get a room at the Buena Vista Hotel, right on the Gulf. The Buena Vista was an older hotel with small rooms and a shared bath at the end of the hall. W ithin a week, we were resettled in a private home, Mai had a job and it was wonderful to be together again. At Keesler, I was assigned to Barracks 15, which was the lower bay. There were approximately 30 men in our barracks and the entire building of men was on the night shift.

W e marched in cadence to Mess Hall and to classes. W e were issued coverallsmine was a size 44. Since I am S feet 4 inches, a size 44 was several sizes too large. The crotch hit just below the knee area, so when I marched or did double time, it sounded like a blanket flapping in the wind. The coveralls were indicative of everything about Keesler Air Force Base. The lieutenant was a lieutenant from Hell. He would hide behind a tree and, as you passed the tree, he would jump out and say, Hey, soldier, you are supposed to salute an officer. He would make me stand there and practice saluting for ten minutes or so. The sergeant was also a sergeant from Hell. For exanple, if I wanted a pass, he would always tell me that I was not dressed properly. He proceeded to grab me by my lapels and scream in my face, Foul brass. Go back to your barracks and get properly dressed and come by here for another inspection. He always finished by saying, W hen you see your wife, tell her to go back home. Several times, for no apparent reason, he would put a backpack, filled with bricks, on me, give me a broomstick and have me march guard on the Supply Building. Suffice it to say, with class hours eleven to seven, every morning for the next six months that I spent at Keesler, it would have to be considered ones worst nightmare. I thanked God every day that Mai was there with me and that we were able to spend every weekend together. Toward the end of my training at Keesler, Mai had quit her job at the W oolworth store and we were able to enjoy a picnic lunch every day in a grove of pine trees just outside the main gate. Mai was not perm itted to come on the base, but for one hour each day, we had lunch, held hands and fed the squirrels. This made life great!

B u rb an k

Our outfit left Keesler by train and arrived in Burbank, California, about mid-April. W e were assigned to a B-17 Bomber, where we were taught basic maintenance on the B-17. W e had the best of quarters, the best of food, and wonderful management personnel. The close proximity of movie studios enabled us to have first class entertainment. W e m et Betty Grable and Hedy Lamar. W e toured the M etro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, which we all found quite interesting. After a period of three weeks, we traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, by troop train. Here we learned how to fire 50 calibre machine guns and everything about them, disassembly, maintenance, etc. One of our training sessions involved an AT-6 towing a sleeve. W e would fly near the sleeve and put as many projectiles as possible into the sleeve. Each gunner had a different color projectile, so this provided verification as to which gunner hit the target more often. The winner was awarded a night out in Las Vegas, compliments of different Las Vegas casinos. Being one of the winners, I was awarded a night on the town, but I offered to give my prize to someone else. However, before we could get around to working it out, he was transferred. Another interesting part of our training consisted of shooting clay pigeons. Each man was given a shotgun and 12 -gauge ammunition. W e all climbed onto a truck and were taken to a shooting range. As the truck drove around, clay pigeons were released in different

locations. No one ever hit twenty-five clay pigeons out of twentyfive, but it was sure a lot of fun trying. W e were in Las Vegas about three weeks and then went by train to Salt Lake City, Utah. Our training at Salt Lake Air Force Base dealt with aircraft recognition, more gunnery school and related materials.

After a brief period of time, we again boarded a troop train for Ephrata, Washington. Ephrata was an Air Base for training pilots and their crew members in the multiple engine B-17F airplane. Once assigned to a crew, we were told to go to a staging area. This consisted of several small buildings, 8 x 1 0 feet in size, just large enough for three double bunks. As we entered the area, we were given a building number. This is how the six-man crews were formed. Later, we would meet the four officers of our ten-man crew. The six-man crew consisted of an engineer top turret gunner, the radio operator, ball turret gunner, tail gunner and two waist gunners. The officers consisted of the pilot, co-pilot, bombardier and navigator. W e m et with the officers down on the line, got in the airplane and flew. W e flew touch and go, which means we touched down on the runway, took off and flew. Occasionally, we were loaded with practice bombs, which we dropped in a designated area. W e flew formation in squadrons of two and in squadrons of three. W e also flew at night, which helped the navigator and crew to be aware of the celestial environment. Before the full complement of crew arrived at Ephrata, I flew as an engineer . . . it was the pilot, co-pilot and myself. W e had a number of harrowing experiences. For instance, one day a student pilot was running up an engine and kept the R.P.M. high. He stressed the engine during takeoff, and just as we became airborne, the engine blew a cylinder. W e made a turn to the downwind leg and came in for a landing, barely clearing the treetops.

There were several times when the student pilot overprimed the fuel while starting the engine. The excess gas exploded into flames, but the ground crew extinguished it immediately. Once, on takeoff, the plane veered to the left and struck a gravel pile. W e feathered the engine, again barely clearing the treetops, got in a landing; pattern and landed. Another time, we landed the airplane and slid off to the right, demolishing several runway lights. There were other crews and planes less fortunate than we were. Mai and I lost a very dear friend, Eugene Giles, when the B-17, on which he was a radio operator, crashed headlong into the side of a mountain in Casper, Wyoming, in February of 1943. Gene was 18 years old. Engine trouble, pilot error or both might have caused this accident. Our crew consisted of the following: Pilot: GIBBONS, William F., 1/Lt. 0802738 Co-Pilot: McCALLUM, Clyde C., 2/Lt. 06782 88 Navigator: SHEA, Donald E. 1/Lt 0739S17 Bombardier: QUATTLEBAUM, Wendell C., 2/Lt. 0676555 Engineer: PARSONS, John R., T/Sgt. 35371110 Radio Operator: DOUPONCE, William O., T/Sgt. 16111904 Right Waist Gunner BATEMAN, Clarence R., Sgt. 18130916 Left Waist Gunner EDWARDS, Julius W., S/Sgt. 32271927 Tail Gunner GOECKE, Paul M., S/Sgt. 15340756 Ball Turret Gunner GINSBERG, Julius R., Sgt. 33219206 Later, when we were in England and straggling along the flight line in the wee hours of the morning, Gibbons used to refer to us as a

motley crew. I thought we had the greatest bunch of guys, all eager to fly. Gibbons was from Tuckahoe, New York; McCallum was from the state of Washington; Shea from Iowa; and Quattlebaum was from Elk City, Oklahoma. Douponce came from Bay City, Michigan; Bateman, who we always called junior, was from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Edwards was from New Jersey; Goecke was from Dayton, Ohio; and Ginsberg was from the Bronx, New York City. Basically, we just flew every day for three months. W e practiced emergency landing procedures, bombing runs and shooting landings. On one occasion, the bomb bay door stuck in the Open position. I asked the bombardier, Wendell Quattlebaum, to make sure the switch was in the O ff position. He assured me that it was. But just as I turned the crank a quarter of a turn, the crank flew around because Quattlebaum had not disengaged the motor. I came within a hair of falling out of the bomb bay. Statistics show that a large number of fatalities occurred during similar training missions. Youth, inexperience and carelessness were to blame. As soon as I arrived in Ephrata, I called Mai and asked her to join me there. The little town was small, but I was sure that we could find a place to live for the summer. I soon learned that there were no living accommodations anywhere in the town of Ephrata. After searching one entire weekend, just before Mai was to arrive, I dejectedly entered a Chevrolet garage to ask for help. The owner, Clyde Greenlee, asked me if I would like something to drink . . . a Coke, a Nehi. He gave me a Nehi Orange and I told him how impossible it was to find even the smallest room. My wife was coming the very next day and I had found nowhere for her to stay. He told me that he and Mrs. Greenlee had a sun porch that was used only for overflow company and that my wife and I would be welcome there. His home was just around the corner from the garage and he took me there to show me the sun porch. It was quite

small, with a single bed, a trunk that had been turned upside down for a bedside table (with a lamp), and that was it. I was overjoyed with the room, especially since the Greenlees were such fine people. Clyde and Dora Greenlee treated us like we were family throughout our stay with them. They had two wonderful children, Ginny and Tommy. Ginny was a high school senior and Tommy was still in elementary school. Another couple, Tom and Lillian Moore, shared the Greenlees home. Tom was a Captain and later would be sent to the Pacific Theater of W ar, where he distinguished himself for valor and courage. But all too soon, our stay in Ephrata came to an end.


B a s s in g b o w m e

W e were sent to Geiger Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, where we routinely practiced training missions in Idaho and Washington. I was able to get a four-day pass and Mai and I traveled to Seattle by train. Seattle is a beautiful city situated on the harbor. There were many fine restaurants and up-scale shops. W e didn't have a lot of money, but we did splurge on the best hotel and a couple of those wonderful restaurants. While at Geiger AFB, part of the training consisted of a five-day refresher gunnery school. The school was just more of the same kind of thing that we had done while in Las Vegas. While we were away at training these five days, a letter had been deposited on my bunk. It was still lying there when we returned to the base. It was a letter telling me to report to the Commanding Officer within 2 4 hours as I had been selected for Cadet Pilot Training. The deadline for reporting to the C.O. had already passed, but I went to his office anyway. The 1st Sergeant told me that it was too late, but I could apply for the next class. W e left shortly after that for Grand Island, Nebraska, to pick up our B-17 and head overseas. So there went my dream of becoming a fighter pilot. W e were at Grand Island very briefly, maybe four or five days. Fortunately, we knew we were going to be sent there, so Mai took a train out of Spokane about the same time that I left and we were able to spend those last few days together. Mais schedule took her right through Grand Island enroute to Lafayette, so this was considered just a stop-over on her ticket. They assigned us to a B-17F and we flew to the British Isles, landing only once at Gander Air Force Base, Newfoundland.


I want to make a comment concerning Gander AFB. W ord got out that if vou had to spend any time at Gander, you received per diem. One crew decided to take advantage of the per diem and accidently ran into the tail section of the plane taxiing in front of them. W e saw this crew three weeks later, in England, and thev boasted about the amount of per diem money that they had collected. In October we arrived in Wales. It was raining and cold. Our flight over had been uneventful. W e did run a practice test on the oxygen masks, and I got the ball turret for the test. The ball turret was not my favorite spot on the plane. I felt completely detached from the plane and the crew. In Wales, we were billeted in tents. The tents were approximately 8 feet by 8 feet. Each tent had a small pot-bellied stove which burned coal. Occupants of each tent supplied their own coal from a large pile. Since I was the only occupant of my tent, I was still freezing, even with a fiery, red-hot stove. I used every blanket in the tent and finally got warm. Eventually, the rest of the crew joined me and we shared the responsibilities of keeping the little stove supplied with coal. W e were only in Wales about ten days and we did very little while we were there. By this I mean we did no flying. W e were given an orientation lecture by an American officer on how we should comport ourselves while a guest of the British. A booklet had been prepared containing much of the same information. W e were warned to be cautious of the English beer. American beer was 3.2% alcohol, while the British beer was stout. I had never been much of a beer drinker anyway. W e were based near a little village and one day Paul Goecke and I went into the place. W e walked along looking in the shop windows. There was a music store and there was nothing in the window

except a harmonica. W e both got the impression that musical instruments must be hard to come by. Early in October, the Sergeant informed us that we had been assigned to the 91st Bomb Group, 401st Squadron, which was located at Bassingbourne, England. W e left by train for Royston, England, a small town located three miles from Bassingbourne Air Force Base. A small bus picked us up at the train station and took us to the Base where I was assigned to Barracks D. Bassingbourne AFB was the country club of all the air bases in England. All of the buildings were made of brick. The latrines were tiled with individual showers and bathtubs. The toilets were enclosed with stainless steel doors. The floors were made of hardwood. There were four brick hangars on the flight line. Group Headquarters was located near the main gate and was also made of brick. All of the buildings were painted a dark green. There were four squadrons on every 8th Air Force Base. Our squadrons were the 322nd, 323rd, 324th and the 401st. Each had their own Commanding Officer and his staff. Each squadron had its own hangar, which included its crews equipment room. The equipment room was used to store each crew m em bers individual flight gear, such as life jackets (Mae West), oxygen masks, flak suits, helmets, radio headsets, goggles, heated suits, parachute harness and parachutes. There was one parachute loft on the base. It was made of brick with vent slots on each side so the air could circulate freely while the parachutes were hung to dry before they were periodically repacked. The base had a football field, paved tennis courts, a theater, recreation hall, Aero Club for noncommissioned officers, a luxurious two-story Officers Club with rooms for visiting dignitaries. It contained a large mess hall, a very large reception room and bar. The walls were covered with satin instead of paper. A number of original paintings and portraits hung on the walls.

All the streets were paved on the base and there were concrete sidewalks. In addition, the base had a squash court that required reservations. There was a base library and a chapel. There was also a well-stocked PX. Most of the air bases in England had Quonset Huts and were heated with pot-bellied stoves. After we moved into our section of the barracks, the next thing we wanted to know was where the mess hall was located. There was a separate mess for combat crews. Our food was to be the best that I had eaten since Burbank, California. The separate mess was due to the fact that on mission days we were served food which was easily digested. These foods were chosen because the Air Corps did not want digestive problems during our flights at high altitude. The group had a five-day, ground-training school. Crew members went to classes relating to their positions on the plane. Everyone who shot a gun on the plane reported to a moving base range. This consisted of shooting skeet from the back of a 6 x 6 G.I. truck. W hen we received room assignments, we noticed there was one airman that slept alone near the end of the room. Sometimes at night, he would wake up screaming. W e later learned that he was the sole survivor of a mid-air collision over the Channel. Apparently what happened, one B-17 slid into the side of another B-17, pinning this individual in the tail section of the plane. The tail fell in a spiraling-type motion. W hen the tail section hit the water, he fell out the open end and was in the water until being picked up by air sea rescue four hours later. W e also noticed M.P.s standing guard in front of some lockers. W e were informed that the lockers were the lockers of crewman that had not returned from that days mission. The 91st Bombardment Group H (for heavy bombers) was part of the 1st Combat Wing and in the 1st Air Division. W e generally flew together as a wing in our Air Division with each Squadron sending up 12 to 13 planes on a mission. Three squadrons usually flew and

the fourth stood down or didnt fly. As each mission was flown, the squadrons alternated on standing down. If a squadron had a problem of not having enough flyable planes for a mission, you could be assigned to fly with a plane from one of the other squadrons. Usually you took off with 36 to 37 planes, with the 37th plane to fill in for an aborting plane leaving the formation due to mechanical failure. The 8th Air Force was the largest of all the American Air Forces. It contained three Combat Air Divisions. The 1st Division was made up of B-17F Flying Fortresses. The 2nd Division was made up of B2 4 Consolidated Liberators and the 3rd Division was B-17Fs. In addition, we had escort fighters to protect us from the German fighters. There was also a Reconnaissance Group attached to the 8th Air Force that took photos of the target area before and after the missions. And there were a few other groups which did experimental flying or specialized in clandestine missions at night or during the day, or just specialized in dropping propaganda on the enemy. This does not describe all of the support groups and headquarters operations which played major parts in planning missions, logistics, supply, medical, parts depots, etc. The 1st Air Division was identified by the markings on the vertical stabilizer which consisted of a triangle with a letter inside a geometric figure. Our group, being the 91st, had the letter A painted inside the triangle. The 2 nd Division had different color combinations on their vertical stabilizers with an alpha letter on the tail. The 3rd Division had a letter inside a geometric square. There were many color combinations to make it easy to locate your formation after takeoff. Our Wing consisted of the 381st Bomb Group (H), stationed at Ridgewell, and the 398th Bomb Group stationed at Northampstead. The letter in the triangle on the tails of the 181st was L and the letter on the 398th planes was a W . So, with the 91st Bomb Group being an A, our Wing spelled LAW.

Included in the 8th Air Force was our fighter escort. It was made up of P-Sls (Mustangs) built by North American Aviation, P-47s (Thunderbolts) built by Republic, and a lesser number of P-38s (Lightnings) built bv Lockheed. It was easy to confuse the P-51 with the German M e-109. I had a little problem determining which of the two was friend or foe. The P-Sl resembled a duck flying, with nose high, due to the placement of the oil cooler. To me, the M e-109 seemed to fly with its nose slightly lower than the P-51. On missions, we would m eet our fighters at a given check point. The fighter groups took off at a specific time so they would reach the bombers as the escorts were ready to return to their base. At times, a group would appear to stay with you all the way to the target. However, they used a lot of gas circling the bomber groups. The fighters were with us from England to the target and back. W ing tanks had been perfected which gave them more range. W hen they left a group, depending on how much fuel they had left, they would drop down near the ground and strafe targets of opportunity. These targets were usually flak towers, railway engines, freight cars, military traffic, suspected ammunition dumps and other tactical sites. In our barracks we had four bays for sleeping. Each bay contained about 30 men. On the back side of the door to my bay, I noticed a large white cardboard chart. On it was listed the KIA (killed in action) from our barracks, which housed the 401st noncommissioned officers. In addition, they listed the MIAs (missing in action) and the known POW s (prisoners of war). Since our group had flown its first mission on November 7, 1942, there were quite a few people listed. I took a quick look at the names, but I didnt want to look at it in detail once it occurred to me that I would be flying combat and my name could be on the chart. The 91st Bomb Groups Claim to Fame in Roger A. Freemans The Mighty Eighth reveals that our group shot down 42 0 enemy planes . . . the highest number in the 1st Air Division. W e were the first group to attack a target in the Ruhr. W e led the famous

Schweinfurt mission on August 17, 1943. W e were the first group to complete 100 missions. And one of our B-17Gs set a record of 140 missions without a mishap. The famed Memphis Belle also was attached to the 91st Bomb Group.


P irs t A^i ssion

W e finally saw our crew on the Alert List. This listed Gibbons and all of his crew members by name, and was posted on the downstairs hallway bulletin board. This list went up about 5:00 p.m. and as you approached it, you could hear moans, sighs and groans. I had a sick feeling in my stomach whenever I saw our crew was flying. It sort of ruined your evening and it was even hard to write to Mai, as we could put nothing in our letters about our missions. All of our letters were censored. I thought that I was the only one with a deep feeling of fear. Later, I learned that you were not normal unless you were concerned that it could be the last day of your life. If we had flown two or three days in a row, and we had become very tired, it began to be more of a routine, our feelings later became duller. But the fear was always there. I reflected back over our extensive training period and thought to myself that facing death in combat was a time frame in the future which could never be reached. In training, it was easy to doubt that you would actually have someone shooting at you. At 3:00 a.m. the following morning, the corporal woke me with a flashlight shining in my eyes, saying, Breakfast at 3:00, briefing at 4:00, stations at 5:15. I learned to hate the hidden face behind the flashlight. I even began to hate the O.D. colored G.I. flashlight and the EverReady batteries that energized that hateful light bulb. W e shaved, showered and dressed. I always wore regular underwear, wool underwear, and my wool O.D. pants and shirt. I had a thin pair of stockings, G.I. stockings and wool stockings. I also wore an O.D. wool sweater and scarf. Then my flying suit, electrified shoes (later plugged in on the airplane), and fleece-lined boots. I carried my silk gloves, regular gloves, electrified gloves and woollined leather gloves. After getting my helmet, I was ready to go out my barracks door.

After dressing, we went to the Mess Hall. Breakfast usually consisted of small Vienna sausages, powdered scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. I picked up my parachute harness and headed to briefing. W e sat on long benches facing a stage which was draped by a heavy black curtain. Briefing was a time of stress for the crews as you were being told where you might die, be seriously injured or disabled for life. I honestly do not believe that many men ever thought about becoming a Prisoner of War. The Commanding Officer would walk briskly down the aisle and ascend the stage. The CO would give us a pep talk, then turn the briefing over to the S-2 (intelligence) officer. The intelligence officer would then slowly raise the curtain over the map of England and the continent. There was always a string of red yarn which started at our base and stopped at the German target. His devious habit of slowly raising the curtain would cause a low moan among the crews that rose into a crescendo as the yarn stopped at what we considered a rough target. The S-2 officer had marked the flak areas with red transparent plastic which he put on the map before the briefing. Then he would move some of them around so we got the impression he was not sure where the flak was located. His red yarn ran around areas that were thought to hold large concentrations. He could not predict where the mobile flak would be. The Germans had flat-bed rail cars which held 88mm anti aircraft guns. He could predict with some accuracy where the fighter fields were located. However, he never knew just when they had sufficient fuel at any one of the fields, making it possible to engage the bomber stream and our fighter escort. He always said, D ont worry, flak and fighters should be mild. This will be a good mission. Good luck. Jews go in this corner, Protestants in that corner, and Catholics in the other corner. The priest blessed us and gave us Communion.

W e picked up our parachutes and our guns, and waited for a truck to take us to our airplanes. Usually the bombs and ammunition were already loaded. The date was November 2 6, 1943. Our first mission was Bremen, Germany, which the veteran crews referred to as Little B. Big B was Berlin. W e had been assigned to our plane, 42 -2 9679, Ramblin W reck. All four squadrons had been dispersed to different areas of the field to protect them against enemy bombing and strafing. The bombers sat on hardstands connected to a taxi strip which led to the runways. After the main briefing and the other specialized briefings, our crew met at the 401st Squadron hangar where our equipment room was located. It was here that we were to pick up our flying gear. The pilots preflighted the plane along with the ground crew chief and myself as flight engineer. W e checked the exterior and interior of the plane to see that everything was ship-shape before takeoff. W hen that was completed, we boarded the aircraft. The very first thing I did after boarding the aircraft was to check the bomb bay area and make sure that everything was secure there, to make sure that the bombs were fused as they should be. For some reason, I always had a fear about the incendiaries. They hung in the top area of the bomb bay and they were the first bombs loaded. I felt that they could easily come loose, but this never happened. Apparently they were secure, but I checked them each time. I had a habit of going to the back of the plane to see that everything was okay with the men. After that, I would go back to the front, place the guns in the mount, secure them and bring the ammunition up to the cover group of the machine gun. I made sure that the gun covers we carried them in were out of the way of any oxygen because they were soaked with oil. The first contact with oxygen would result in an explosion. I made sure the parachutes were lying in the proper place and checked

with the co-pilot to make sure he had turned the dial for all the tanks. I checked with the pilot and co-pilot as they went over their checklist and made sure that the procedure was followed. Once that was done, I felt comfortable in taking my position on the top turret deck. W hen the pilot started the aircraft, I made sure that there was no fire. W e had a standby crew on the ground ready to extinguish any such fire. It was necessary to make sure that the engine instruments were reading properly. W hen we received the call to move out onto the taxi way, I made sure that the tail wheel-lock was up, and then we started across the taxi way toward the tower. I didn't put on my flak suit before we reached enemy territory. The armor plating and canvas in the suit weighed 2 0 pounds and was heavy and tiresome when wearing it at high altitude. I always wore my chest pack snapped on the right ring of my parachute harness. W hen I put the flak suit on, I risked exposing the right side of my chest area, but I felt the chest pack was thick enough to absorb low velocity flak and even some gunfire. Our suits were made of strips of magnesium steel sown in an overlapping fashion and extended from our neck to our groin in the front. In the back, it extended from about the lowest cervical vertebrae to an area slightly below lumbar vertebrae five and the sacral area, thus protecting much of the spine and interior vital organs. The suits proved highly effective as they saved many men from serious injury and death. W e also carried a steel helmet that fit over our regular helmets. Ear flaps were designed to fit over our head set. It was a beautiful sight to see all the airplanes in a line, each doing exactly as they were supposed to be doing. W e sat in that position on the taxi way and watched for a green light on the other side of the runway. As we saw the green light, we moved up while the next airplane in position took off. Every thirty seconds, the green light

flashed and an airplane took off down the runway, not knowing where the airplane was ahead of him, but knowing that by keeping the same rate of climb and speed, he would attain the proper position. W e would be going in over Bremen at an altitude of 2 8,000 feet. W e had been told that we could expect very little flak and few fighters, which turned out to be incorrect. W e were supposed to have an uneventful mission that day. W e saw some spotty flak, but nothing to be concerned about until we made the turn. Then we got into a lot of flak. W e were flying in the con trails and it was difficult to see where we were going. Over the target, I noticed that Tibbets was having trouble. He was our wing man and his tail seemed to be bobbing up and down. Then the plane disappeared. I mentioned this to Gibbons, but he was more of an optimist and assured me that Tibbets was right there somewhere in the con trails. I asked Gibbons to drop down so that we could look up. Sure enough, Tibbets had been hit bad bv the flak and we learned later that he had ditched in j the Channel. W e came off the target and there were very few of our fighters around. However, one P-38 flew right along beside us out over the Channel. W e would wave back and forth to each other. It was a nice moment. Our crew was very tired and hungry. As we approached the base, our turn came to land, which was uneventful. Gibbons taxied the plane to our hardstand where we were picked up by a 6 x 6 truck. W e were then driven to where we would be interrogated. Our crew sat together at a separate table from the other crews. The S-2 (Intelligence Officer) came over and sat down. He asked a number of questions on what we saw in the air and in the target area. W e soon learned that he had a set of questions all crews were asked. Since we had been in the air for almost nine hours, standing at that, the 8th Air Force had learned that the crews would open up

more if thev had a couple of stiff shots of Scotch Whisky with a small slice of gingerbread as an accompaniment. So he poured out a double shot and everyone drank them a bit faster than normal. This was to loosen our tongues. I'm sure that he received a lot of rapid-fire information after that drink. In fact, he tried to slow our conversation down a bit. At interrogation, the crews were alwavs in a hurry to get back to the barracks, clean up, and eat. Some would go to town. But most were too tired and too stressed out to do anything but go to bed. Every man, while in his position, was in very close quarters for the entire mission. For instance, in the top turret, you stood in two struts that stuck out from the post. You couldnt get down and you felt like you were boxed in the whole time you were in that position. One day, the ball turret gunner, Ginsberg, kept saying that he had to go to the bathroom. Gibbons told him to go in his pants. He was most unhappy about this, but stayed in his turret and w ent in his pants. He said that when the plane landed, he would never fly again and he didnt. The last time that I saw Ginsberg he was putting fertilizer around the shrubs and flowers on the base. Ginsberg was replaced by other men within the squadron. On our final mission, Bateman was the ball turret gunner. Jack Bowen (Carthage, Texas), who had flown with us on several missions, was flying as a waist gunner.


.L o n d o n

Shortly after our first mission, we received a 48-hour pass. W e used all our passes to spend time in London. The LNER Railroad Station was located in Royston, just three miles from the base. The trip to London usually took approximately two hours as the train seemed to stop at every small town. I was intrigued and fascinated by the countryside. Every home had an area for a garden and flowers. Some had chickens. Many had small greenhouses in the rear area of the property. Our trains destination was Kings Cross Station. The London Northeast Railway serviced many of the British and 8th Air Force Bases. I'm sure our excitment over the anticipation of 48 hours in London showed in our faces, and the manner in which we comported ourselves upon leaving the train. Occasionally, we would notice a stern look from an Englishman reading his Times and wearing a Bowler hat. But mostly the British civilians smiled at us, as we were happy. W hen they saw our wings, they were usually warm and outgoing. They realized they were sitting on the train with men who were actually in constant combat with their enemy. As we jumped to the station platform from our compartment, we noticed the majority of the people were in a holiday mood. Even though we would be gone only 48 hours, we knew we could relax. Kings Cross Station was always bustling with people from the armed services. W e could see men and women from all of the British Commonwealth nations. As we watched these people approaching to board the train, they seemed tired and had very serious looks on their faces. To the American, it was interesting to note that the Guard (Conductor) took our ticket at the end of the trip rather than the start. It was the greatest of feelings to realize that for two days we didnt have to worry about that faceless corporal shining a light in our face at 3:00 a.m., repeating the times for breakfast, briefing and

stations. And not thinking about being shot at, subzero temperatures, and the chance of bailing out over enemy territory. This was the first time we used the famous London Underground or subway. It was very easy and inexpensive to find our way around London. W e soon noticed the civilians with their blankets at the various underground stops, spending the night. The new Buzz Bombs (V -l) and the V-2 rockets had driven the people of London underground after having won the Battle of Britain in the skies some three Jyears before. Since this was our first trip to the city of London, we went to the American Red Cross Hotel which was very inexpensive. The rooms were clean and the English and Americans working at the hotel were very cordial. After our first stay in London, we found the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square to our liking. W e became friends with one of the waitresses who gave us a little sugar for our breakfast porridge. She, somehow, found a smidgen of butter for our toast. Later, some of the crew brought her rare items (which could not be found in the British shops) from our PX, such as candy, nylons and cigarettes. From then on, she adopted us as her Americans in the hotel dining room. The V -ls and V-2s made it easy to obtain rooms in the better London hotels. The V-l (Buzz Bomb) could blow the top floors off a large hotel, so most people didn't care to occupy those rooms. The V-2s (Rocket Bombs) were coming from Norway and could not be heard before striking their target. They were very dangerous and shock waves would follow the explosion. These bombs were capable of going completely down through a building and exploding underneath. Thus, they could do tremendous damage to a complete building and those standing nearby. My first taxi tour of London cost six shillings. The driver was justly proud of this beautiful and historic city and was a good guide. Since we could only hit the highlights St. Pauls Cathedral,

W estm inster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Parliament I didnt see much of the interior of the buildings. The driver took us past 10 Downing Street and, as the luck of the gods would have it, we passed just as W inston Churchill was coming out the door, surrounded bv his entourage. I thought that was pretty special. One building that we did enter was Madame Toussauds wax museum. There were many famous persons immortalized in wax and if one stood just a short distance from the figures, they looked like very real people. Our crew enjoyed the London pubs. All the pubs had the familiar dart boards. On one occasion, we found the patrons were not happy about our being in their pub. Many of its regulars had served in the 8th Army fighting General Rommels German African Corps, until it surrendered on May 13, 1943. They softened toward us when they found we were bombing Germany. One of the troopers told me how he saw the American and British fighters shooting down the large German transport planes that Hitler was trying to send in to reinforce the German troops. One said, It was like shooting fish in a pond, because no German fighters were around to protect the big Me-32 3 planes that were meant to be plywood gliders! On one of our 48-hour passes to London, I asked a cab driver, Is it possible to get a good steak in London? He replied, Yes, sir, as long as you are an American flyer! He turned the cab around, batman fashion, and headed up a back street. In about 15 minutes we arrived at what appeared to be the back of a two-story building. I saw some stairs leading to the second story. He said, You just take those steps, laddie, and I'll wait to see that you get inside. I opened the door and was surprised to see that there was not an O.D. American uniform in sight. The waitress came up and said she was verv sorry, but she didnt have any available tables. Just then, an officer in an R.A.F. uniform beckoned to the waitress.

She went back to see what the officer wanted and then hurried back to me. She informed me that the R.A.F. officer wanted me to share his table. She took me back to the table and the R.A.F. officer turned out to be Australian. He was a very personable fellow and we enjoyed the evening talking about our jobs in the air. He piloted a Mosquito fighter bomber in which he flew nightly raids on German targets. He was impressed that I was an Engineer Gunner on a B17F. Im sure that we both learned a lot from each other about all the different planes that were flying at that time in England. The trip back to the base was rather the opposite of the trip into London. It was after a taste of the real world that you started thinking about how enjoyable life could be. How I wished that Mai could have spent the weekend in London with me. Someday, down the road, I promised myself that we would spend some time in London together.


y M o ^ e ^ /l is s io n s

W hen we returned to the base late that night, we noticed that we were on the alert list to fly the next morning, just a few hours awav. Most of the crew members had some type of ritual they went through before the mission, or wore something on every mission, to ward off bad luck. I carried a small prayer book in my shirt pocket that Mai had given me. W e received an Air Medal for every five missions we flew. If a crew finished their tour of 2 5, they received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). The Purple Heart was the third medal received by many airmen. Getting the turret ready for action involved several procedures. W e made sure that our oxygen was working properly; our guns were inserted in the casings; ammunition was drawn up and hand charged by putting the first round in; maneuvering the turret up and down, checking all the azimuths, and that the sight was lighted. W e did radio checks, making sure that everybody was all set, engineer to tailgunner, engineer to ball gunner and so forth. W e checked with the navigator and bombardier making sure everything was all right in those departments. As we reached our altitude and just before we broke for the coast of France, we would test our guns, shooting them in any direction, except at someone, and maybe get off four or five rounds. W e never left our position from that point on. If I had to transfer fuel, I would be out of the turret long enough to transfer fuel. I didnt do anything else except siphon that tank completely. I'd ask the co-pilot to go through and check the tanks with me and make sure they were all topped off about the same. Once that was done, I got back into the top turret and stood in the stirrups.


I always stayed in the stirrups until we were coming back from the mission, close to the Channel, and just about ready to break for the English Coast. The position of the top turret gunner was really the best seat in the house because you could see everybody. You could wave at the guys next to you and if you knew them, you could feel confident that you could turn your back on them and thev could turn their back on you and you would know that evervthing would be taken care of. That they wouldnt abandon you, and that was a good feeling. W hen there was the first sight of enemy aircraft, our blood rushed and our hearts pounded like mad. W e focused on the approaching aircraft and lined it up if at all possible, trying to shoot the bastard down. Air combat is very, very quick. Suddenly there would be an airplane in plain view and then theyre gone. So it was really one helluva feeling. W ere hoping at least he misses us and were hoping like hell that we hit him. Another thing that I've often thought about is when were shooting at somebody, and I guess that this has always bothered me, you pray to your God to ask Him to protect you. You know darn well when youre shooting at another aircraft, that other fellow is praying to his God to keep him from harm. The hell of it is, someone is going to lose. All of the 13 missions that I flew on were bad, but some were worse than others. There were a few that stood out in my mind. One of these was Emden Submarine Pens. At briefing we were advised that there would be very little flak and no fighters. Our altitude was 2 8,000 feet. W e had very little opposition enroute to the target area, but the target itself was like hell on earth. Flak was so heavy that we felt we could walk on it. The oil cooler was hit on the # 3 engine and all the oil drained before we could feather the prop. W e dropped our bombs and as we got out of the target area, we were swarmed by 30 German fighters. W e


dropped out of formation and proceeded to a lower altitude. Amazingly, there were no fighters at that altitude. W e safely made our way back to Bassingbourne. The plane had holes all over it. One of the worst missions occurred on Christmas Eve 1943 at Bordeaux/Calais, France. Everyone talked about it as though it was pretty much of a milk run. W e flew at 18,000 feet and, again, flak was unbelieveable. The shells burst right under the cockpit and filled the entire plane with smoke. The smell of gun powder smoke was overwhelming. W e had lost track of our wing man. Another shell exploded in the nose section and hit W endell Quattlebaum, our bombardier. I hurried to the nose section immediately. W endy was lying face down. He was unconscious and covered with blood. I turned him over and took off his flak jacket and his oxygen mask. You could see that the right side of his face was shot up real bad. I administered first-aid by powdering that area with sulfa. Shea, the navigator, was backed up against the side of the plane like a scared rabbit. I kept shaking W endy and he finally came to. He was dazed and confused and asked what had happened. At the same time he reached in his m outh and pulled out part of his jaw teeth, gums and all. He mumbled, I got my Purple Heart. I asked him if he wanted a cigarette and he said, Yes, John, please. I lit a cigarette and put it between his lips. W hen he blew the smoke, it came out the side of his face. W e had dropped our bombs, so thank God, we only had to turn and head for home. I stayed in the nose beside W endy the entire flight back. Approaching the runway at Bassingbourne, we shot flares indicating we had a wounded man on board. Planes with wounded were allowed to come in first. As we were coming in, a plane flying under us crashed and exploded on the ground. As we landed, an ambulance pulled up to the plane and took W endy to the hospital.


After looking at the plane, we all felt it was a miracle that we made it home. More and more, I felt that we had the best pilot in the Squadron. Later, after the war, Gibbons flew for United Air Lines and in time became President of the Northeast Division of United Air Lines.


O t h e ^ A m issions

The day before we were shot down, which was 2/2 1/44, we were on a mission wherein we experienced quite a bit of flak. It seemed as though there was a lot. It was not accurate, so to speak, and we finally got through the flak area. On the way back, the fighters were just like little bees. There were not too many of them, but they were quick. They would come in and out quickly. There was one plane I always likedOklahoma Okie. It had the map of Oklahoma on it and just was a sharp paint job . . . a very colorful airplane. It flew along so well when we were in the same group. This particular day, these planes were off our wing, off our right side, and Oklahoma Okie got hit. The pilot retired the engine somewhat and pulled off to his right, farther away from the formation. The plane was smoking really bad and the next thing you knew, a 2 Omm round hit and blew the propeller over the airplane. The engine fell off and there is not a Goddamn thing you can do. You can grimace and grit your teeth or whatever, but there is nothing you can do. You are looking at a lifelong memory, what happened there. I will never forget seeing that. You knew the airplane was going to blow up, there was a lot of smoke and then you see an orange burst come out of the airplane. W hen that happens, that is the end of it. The airplane was going down. I saw two chutes come out of the airplane. They no sooner cleared the aircraft than the plane exploded, just blew all to hell. Thats a terrible thing to see. Here Jyou are tied to vour airplane and you cannot leave your J position because of the oxygen. You swear inside. You can do any damn thing that you want to, but you cant get out of your position. You have to stay there. And you just turn your head and go on. W e had a lot of experiences when we were flying our missions. I remember once when we were carrying bomb bay tanks. W e were


told to look at the guy next to us because wed never see him again if we didnt have enough gas to get home. W e were warned that we should alwavs have adequate fuel. That does not seem quite the way to go, but at least thev did not want any misunderstanding On one mission we got beat up a little bit and, of course, we got under enemy aircraft fire. W e lost our #3 engine, and while we were struggling with that, here comes a little old fellow off to our righthand side. After this fellow got off the target, they tried to release their tank, but it got stuck. It came down front end first and got lodged. They couldnt straighten it up and get it out. So they settled back while the fighters took very short passes and just kept shooting. I kept thinking that pretty soon there would be a little bit of smoke, then an orange burst, and yes, it was just a m oment until the orange burst came out the bottom and the thing exploded into a million pieces. I always used to concern myself and wonder what happened to all the junk from the explosion. I kept asking the guys, W hat happens to the junk when the plane explodes. I never see it. They said, John, stop looking at the aircraft and look below the smoke. If you can see below the smoke, youll see all the parts. And sure enough, I looked below the smoke and there were the wheels that just blew out of it, half of the wing was twisting around, and the rest of the airplane was falling down. The biggest part of the airplane was the tail, and then it would disappear from my vision. I remember once, too, when we were coming out of southern France and we had one engine out. W e were all alone. W e looked down and coming out of the undercast was a B-17. It was different because it had the white star with the blue background, but it did not have the bars on the star. I told the guys that there was something fishy about this. Just keep your eye on that sucker. Well, it dawned on us that it was a spotter aircraft and that he was telling the fighter group where we were direction, altitude, speed and so forthand sure enough, here come two ME-I09s. They went straight

into the sun. W e told everyone to just look into the sun, and at first sight of them, just shoot, man. Well, we didnt have to worry, no shot was fired from those people. W hen they turned out, they turned out on our left side and by God you could see those guys sitting there in their seats, those two pilots sitting there, they had on their white scarves. They gave us the wave off and went right down and blew that other sucker right out of the sky. Things like that happened, why were we so special to be complimented like that? It was just another lucky day, just another lucky thing that happened. You look back at some of the things you went through. For instance, at briefing one morning, we went in there and this fellow says, Ah hah, at last you are going where you want to go . . . the BIG ONE. That was Berlin. Well, Im not kidding you, 80% of the people sitting on those benches slid right off onto the floor. I was one of the dumb ones. I was sitting there and I said to the men on the floor, Come on, lets get up. The intelligence officer said, Get em up, get em up, straighten out. Lets get on with it. Well, we did not take that mission. Thank God, because I dont think half of the outfit would have been ready for it. But it was pathetic to see grown men just crap out like that.


A m ission: O s c k e r s l e b e n , G e r m a n y

This concerns the mission of January 11 to Oschersleben, Germany. I was not at all surprised to see our names on the Alert List. W e were flying 679, Ramblin W reck, and by this time I had a particular feeling for the airplane, a kin-type feeling. I could feel something between the plane and myself. I knew its little idiosyncracies and its ease of handling and the comfort that I felt in this airplane as opposed to flying in other aircraft. It was not a fast plane. W e would rise up at the end of the runway at 175 miles an hour and very seldom get over 2 00 miles per hour. It was just a good feeling to be in that particular aircraft. I had the same feeling, too, about flying that Ive always had. Your heart kind of gets in your m outh and you go through a series of settling down long breathingin and out. You don't think of the negative, just that Im going to do the best job I can. Im going to encourage everyone around me to perform in the same way and were going to get the job done. At briefing, we were told that our target was Oschersleben and we were briefed as to the activity in the area. There would be some fighters and maybe a concentration of flak here or there, but nothing extreme, nothing that we should be concerned about. W e were carrying extra fuel 410 gallons in the bomb bay tank and 1/2 load of bombs. W e'd use the 400 gallons by the time we reached an altitude of 18,000 feet. Breaking over the coast of France, we should concern ourself with having all of our fuel out and prepare to salvo the tanks. On this one mission, I thought that we were going to have enough fuel and I tried to get every drop of gas out of the tank. I asked the co-pilot to scan the gauges and tell me which tank needed a little more fuel so I could get the right adjustment level per load. He checked and I had all the gas out. W e were told to dud the tank

(fill it with CO2 ) and bring it back. I never thought that was a good idea. It seemed to me that would be a bomb in itself if we didnt do a good job of duding. If a tracer would penetrate that tank, it would explode. I called for the bombardier to open the door and salvo that tank. As I was leaning over trying to unscrew where the hose was connected to the pump, he pulled the release mechanism and the tank fell out. There was a little gasoline left in the hose from the tank to the pump and it covered me with gas. But we got the tank released all right and closed the bomb bay doors. By that time we were over the enemy coast and I had not tested the machine guns yet, so I fired them and everything was in order or seemed to be pretty much in order. W e flew in the high composite group. There was an engineer in the airplane next to us. Id look over and wave to him and hed wave to me. I always felt comfortable. I thought that if I turned my back on that old boy, hed take care of me, and I would do the same thing for him. W ed take care of one another. W e eventually m et some opposition. W e didnt have an escort. The opposition flew through the formation, did a little damage, and went back down. W e proceeded toward the target and when we got there, the flak was horrible, it was absolutely terrible. The sky was black and the smoke puffs were so close to the airplane that a lot of times they would fill the compartm ent with smoke. We could actually smell the gunsmoke. W e had a broken undercast and you could see little villages, rivers and so forth through the clouds. I always liked that. W e finally got to the target and for some reason or other we were in com trails. The windows were frosting up and it was a bit difficult to see where we were going. The waist gunner, Jack Bowen, looked up and right above him was an airplane. He told me later that he could have reached out and shook hands with the ball turret gunner. I looked out and I thought, My God, we had slid under the formation. I dont know how in the hell we did that. But anyway, I had just a very small area in front of the turret that I could see out of, about

the size of a grapefruit or less, with about as much over the top of my head. Otherwise, it was completely fogged in. I got out of the turret and tapped the pilot on the shoulder, telling him to go down and left quick, quick, hurry. I looked up and, honest to God, I thought we were going to get caught there. W e got out of the way just as the plane above us released its bombs. Everyone on the plane felt like we had a guardian angel watching out for us that day. W e came off the target and it was always kind of spooky at the end of the bomb run. The ground crews would fire a phosporous bomb and all you could see was it straggling downward. That was a sign for the fighters. Sure enough, there they were. They were very able, very capable pilots. They were called the Checkerboard Group. Their F 190s had the cowl painted with yellow and black checkers, just like a checkerboard, and you had to have so many engines to get into that elite group. Everytime they came into a formation, they took somebody with them. Their technique was to flv into the formation, invert, and go right down through the formation. And they always got a B-17. W e saw several. I saw one B-17 slide off to the side and it was just pathetic. The fighters just came in making real short passes. I saw a burst of fire come out from below and it just completely disintegrated. I didn't see any chutes come out, but some of the other guys said they saw a couple. The only thing that I remember seeing distinctly was a wheel with a strut. It was flying through the air with half of the wing section and motors going like mad. It was a hell of a feeling to see that. I once saw an airplane go out of control and go down and I thought, My God, he should pull out. Well, it looked like there was a feeble attem pt to pull out, but it couldnt, and it continued the direct flight down. W hen it exploded and burned, you could see the smoke coming back up through the undercast. W e were very lucky, we took a lot of holes and we lost the # 3 engine again. W e could not feather it, so we just had to drop back into formation and hope for the best. W e had several fighters making

passes at us, but we fought like mad. All the guns would shoot in the direction of the fighters. I think it was a case where we made ourselves known and they could not stay up too m uch longer, so they left. W e started back and when we reached the Channel, we just dispersed. W e were straggling and we let down into the undercast. There was an element of three airplanes coming through and I don't know how, but we missed colliding. It was a case of thinking that you were going to drive right into a guys window, but it was just a m atter of luck for us again. W e got in and landed, happy that sucker was over. Before the truck came out to pick us up, we were counting holes in the airplane (fuselage). W e got to 70-some holes before the truck got there. I noticed a hole right through the damn turret. I dont know how it ever missed me. I dont know where the projectile went or anything. It came through on the right side about where my head would be and apparently it went off the fuselage somewhere. I looked at it and I thought Holy Smolly, we were unbelievably lucky on this raid. Goecke, the tailgunner, told me about a shell that had burst bv the escape hatch back there, blew the lock off, and twisted the door, which didnt fall out. It was a blessing. He said that he thought that hed had it when that happened. It made so damn much noise. But no one was hurt. The thing that always amazed me was when the #3 engine was hit, it drained the oil out of the oil cooler and, of course, we couldn't get any pressure to feather the prop, so it just windmilled. It had a tendency to wobble and Ive often thought it could have seized up and snapped the top shaft or something and it could have flown through the cabin. It could have severed the cabin. But I was always amazed to think that the damn thing never fell off. W e got on the ground and I told the crew chief, Lets pull that thing back and forth. And Ill betcha we moved that thing three feet. It was just absolutely shot. The front end of the engine was

scorched. Normally it was gray and now it was brown, because of the heat. The characteristic of the crew chief was . . . he always wanted to know how the airplane performed, and were there any writeups necessary other than the holes? He was most concerned about it. We could see that they were glad to see us back, but you know in your heart that none of those guys would have gone where we went.


.Lasf M i ssion

This is in regard to our last mission. Our name was on the alert board and we were assigned to fly in another airplane, an older airplane. Some people said it was good, I dont know. It was number 073 (Lightning Strikes) and it had had some troubles before, but it was repaired now and flyable. The crew on this mission was the same except that John Conlon was a bombardier replacement for Wendell Quattlebaum and Jack Bowen was serving as a replacement waist gunner for Julius Ginsberg. Jack had flown other missions with us. I was just so shocked when I saw our name on the alert list because, the day before, we flew 679 and were absolutely butchered. The thing was just so shattered when we came back, #3 engine was gone, and the thing was perforated with holes. I was just surprised we'd be turned around. The crew of 073 was perfectly well. W e all slept in the same bay and the crew for that same airplane slept right at our feet. My bed was on the same level as the engineer, whose name was Jim W ood, and Jim was happy to think that we were going to fly that airplane. Lie had flown it several times. He swore by it. But he said, John, let me give you a little tip, my mask for the oxygen system fits all right. W hat we are going to have to do is trade helmets. You wear my helmet on this flight and give me yours, and in case you dont come back, I will have it. And I said, Thats all right. So we started from that point. The oxygen system on the 073 was the older type that had a bladder. You would breathe into 2 or 3 rubber things about your nose, and as you breathed out, it would expand the bladder. It had a pin in the bladder. If you wanted to pull the pin and blow through it, you could get the moisture out. II you didnt get all the moisture out

of the bladder, the damn thing would freeze and freeze solid, and you would quickly have to take it off and reach down inside your zipper jacket, pull out another one and put it on. I always carried two usable ones in my suit so I could have two thawing. The oxygen tank in the engineers turret was one that would lift up, click up, and hold in an upper position so you could get under it. If you had to get back to the bomb bay, you could slide under it. If that didnt work too well, you could get it up and it would click. It would sag down and you couldn't get under the darn thing, and I didnt like that at all. And when you let it down, it laid, say, right in your groin. W e didnt seem all that enthused about flying in the darn thing, but at least we had a job to do and we were going to do it. This plane did have a colorful past. It had a crew that m et with all sorts of difficulties. The bombardiers name was Hudson, Charles Hudson. And he was a tough fellow, Golden Glove boxer, and he just loved to do dangerous things and he always survived. But sometime before our mission, they were flying on 073 and they were hit real bad. The ball turret gunner almost fell out when a shell hit the ball turret and busted the door off. They did manage to get the fellow back up into the airplane and luckily he survived. They also had two waist gunners injured very severely. Hudson, himself, would come back from the bombardiers compartment through the turret and back through the bomb bay, into the back, pull these guys up into the radio compartment, give them morphine, whatever he thought he had to do, and go back to his position. There was one flight where Hudson was injured badly, he had a hole clear through his right hand about the size of a big grape, I guess, and he had a flesh wound on the left. But he continued to sit there and do his part. He never let go of the gun, and he kept fighting. He had his arm in a sling, and when they came in, the airplane was badly damaged. There were two engines out on the right side and when they brought it in to land, the right gear collapsed. It ground looped the airplane. But they got everybody

out and sent part of the airplane to the depot; and by God, thev replaced the whole back end, the left wing, and the wheel strut . . . and they got her back. Well, thats the one we picked to fly. The day before our flight, my turret was hit real bad. The turret started losing hydraulic fluid and it went into the parachute. Of course, that morning I said, Do me a favor, will you? Give me an exchange chute. The airman said, Why? and I said, This things full of oil. And he said, Go ahead and use it. If it doesnt work, let me know and Ill go ahead and give you another one. I hated that damn remark because he would say that on the day I had to use it. W e went to our separate corners after the briefing. The Jews go in one corner, Protestants go in another corner of the room, and the Catholics go in another. Our priest gives us the Last Rites and Communion. He gives us a blessing and thats about all. W e got up and left. W e got our bombs from the ground crew and got them in place. Then we got our guns all installed in the cases while waiting for the engine start time. The plane started up good. W e taxied out and we would do our runup on the way out. I remember passing Bassingbourne Tower that morning. A priest was standing there and the major officers were waving us off, giving us the thumbs up sign and that sort of thing. Our mission was an aircraft engine warehouse somewhere in the area of Hanover and the briefing officer always made lightly of the opposition we might meet. Oh, I doubt if youll m eet any aircraft at all. There are some in that area. And flak should be slight, you shouldn't have any problem. All this should be damn near a milk run. Well, you know how that goes. After preparation, we are ready and taxiing down the runway, getting ready for takeoff. We would taxi down near the runway and wait for another green light, meaning one was going to move up. There were two on the runway then. One plane would move up and

the others would fall in behind and we would get in behind in the third position. Each plane would take off 30 seconds after the plane before him, which means we didnt wonder whether it was clear or not as it went down. W e accelerated the thing to the firewall and down the runway wed go, 30 seconds behind the plane in front of us. It was a clear day and we had a good takeoff. It was kind of nice seeing everybody taking the turn at the same rate of climb, same rate of air speed. As we looked on our left, we could see a flare, and that flare was the lead group. W e were supposed to get up there and know our position in the formation. W e were now headed for our mission. W e were almost to the other side of the Channel. W e had to keep climbing to get to our designated attitude, which was 2 5,000 feet. I do know that it was rather cold. W e were doing exceptionally well. W e had a good formation, a tight box. W e came to the target area and the lead navigator was somewhat of a cowboy. They decided at that time, since we were all a little bit off the target, a little bit to the south and to the east, that we should make a 180 and drop, come back across the target, and drop coming across. It sounded like a good idea, and it was, except the lead navigator turned too short. As he did that, it completely scattered the formation. Here we were, in a high box or high composite. As we made our turn, we were in a helluva lot of flak, and we were hanging out to dry, so to speak. There were nine airplanes behind ours and two of them I saw blow up immediately. I looked up at the damnedest mess of fighters you ever saw, and they swarmed in like bees. There were a lot of the fighters shot down, but we were in a position where we had to fight for our lives. They would come in close and one would be attacking the rear and another would be attacking the right or left side. Most of them came in from the left and, oh my God, we had an FW 190 come in right over the tail gunner. I told Paul (our communication was good), I said, Fight for your life. And everybody was shooting everything they had. This one plane comes in and I think it was the one that really hurt us.

There was a 2 0mm explosion in the engine, #3 engine. It blew the whole cowling off and three of the jigs on the engine were blown out. You could look down and see the guts just flying around in the engine. O f course, we couldnt feather the darn thing, and when they all started going, it didnt help us at all. W e had a hole in the #3 reserve tank and it was as big as a large lamp shade, a helluva of a big hole. Gas was coming on board, it was burning. W'e had good communication up to a point, but the attacks kept coming. I saw tracers fly through that airplane and I dont know how or why it didnt kill anybody, but it didnt. I had said that if our communication goes out, well ring the bell. And if we hear the bell going constant, get out. At that time, as luck would have it, we lost our communication. The radio was completely dead. Simultaneously, our controls froze. The airplane would go into an attitude of just a slight rate of climb and would shake, jiggle back and forth like it was trying to go, but couldnt go. Paul asked me if it was all right and I got down out of the turret and said, I dont think so, its going to blow. So Paul rang the bell, and I felt the air come up through the bottom, so I knew the bombardier and navigator were already out. I grabbed the co-pilot and I said, Mac, go. He got down and, he was a tall man. There was an area between the seats where he could stand up straight, and he reached over and put on the pilot's parachute, which is a clip-on, and he looked at the number. His number should have been D 2, the pilots was D1 and mine was D5. He looked at the number on that parachute and took it off, set it right politely in place, reached over and put on his own and turned around. As I previously said, he was a big man and he was sitting there with his rump sticking up. I stepped on him and he flew right out the hole. I got back up and sat down in the co-pilots seat and thought, with this thing going like it is and burning like mad, we dont have a ghost of a chance. I told the pilot, No, it aint gonna go, lets get out. And he said, All right, go. Well, I didnt think he was going to get out, so I got down there by the escape hatch and I

waited and waited. He didnt come. So I went back up and I said, Are you coming? And he said, Yes, get out. And I saw his legs come over the seat, down into the opening, and when I saw that, I went out. All this time I was trying like hell to get my oxygen mask off, and the clip, it was too tight, and it was dragging a long hose. It must have been about six feet long, and it wouldnt come off. I was was right out in the slipstream, just back of the #2 engine, which was going full blast. I rolled like a rag doll. I thought my arms were going to be in knots and my legs were going to be in knots. I finally got far enough away from it that, and I don't know why I did, I guess by instinct, but I folded my arms and I put my feet in a diving position. As I looked down, I was turning in a slow circle. I collapsed one arm and as I looked up, I saw our airplane disappear into the clouds with one hell of an explosion. I saw the pilot then and I saw his chute open. It was then I knew everybody was out. I almost got shot on the way down. There was so much fighting, so much machine gun chatter, Im just surprised any of us made it. True to form, I always thought, Im going to get out of this damn place. But if I waited to pull the chute, the better position Im going to be in when landing and I can try to evade the enemy. Well, I waited. W hen we went out of that airplane at about 2 0,000 feet, the tem perature was 60 below. I just didnt realize I would have to go through what I went through just by gliding here and rolling over, gliding and rolling over again. I got down and we started through the undercast and I thought, nows the time. I was lying on my back as I reached over and pulled the cord on the chute. Well, the little pilot chute came out, which pulls the main chute out and it was stretched out like you cant believe. The rest of the chute stuck together, it had too much oil soaked in it. It wouldnt open up. I thought well, I dont know what Im going to do now. But the chute stayed up because the pilot chute was holding it up. I reached

over, pulled the shred line and held it out far enough so that it would catch some air. It blossomed open and was just like lying in a feather bed. I was really happy that damn thing came open. I was going through the undercast and could see things becoming clear, like houses and those sorts of thing. As I came out the bottom of the undercast, here came a damned old B 17. The engines sounded just terrible. They were unwound and running as fast as they could. I couldnt touch the plane, but I was awful close to it as it rolled over, bottom up, hit the ground and exploded. I didnt see any of the hatches open, and I felt bad because there had to have been a full crew aboard that plane. I descended below the overcast. I could see a little town off to my right and a school off to my right. I looked down below and I thought, well, it looks like everybodys heading for that spot, so obviously thats where Im going. And sure enough, it was. I just skimmed over a line, I dont know if it was an electric line or telephone line or what. I raised up my feet enough to get over that, didnt get snagged or anything, and I hit the ground just a little bit harder than what I thought I would. The chute was full of air and as I tried to collapse the chute, it went over, causing it to collapse a little bit sooner than what I thought. I fell on my bottom. It was such a jolt, I thought, Man, Ill never be able to walk again. I thought, well, I dont know what I can do. Im caught, so I may just as well sit here. I unzipped my flying suit and waited for somebody to come. Sure enough, here came the kids from the school, and here came the people from this little tiny town. Each of them had a fence picket or a hoe or something like that, and they were mad as hell. W hen they got there, they kept asking for a gun, and I said I didnt have one and I opened my flying suit and showed them. They wanted to know if I wanted to see a doctor and I said no. Well, here comes a real macho soldier. He was on a bicycle and he came out to where I was. He had a gun and he stuck the gun in

my face and told me to follow him. He had a little basket on the back, so I folded up my chute and stuck it in there. Well, he stopped and he was madder than hell. He said, Get that thing out. So I carried it. W e got to the edge of the city and there was a bunch of kids. They all lined up, one beside the other, in two rows about four feet apart. I went down through there and the kids were doing this sig, heil, putting their heels together and making this one-armed salute. Sig, heil, and they were spitting. God, I had never seen people spit so much. Theyd spit here and run up ahead of the line and spit some more. I think I was awful lucky to have made it. W e got into this little tiny village and this fellow took me over and threw me in jail. I mean, he literally threw me in jail. The jail had one window with no glass. I could stand on my tiptoes and look out. I saw two little boys out there and they kept asking me, B17? I said no, but I was lying like mad. The boys spoke very good English and I was surprised. I never had any food the rest of the day. I thought, man, were going to have our problems here. It was a lonely, lonely damn feeling to think, there go the airplanes home. Somebodys going to go to a nice, warm shower and a nice, hot supper, and fall into what we felt were comfortable beds. Here I am, not knowing what to do, where to go, and how long its going to take me to get back. In jail, I was able to look out and see the nicest country scene with a railroad through it, with a little train. It was just so nice to see, regardless of the circumstances. It was picturesque. It was 2:2 0 by my watch when I hit the ground. Later on, in the darkness of the night Id say maybe eight oclock or so the guard changed. He took me to another little cell. He had a gun stuck in my ribs. I went to the front door and he was trying to tell me not to get sore or something like that. As I came down, there came the navigator and the bombardier. The bombardier was a big fellow and

the men were so afraid of him that they used a chain with t-balls in it. They had it wrapped around his arm and twisted so hard. The man was in such terrible pain that he was walking on his toes. They couldnt understand what he was trying to say, release the pressure. He wasnt going to do anything. W e waited outside the GI truck, a regular GI truck. W hen they loaded us onto the truck, we noticed there were boxes. There must have been, oh, one, two, three, six or seven boxes the size of coffins. But we really didnt know thats what they were until we sat down and the soldier said, These are your comrades. W e knew that we had at least seven GIs along with us that were dead. W e traveled through the night, and as we would come to these little stations, thered be an outside light. This light would just focus down and we could see GIs laying there, apparently dead, probably waiting for someone to come in and pick them up. W hen we got to a school the truck stopped. W e were taken off the truck and went inside the school. It looked like a chemistry room. They had us sprawl on the floor and that was it. W hen they came back, they gave us each a small piece of bread, about a quarter of an inch thick and as hard as a damn rock. It really looked like a piece of shoe sole. And you talk about eating, I was so damned hungry, I immediately downed that. W e spent the night there, and another truck came around and loaded us up the next morning. We didnt go too far until we came to a military base. They unloaded us there and put us in the base. The attack force tried to be good to us. They were certainly nice people. Through their influence, the guards gave us a cup of soup. As the guard came around to me, he dipped the cup in the bucket and gave it to me. I took a swallow and dipped the cup back in there. He said, No, no, but I did manage to put the cup in there twice. The soup was good. I really enjoyed that.


We stayed there through the night and the next day we left and went through Frankfurt.


P rc m k fu rt, G e r m a n y

As we stepped off the train at Frankfurt, the whole train loading dock was filled with airmen lying side by side, end to end, i.e., two rows of men from one end of the loading dock to the other. We walked where we could, stepping over and around the injured and dying. I thought that I might recognize someone from our base. I saw one fellow that was muttering, but I could not understand what he was saying. I knelt beside him and put my ear near, his lips, but still I could not make out what he was saying. Shea, our navigator, also got down beside him and told me, John, thats Jim Hastings remember? He trained with us in Ephrata. The fellow was burned and swollen so badly that he actually had no neck. His ears, eyebrows, and nose were burned off. Shea kept trying to talk to Hastings and learned that he alone survived when the plane exploded. Hastings told us that the engineer on the plane, a friend of mine, was decapitated with 2 Omm shells just before the plane exploded. Hastings saw Rick, the engineer, lying in the turret with his head gone. There was nothing that I could do for Hastings, so I walked away. I recognized several airmen and tried to speak with them, but there was no response. I could not help but think of their wives, parents and friends back home, unaware that at this m oment their husbands, sons and friends were lying here on this railway dock in Germany dying alone. There was a woman dressed in white at the end of the train dock. Apparently she was a nurse, but she was standing there with a helpless look on her face. The men were so badly injuredsome with their legs dangling, some with their intestines hanging out, others were missing legs, arms and hands. All were bleeding badly.

The helpless look on the face of the nurse was probably the realization that all of the men required immediate hospitalization, and that this was impossible. About this time an elderly German man dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase came along the train dock. For no apparent reason, he took his briefcase and made a vicious swing at me. Luckily he missed. One of the reasons for such anger was probably because our bombs had blasted the entire roof from the station. I later learned that the roof had been a beautiful work of art composed entirely of stained glass. W e were told to board another train. I boarded the train to find that the guards were jamming men in the train like sardines. It seemed that there was no room left, but three Englishmen came in carrying a comrade above their heads and managed to get on the train. I helped them hold their injured comrade and they kept telling him, Hold on Bucky, were going to get you some help, just hold on. The injured comrade was softly muttering and in a short time he was very still. Everyone got real quiet. W hen the train stopped, the Englishmen got off first with their comrade and were ordered by the guards to lay him down beside the pathway, which was littered with dead airmen. W e were marched back to the holding barracks. It was very dark and the barracks had only one dim lightbulb. The dim light, I realized, was to avoid attacks from the air. I found my way back to the wall and there was an injured airman lying there. He kept pleading, Please help me, please dont let me die. He had a badly injured right knee where all the flesh above the knee was gone. His face was bleeding profusedly just below the left eye. His left hand was missing fingers and bleeding badly. I took off my undershirt and tore it into strips to make bandages. I wrapped a make-shift bandage around his right thigh, hoping to stop the bleeding.


How I wished that I had some sulfa, anything, to help him. All the while, he kept begging me not to let him die. I kept reassuring him that he was going to be okay. I put a tourniquet on the arm that was bleeding. Then I made a piece of cloth into a square and held the cloth to the wound below his eye. By this time, I was cradling him in my arms and he lost consciousness. I held him like this throughout the night. He never regained consciousness. In the morning, the German guards ordered me to leave him and go into another barracks in the same compound. Everybody had gone from there except me and the injured man, who I held next to my body, trying to keep him warm and keep him from dying. I said I didnt want to go and leave this guy, but the guards made me go. They placed me in a small cubicle. The cubicle probably measured 5 feet x 8 feet. There was only a small wooden bed in the cubicle. A round hole, about the size of a golf ball, was in the door. There was a long string beside the door and when you pulled it, a wooden arm dropped outside the door. Someone would watch for the wooden arm to drop and would come and take men from their cubicle to the toilet. W e were in this small cubicle and youd try and talk to the guy next to you try to make out something. Well, we stayed in there the rest of the night and into the day, which was about noon or so. I was hauled off and interrogated. It was a small room and there sat this fellow behind a desk. He was a good looking, well-dressed, wellmanaged person, who spoke extremely good English. He welcomed me as Sgt. Parsons. Sorry. Sit down and lets talk. All I want to know is where you are from and how many replacements came in and where they came from. How many new airplanes in your squadron? W e did have a change in commanding officers in our squadron and he asked me, How is your new officer, Major Doyle, doing? I looked at him, but I didn't say anything. All I said was m y' name, rank and serial number. And he said, Now Mr. Parsons, we have to do better than this. I dont want to hear your name and your

serial number anymore. I continued to sit there just like a dummo. During the line of conversation, he looked over and he saw my wedding ring on my finger, and thats when he made the remark, Nobody knows that you werent killed. I guess Ill just have you shot. Thats a terrible feeling. Just then the guards clicked their heels, and it just sounded like a shot and, honestly, I looked down at my chest and my stomach and I thought, where the hell did that bullet come out? I thought, Im going to sit here and bleed to death. Suddenly I realized that I was not shot. The guards came over and raised me up with a gun under each arm. They took me over to a window where I witnessed a firing squad coming from my right to my left. There were four or five men plus the commandant and a little drummer. I heard a volley of shots and suddenly, whup-whup, it started back from my left and my right and I did see then that the commandant was replacing his small arm (weapon) back in the holster. They use that for coup de grace, they shot the airmen in the head to make sure they were dead. After witnessing that, they brought me over to the chair where I was sitting before, in front of the interrogators desk. He started talking again, but all I said was my name, rank and serial number. Finally, he had a big book which he slammed on the desk and said, Youre going to tell me more than that. And I thought, I dont know what the hell Im going to do. He asked me again, Now where were you flying? We were flying in the high composite, and I said we were flying in lead group, just say anything to get that guy off my back. And he said, Thats all right. Edwards told me everything I wanted to know. Bateman talked. I talked to all your crew members. I know all about it. I just want you to confirm what they said. Well, I didnt do it. He picked up the book . . . that guy was so agile . . . it was a big book, and he threw it across the desk, just barely missed me. It slammed into the wall and fell to the floor. He stood up, just furious, and he said, Youre going to tell me more than this, John. But I

never did. Finally, he had regained his composure and he came back. He stood up, held out his hand and said, Sgt. Parsons, youre a very good soldier. And we shook hands and they led me out. W e went out and back into a large area, where we were put into individual rooms. There we just waited for the next event to happen. W e were eventually taken to a railroad siding and loaded onto a box car, a small box car, half of it for us and half of it for about five soldiers. There was straw in there and that was all we could lay on. W e waited, and finally the train, after a fashion, started moving, shaking, and away we went.


S t a l a g l_u f+ V O

W e were headed up to East Prussia. I tried to enjoy the scenery as we went by, but little could be done. If the train stopped, we couldnt get off to do anything, we just sat there. There was one window where we could stand up and look out. It had barbed wire zigzagged across it, plus some wood nailed there. If you had to go to the bathroom, they had a gallon paint can. You sat there and did whatever you had to do and they threw it out. You didnt wash, or anything like that. No sanitary provisions except that darn paint can. After two days in that train, we got to the Port of Memmel. There we were placed on another small train that went just a short distance to the prison camp. The camp was not too old. They had English and Canadian people in there and now the Americans were coming in. They took us down to the barracks area, opened the door, and went in. W e literally filled the barracks. There must have been about sixty people in that one room. It had a window in the door on either end. The room had two stoves that were made out of bricks and concrete. You would start the fire on one side and it would go over the top in this area and then out the floor to the other side. They utilized all the space they could for heat. They werent too free with fuel. W e would get these large cubes of coal, six or eight per night, maybe sometimes more. W e could kind of steal from them. Every night they came around and closed the shutter on the window and locked the doors. Nobody could move out of that room until the next morning, when they came around and unlocked it. And if you did manage to get out, it was most likely you would get shot. The train brought eighty of us up to Hydekrug. Hydekrug was a small town in Lithuania and Stalag Luft VI was to be our Prisoner of W ar camp. The RAF had been there for several months before we arrived.

It was a bleak wintrv afternoon and the cold winds blew in off the Baltic to whip the snow around us. Temperatures sometimes dropped to 2 0 degrees below zero. W e waited our turn to be called inside, two at a time. Each POW had to undergo a strip search, have his picture taken, get finger printed and issued a Kriegsgefangenan tag with his number. Mine was 1562 and I was assigned to Lager E, Barracks F, Room 2 (the lower bunk). These were stone buildings on a concrete slab, and each room eventually held sixty men on triple bunks. The main road went back to a ten-hole latrine, where the water and hose were located. They had showers in there, but we only used them twice in six months. There was a short piece of pipe coming up about two feet off the ground with a slow trickle that was for us to drink or wash in. There was no hot water. W e had to heat our water in our barracks. It wasnt long before I fell into the daily routine. Dawn would bring the guards, and the doors and windows would be unlocked. Not long after that, theyd blow the whistles for us to fall out for a head count. This was performed twice a day, regardless of the weather. Often w ed wait in the bitter cold while the ferrets searched our barracks for hidden radios, tunnels, and the like. After this annoying routine (the count was never correct the first time), we went to the wash house/latrine. Each room assigned one person a food coordinator to go to the kitchen twice a day and draw rations for his room. His most nervewracking job was slicing the bread for the sixty of us. Breakfast consisted of ersatz coffee made from barley kernels or acorns, and sawdust-filled blackbread with primo oleo or jam on it. We received our first American Red Cross parcels early in May 1944. The parcels contained one large powdered milk, prunes, corned beef, 8 oz. cheese, 8 oz. biscuits, Nescafe, two packages of orange powder,

margarine, salmon, chocolate, cigarettes, vitamin tablets and liquid coffee. It was like manna from heavenit was the most wonderful thing in the world to receive this real food after a daily diet of soup, often made with grass or turnips. In our training, we had not been given much information about what we were supposed to do as prisoners of war. W e knew that we could only give our name, rank and serial number; but they had told us that it was our duty as soldiers to try to escape. A fellow by the name of Dixie Dean, an RAF flyer, was the British camp leader, and he gave us the whole rundown. Dixie had the camp well organized. He explained to us how the camps were operated. How to stay away from the perimeters where the guards were. How to elect men to the office of camp leader and barracks leader and so forth. How to set up people to handle education, a library, sports and so on. Most importantly, how to deal with the Germans to get food, medical attention, clothing and mail. Frank Paules was a natural leader and fellows just gravitated to his leadership. He was very intelligent and well educated, but it was more in the way that he handled himself, the way he handled us and, ultimately, how he handled the Germans. Activities began around seven. They would open the door and we would fall out and fall in line. They would come by and count, eins, zwei, drei, vier, and so on, and make sure that all prisoners were accounted for. Then wed be free for the day. For breakfast, they had a large pitcher, a big one, and it was supposed to be hot water for breakfast. By the time you got the water, it was only warm. How was your breakfast? And then at noon, we either had a small rutabaga or a potato. Sometimes we got one almost as big as a tennis ball, but very seldom. The portions were much smaller, about golf ball size. For supper we would have soup. It had a terrible taste to it, but after awhile, we were ready to eat anything and glad to have that.

Each guy had two GI blankets and a ten-slat bed. The bed had a huge burlap mattress size casing which was filled with all this celsor and wood shavings, which they use for shipping parts. W e had a pillow that was filled with celsor also. The bed had slats, enough slats to make you comfortable, and the bed would be level. However, we had to use wood for the fire, so we took the slats. One of those slats that was six inches wide soon got to be about two inches wide. It was very uncomfortable because we then slept in a sway-type bed. (This story is elaborated on later in this chapter.) There was a crack in the siding that connects to the bed where I slept. Snow came through there, and it did cover me somewhat, but amazingly enough, I didnt seem to mind. There were four buildings and we were in the building near the fence. There was a little creek that the water ran through when it rained like mad. This little creek went over and under a fence and into a field. It was ideal to talk, hey, lets blow this joint. Well, that's not a healthy idea because they had told us sometime before that they were not toying with people who wanted to be heroes. These people would be shot and thats all there was to it. They did shoot a couple of guys, and this was enough to make you think, hey, Im not interested in trying that! Although I was on an escape committee (I dont know where we obtained the wires) we talked about how we were going to get out and what we were going to do. Naturally, I drew the short straw and I was supposed to be the first man. I had a string tied to my foot which was tied to the next fellow and also the last fellow. If there was any trouble, Id jerk the string and wed stop. W e went through the whole process and we timed the guards. They had guard towers and they had two ground troops that walked between the guard towers. They started from the guard towers on the ground, reached the middle, did an about face and went back to the guard tower and back again. So we had it timed out how many seconds we had, and it was feasible. W e just didnt get the job done.

In this process of escape gear, one of the fellows had broken a tang from the potato scoop and we fashioned little machines, like little forges. W ed turn this handle which had a shoestring to another reel and it blew air up through this little place and, boy, it got hot. W e had gotten a big piece of iron somewhere, and we were trying to pound this thing out flat. W e needed the end of it, the big end, and oh, that things red hot. Well, somebody forgot to yell Giggers. So here comes the guard down through there. He reached over and picked up that tang. You talk about scream. He was screaming like mad and madder than hell. That night we suffered for it because the SS came in about two in the morning and told us to get out. They wanted everybody out of the room. I was lucky enough to get my pants. The rest of them went out in shorts. W e went up next to the toilet, the building up there, and we stood outside. The ground was frozen and we just stood there. O f course, as you warmed the ground, it would get muddy. W e traded positions so people in the front would move back. After a fashion, wed get warm and the ones in the back would come up to take their place in the front. That was the most miserable night. W e stayed outside until about three in the afternoon of the next day. W hen we went back into our room, it was absolutely torn to shreds. They had dumped all the celsor out of all the mattresses and all the pillows and so forth. W e had to collect whatever we could, what we thought was ours, and put it back together. Everyone sort of entertained the idea of escaping. For my part, I didnt want to take the risk. First of all, we were in Lithuania and U.S. troops were not even on the continent. I felt that if one has any hope of getting home some day, it is to pretty much do as we are told and not to make waves. Mai and I had so many plans for our future. I wanted to try to go to college when I got back and I wanted Mai to go to college also. Purdue University was located in Lafayette, Indiana, my hometown, and we both wanted to obtain degrees from Purdue Mai in Fine Arts and myself in Mechanical Engineering. We

also wanted a home and a family. Mai was working and saving toward this end. I just did not want to jeopardize our future by futile attempts of escaping. But escaping turned out to be a game of sorts with manv. While at Stalag Luft VI, during the last week of April 1944, a George W alker was shot and killed while trying to escape. On another occasion, a W alter Nies was killed because the guards thought he was trying to escape. Around 5:50 a.m. he had awakened and had simply tried the door to see if it was open. Finding it open and the windows unlocked, he ascertained that he could walk to the latrine. They shot him. Thus started our living at Stalag Luft VI. Stalag Luft VI is located near Konigsberg, East Pomerania. East Pomerania was located near the Port of Memmel on the Baltic Sea. Our prison camp was about ten or eleven miles from Konigsberg (renamed Kalingrad by the Soviets). They used a lot of scare tactics and said that nobody would escape from this prison camp. Two fellows tried a daylight break and started down between the fences and walked right up to the main gate where the guard told them to halt. They stopped. The guard walked up to the taller of the two, withdrew his sidearm, pressed it against the chest of the larger man and shot him. O f course, the little fellow then scurried back to the compound. There was an instance where the guys said they couldnt stand being locked up with nothing to do the same old bull. One day this particular fellow said he was going home and started toward the fence. Theres a little warning wire before you get to the big fence. He went right over that warning wire, right up to the fence and, of course, they started shooting at him. He got over the top and they shot him so many times that he was dead when he fell off on the other side. It is difficult to witness something like that. The only satisfaction I had was, it wasnt me, and you just forget it.


For a short time, we had soldiers from the Russian Front who were there as tower guards and ground guards. Some had their shoulders wrapped up and one eye bandaged, so they only had use of one eye and one arm. But they were tower guards and they didnt take any crap. At night, they would come around and close the front door or the door to our room and the windows. They closed the blinds and the shades and we werent allowed out of there until they came by and unlocked the door. Then we could go out, but we did so with great caution. This one fellow that had gotten shot, well, he was down in the next barracks from us and he had dysentery real bad. He got up to go to the bathroom. W hen he tried the door, it was open. As he stepped out, they thought he was trying to escape and shot the poor devil. O f course, I was by the window, and I could see him lying on the ground, just turning around and around, crying with pain. He was in terrible, terrible pain before he died. W hen they let us out, everybody walked up to where this poor fellow was, this fellows blood and so forth. W e gathered some little rocks and made a little cross on the ground. The escape committee had started digging a tunnel right through the wall of the toilet. It was cement like a U all the way along there, so they broke through the side of it and started a tunnel out. As a m atter of fact, they got out under the fence. They would go in and dig and carry the dirt out in their pockets. Theyd get out in the compound and thevd throw the dirt out. So while one was in the tunnel digging, another was out dumping this dirt. But one day the guards came along and they were going to repair the roof of the building. Just by a fluke, they placed the ladder over the tunnel and stepped up, and of course, the ladder sank right down into the tunnel. Well, this was bad. Everybody was upset. The next day they called us all together and said they were going to have a shoot count. They had our picture and our records. W e stepped up in front of them, they found your record, looked at you,

looked at your picture, and sent you on your way. They made sure that each of us had the right numberwe had been given a number at the time we were taken prisoner. So this went on damn near all day long to make sure that nobody had escaped. They used other tactics like dogs. Every Wednesday they had the dogs in the compound, a lot of them. Every guard had a dog and the damn thing was big and viscous, loud and scary. There was one fellow in the barracks next to us who thought he was real smart. He was going to escape. So he got up on top of the roof of the building. Of course, when the lights from the towers came by, hed hide in the shadows. Well, it did him damn little good because the dogs were in the compound that night and they looked up and saw him. The guards got him down on the ground and let the dogs almost tear him to shreds. He didnt die, but it was scary to know what they could do. I always tried to see the humor in everything. For instance, I had a bad toothache, and I mean it was really bad. My face had swollen up on the left side of my nose, and it hurt like hell. I was told that there was a dentist in the dispensary, so I went there, and this guy came up and said, Im the dentist. And I said, This is great. He said, Heres my room , and we went in there. All it had was a little shelf on the wall, held there by shoestrings, and a dining room chair. He said, Sit down, and he gave me a shot. He said, This will do it. I said, Okay, fine. Then I went out and sat there in the hall until he finally came out and said, Come in. I said, No, Im not coming in because you didnt do anything to my tooth. It still hurts and its not num b. Look, Im the dentist, I know w hats going on. So I went in there and here was this stupid chair and he was standing in front of it. The door slammed behind me. I sat down and another fellow grabbed my forehead and leaned my head back in that damn dining room chair. Damn, that hurt. Then the other guy jumped up on my lap, stuck the pliers in my mouth, got a hold of my tooth and started pulling. I finally got his hand out and said, Ill let

you pull it, just get rid of the guy behind m e. So he told the guy to go. He then reached up and pulled the tooth and oddly enough, the abscess came right out with that tooth. I was lucky. It turned out to be rather humorous. You eventually got tired of everybodys jokes. After awhile, somebody would tell the same joke they had overheard. Then they would pretend it was a book of jokes. And one guy would say, Page 2 1, and everybody would laugh at that. Well, nobody knew what page 2 1 was. A little bit later on, Hey, page 44. And it was kind of cute. W e had a fellow in there by the name of Meeks. He was a funny guy, had a funny-looking face and a little fuzzy beard. I dont know where he got it, but he had a little paper box from a Red Cross parcel. He had cut little holes around the side of it. He had a candle and a string, and hed light that candle at night, and hed say, Ding, ding, ding, like he was going right to a fire, and hed say he was approaching the fire. Then hed act like he was calling signals back, I need a pum per real quick, I need a hook and ladder, and all this sort of thing. He went through this process and it was just terribly, terribly funny. Another guy had a box and he saw this Raven out in the compound. He said, Ill fool that damn thing, Ill put a stick under this box and put something in there. So when the Raven would go into the box to see what all he had, hed pull the stick out and drop the box. And that was big stuff. Hey, that broke up the boredom a little, and it was fun for a while. But he never got the damn thing, I dont think the bird even got close. There were farm fields just over the fence, and once in a while there would be girls out in the fields making hay. Well, you couldnt see anything as they had wraps from head to toe. All you could see was a little bit of their face. But they were out there with pitchforks and they had a little two-wheel cart pulled by oxen. The men would

stav up as close to the fence as possible and giggle and that sort of stuff. W e stood there and it was quite amusing. Anytime the girls would get up, the guys would say, hey, guys, girls over by the fence. And everybody would run up by the fence and look strange things, girls. There was quite a bit of depression in this compound because we had a lot of people in there who were badly burned. Some of them had leather helmets and when the fire would hit those, theyd shrink. The one fellows eyebrows were gone, his nose was gone, his ears were gone and his eyes constantly weeped. You felt so sorry for this person. Im sorry to see you in this sort of shape. You had nothing but sympathy for the fellow. There was another little bov,7 but he was burned so damned bad it was hard to recognize him. He told me, John, Im not going to go home to nobody. Dont ever make me go home, I cant. A couple of fellows that I knew from previous schooling, they were crew members with another friend of mine, another engineer, and I saw those guys. They were really, really hurt badmostly hands blown-off fingers. The flesh was gone between the wrist and the elbow. They did their own bandages. These two fellows, they were large fellows, they clung together like two little chickens. I kept telling them, I wish Haywood, this engineer, could have made it here. They said, Dont speak about that son-of-a-bitch. They had to crash the airplane, and when they crashed, Joe helped them get out of the airplane, put them up against a tree, got them away from the airplane in case it blew up or something like that, and made sure that everybody was out. Then he went to the underground and got back to England. He was all right. They really hated that guy. We dont care if he is your friend. He used to be ours, but he isnt any longer. The nights were cold. It stayed light an awful long time up in that area and it got very cold. This was in February and March. At night,


in the sack, you could hear the drone of the British fighters going across the skies. They had these fighter-rated areas, just for nuisance value. And youd hear maybe flak or sirens going off in different areas. Its hell to say, but I liked the sound of the fighters going over. I guess the feeling of liking it meant that somebody had come from our base, or from England, I would say. You just felt their presence. W hatever they were doing, you knew they were trained to help you. Besides the small potato for noon, or soup for supper, that was all we had, along with the hot water in the morning. W e did have an occasional Red Cross package and it contained a number of items. Usually two men would split one package. My chow partner was Paul Goecke, the tailgunner on our airplane. Paul was very good. I always gave him the benefit of dividing it, or he would give me the benefit of dividing it. Neither one was demanding of the other. W e both just tried to get by on what we had and do the right thing for one another. The only thing I thought was real funny was we had these bed slats which were pieces of board just wide enough for the bed. Some of them were four, six or eight inches wide, so when we needed fire wood, we had a little can that we could build a fire in. If we wanted heat, wed have to shave off part of one of the slats. Hey, it made a quick fire. But you could get carried away and wind up with no slats in your bed at all. And that was funnier than hell to see yourself just hanging there like that, like a snake, up and down and up and down. But you get used to that, too, so you had to be very careful not to tear up everything. As POWs would be coming in, we asked them what was happening, what was going on. They started talking about, well, it looks like were going to have an invasion and all this. Well, nobody was guessing about what date the invasion would take place. Well, listen, guys, Ive got a method, Ive got a feeling that I know exactly when this is going to happen. I said its going to happen on June the 6th. I only used that because that was our wedding anniversary, on

the 6th. Theyd say, How do you know that? Im just psychic, Id say. And I held them off. It did happen that way, and I feel lucky that I made the right guess. So, anytime something would come up, theyd come up to me and say, John, whats your feeling, whats this, w hats that? But Id hold them off. I didnt think I was lucky enough to venture any other guess. But we could hear the guns of the Russians, the artillery, the grounds would rumble. W e knew they were very close, and we knew darn well we had to get out of there too. At a meeting one day, they said, John, what do you expects going to happen? I said, Well, Ive got it psyched out, guys. W ere going to leave here on July the 16th. I know we are. Sure enough, as we were approaching the date of departure, everybody looked at me and said, John, youve got this down to a science. I said, No, I havent either. I'm just lucky. Anyway, they packed us up. They told us we would leave by train for Koningsburg at the Port of Memmel. There was a big, tin warehouse near the camp and the guards went into the warehouseit was stacked full of Red Cross parcels. Well, what happened next was a damn crying shame. They took these parcels, busted them up and threw them out like garbage. Then they made us run through this mess. If we wanted to pick up anything, we could go ahead and pick up what we could, without stopping, and just keep going. I got as m uch as I could dare carry, which was a blessing because we hadnt had food for a while. I knew that we were going to be in transit, and we w erent going to have any food during this period.


Aunt Flos and M oms Kids

John (2 nd on right in back row) with brothers Richard, Charles and David. Cousins Ronald and Tater are in foreground.

Ford Tri-M otor that John flew on when he was nine years old. This Tri-M otor was located at Reimers Airport in Lafayette, Indiana. (1931)


John Klondike High School Photograph, 1939


Johns family photo on Parsons Farm, 1941

John on the farm,



Mai at Parsons Farm 1941

John Summer of 1942


John and Mai, Summer of 1942


Headline from Journal Courier, Lafayette, Indiana December 8, 1941

W edding Day, May 6, 1942


W edding Day, May 6, 1942


Mai and John, 1942 Just prior to induction

Johns car in 1942


August 5, 1%2
.Tohn Robert Parsons 724 Brown S t.
Lafayette, nd. Dear Sir: Your Questionnaire has been examined by Selective Service Board if 1. You have been tentatively placed in Class 1, However, your classification cannot be accomplished until you have taken your physical examination, which may result in a lower classification. You will be notified at a later date of the time and place for your physical examination. Yours very truly, SELECTIVE SERVICE BOAi # I .D Tippecanoe County

oard HPSsHLJ

P a r, on

n o t ic e or

haa been classified Dy

Order No


;-^ecanoe Countv Local Board elective Service System Lefayette Armory Buildiug Lafayette. Indiana
(Stakt of Local B ono)

Local Board Q t Board of Appeal, President Q In D ate of mailing

Above documents are self explanatory.

Documents from Selective Service 1942



Sixty - nine Tippecanoe county selectees left here shortly after noon Saturday on a Big Four train, headed for Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, and the be ginning of active army duty. Rep resenting both selective service boards of the county, the men were examined and inducted two weeks ago, having enjoyed fur loughs since then. Rupert P, Lowe, son of a iocal business man, was acting corporal in charge of the group from board No. 1, which included the fol lowing: Haines E. McKibbin, Clarence A. Cain, Elmer L. Ausban, David M. Reed, Joseph M. Pierton, James C. Young, Harold R. Howard, Ken neth E. Crouch, Robert C. DeVault, Earl J. Graves, Harold V. Bryant, W illiam P. Boothroyd, Clifford E. Owen. R,alph L. David son, Howard C. Kilgore, William P. Luttrell, Robert B. Brown, George E. Klink, John D. Bair, David K. Wolfe, Keith D, Nichol son, Marion E. May W ayne M. Snyder. Marshall G. Horn, James D. Oswalt, Richard W. Wien, John Jacobson. Orville L. Hamilton, Daniel J. Redden, Francis L. Vandermay, Herbert McClimans, William J. Airhart, piaude A. Thayer, Jr., Clair K. Gregory, John R. Par sons, Robert J. Cavanaugh, Alvis L. Phillips, Gordon B. Fields, Eu gene H. McCaw, James R. Brooks, Francis L. Trapp, Charles R. H eim lich, Gordon D. Harper, Kenneth E. Liphard, Larry V. Smith, Jer ald M. Moore, Robert L. W yant and Robert L. Tam.

Sixty-Nine Leave From County for Service in Army

Taken the day John left for service, September 1942

Ralph E. Payne was acting cor poral for the group from board 2, which also included William H. Balcom, James F. Luper, William E. Foster, Edmund J. Beardsley, Colonel A. Brooks, Robert D. Swan, Leo E. DeVault, Lloyd Cornell, John W. Hart, W alter F. Smith, Lloyd J. Fidler, Ray T. Bybee, Robert N. Ingram, Richard T. Sidwel), Edwin J. Schacherer, Eu gene K. Wobio, Roy T. Dixon. Ir vin G. W ithrow and Clifford C, Duell, Jr. Board 1 sent four colored men to Indianapolis Friday for exam inations. These included two bro thers, Henry S. Chambers (leader of the group), and Leonard K. Chambers, 1738 Salem street, also Thomas F. Keys, Indianapolis, and Claude Hill, transferred to Chicago.

Newspaper article

First order John received in military service.

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Johns first O.D. uniform 1942


Fort Benjamin Harrison 1942


Pvt. J. Robert Parsons, army air forces, has been transferred from F ort Harrison, Indianapolis, to St. Petersburg, Fla., according to word received by his wife, Mrs. Mae (Klooz) Parsons, 600 North N inth street.

Nine privates in tfte arm y of the United Siates from this and surrounding cities have just been transferred from F o rt Harrison, Indianapolis, to St., Petersburg, Fla. The list follows: David Wolfe, son of Mrs. N ora Wolfe, this city; R ichard W. Wien, hus band of Mrs. W anda Wien, R. R. 7; John R obert Parsons, husband of Mrs. Mae G. Parsons, this city; Clifford E. Owen, son of Mr. and Mrs. G. H. Owen, 1109 Elizabeth; W illiam P. Boothroyd, son of Mrs. Owen G. Boothroyd, Otterbein; Charles M. Burget, son of Mrs. Bessie L. Burget, Chal mers; Probert L. Henson, hus band of Mrs. Edna Belle Henson, Rose Lawn: Irvin I. W ithrow, son of Mr. and Mrs. G hn Withrow, Battle Ground, and Kenneth E. Liphard, son of Mrs., Ada E. Liphard, 1415 Kossuth.

C lass o f S ervice This is a full-rate Telegram or C able gram unless its d e ferred character is in<dicated by a suitable symbol above o r pre ceding th e address. The filing tim e ahown in the date line on telegrams and day letters is STANDARD T IM E a t point of origin. Time of receipt is S T /




< 13 Y/EST 4 o








Telegram and newspaper articles


Don Hadley & Joe Haywood


Outside barracks at Keesler A.F.B., Biloxi, Mississippi. Joe was later shot down over Germany, but evaded capture.

John at Keesler Air Force Base with some of his classmates, 1943.

John outside residence Mai showing o ff in Johns uniform 515 Iroquois Street, Biloxi, Mississippi

Donald Hadley and John Parsons on Main Street, Biloxi, Mississippi. In September 1944, Don, as a pilot of a B-17, had to crash land his airplane in Belgium, but evaded capture.

Mai and John, Biloxi, Mississippi, 1942


Gulf of Mexico, 1942

Mai and John, Biloxi, Mississippi 1942


Biloxi, 1942

Ivan, Mai, John and Jake. Friends who shared Sarwars home with us. Biloxi, Mississippi, 1942

Mai and Renna in New Orleans, 1943



26* East Beach St. Phone 3*1


941 E ast Beach St.

Biloxi, Mississippi


F ayard & R ailroad

S ts.

MONDAY, MARCH 8 7:00-9:00 Art Group----------Louise Mallard, Leader---------------------7:00-11:00 BasketballSquadrons: 301 vs 593: 305 vs 395: Med. vs EB; 306 vs 394-------------8:00-9:30----Beginners SpanishPvt. Joseph LiCausi, Instructor--------8:00-10:00 Amateur NightMrs. Park Wilkes, Leader---------------- 8:00-10:00- Womens USO Sponsored Calisthenics Class for Women8:00-9:30 Army Wives Organization-------------------------------------------TUESDAY, MARCH 9 2:00-3:00 Radio Rehearsal"Women in the War---------------------7:00-9:00 Dramatics --------------Weekly Meeting 7:30-9:30 Camera Club----------7:00-11:00 BasketballOfficers Leagues 8:00-9:00 Concert on RecordsJazz as an Art Form CommentaryMorton Horowitz 8:00-11:00 Mardi Gras Carnival BallGSO Hostesses------------------WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10 1:30-3:30 Service Wives Auxiliary Club-------------------------------7:00-9:00 Beginners Dancing ClassEnez Bourdon, Chairman 8:00-10:00 MovieTurnabout, with Carole Landis---------------8 00-12:00- Dance____________________________________________ THURSDAY, MARCH 11 7:30-9:30---- Movie-------------7:30-9:30----Mixed Choral ClubCome and Sing-----------------------------------8:00-9:00----Service Mens Discussion GroupSgt. Bruce Jolly, Chairman8.00-i 1:00Bridge PartyMrs. Jack Bleuer & GSO Hostesses---------------9:00- 10:30 Party at Home (House Guests Only)FRIDAY, MARCH 12 7:00-8:00-----Mixed Glee Club i :00-8:00 Contract Bridge ClassMrs. Mary Ball, Instructress------7:00-9:00 Silhouette Cutting--------------------------------------------------------------------------------7:00-11:00 BasketballSquadrons: 303 vs 393; QMC vs MP; Pay vs Ser. Rec.; 400 vs AAFTS8:00-9:00 .Quiz Program____________________________________ 8:00-9:30 Bingo------------------ Lotso -Prizes 8:00-10:00 Movies------------------------------------------------------ 8:00-11:00 Husband and Wives Bridge Club 9:00-11:00 Informal Dancing SATURDAY, MARCH 13 3:30-4:30 Community Sing----------------------------------------------7.00-11:00BasketballSquadrons: 302 vs 397; 396 vs 411; 303 vs 398; A and R vs 59 th-3:00-11:00 Movie3:00-12:00 Formal DanceGSO Hostesses SUNDAY, MARCH 14 2:00-10:00 Meet the People--------------------------------------------3:00-5:00 Musicale and Tea Fortnightly ClubHostesses 4:00-5:00 Ping Pong TournamentPrizes----------------------4:00-6:00----Informal DancingSwing Club 3:00-6:00----Informal DancingGSO Hostesses--------------------7:00-10:00 Open House and Games----------------------------------7:30-9:00 Discussion GroupMr. Walter Read. Chairman 7:00-11:00 BasketballSquadrons: 309 vs 310; MP vs HQ; FD vs EB; 395 vs 4123:00-10:00 Movie
Mimic Room Lounge Checking Snack Bar Library Shaving Game Room Ping-Pong Tables Stationery Showers (Towels, Soap)____________________________

. BeachRoom 6 BeachAuditorium Beach---Library . ArmoryStage Elks Club - BeachRoom 4 - Women's USO - Women's USO - BeachRoom 6 - BeachAuditorium - BeachRoom 2 - ArmoryGame Room - Women's USO - ArmoryLibrary - ArmoryGame Room - BeachAuditorium BeachAuditorium - BeachRoom 6 - ArmoryLibrary - ArmoryGame Room - Womens USO - ArmoryStage - Womens USO - ArmoryLibrary - BeachAuditorium - ArmoryGame Room - BeachWest Hall - BeachLounge - Womens USO - ArmoryGame Room - BeachStage - BeachAuditorium - BeachLounge - ArmoryGame Room - BeachRoom 4 - Womens USO - Beach Balcony - BeachLounge - ArmoryGame Room - ArmoryGame Room - BeachLibrary - BeachAuditorium - BeachLounge
Valet Services Voice Recording Cameras Loaned MailServices



SPEAK A LETTER HOME BEACH & ARMORY U S O 7 P.M. -10 P.M. Tuesday tkru Saturday 10 A.M. - 10 PM

Weekly Program at U.S.O.





Typical Residential Street in Biloxi, Mississippi. Lowering of the Flag at Keesler Air Force Base. Lighthouse on the Beach, Biloxi.

John and Classmates at Keesler Air Force Base, 1943




Stripes Received After Basic Training and Gunnery School.

T S KF F o r m A'o. ( R e v i s e d Feb.

86 1,



Farsona________ Johp_______
3 3 1 1 _ _ _ _F_t _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 5 7 1 0 _ _ _ _v_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ACU _ __
(S erial N o.) (Rank) (Org. or Ar m) ( S u m ame ) (Chr an) (M iddle)






M arch ? . 1943

bUDJFCTS COVERFD Airplane Mechanics' Tools Ai r F o r c es F u n d a me n t a l s Airplane S t r u c t u r e s A i r p l a n e H y d r a u l i c S y s t e ms Airplane Propellers Airplane In str um ents Ai r r I n n e Engi nes A i r p l a n e E l e c t r i c a l S y s t e ms A i r p l a n e Fuel Systems A irplane Fngine Ope ration Airplane In s p e c ti o n I Airplane Inspection II Airplane Inspection III Cra<iuat ion F i e l d T e s t



_ $0_
20 80

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Subjects covered an(i grades made are as 1 ist ed.

95 90 100 94 89 79 Superior Excellent Ve r y S a t i * f a c t o r y Satisfactory Unsatisfactory

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8 6 .2

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Below 70

F o r t l i e n i R F C T O n O F T R A I N IN G :

W. S . SICHEL, 2nd L t . , A ir C o rp s, A s s 't F rso n n e l O f f i c e r .


shed t'I compliance Mth * a te: tcj. At 350-5.)

Johns R eport C ard from Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi.


Squadron Insignia Recognize Yours?

Various Keester Field squadrons have shown much interest recently l adopting and erecting attractive replieas of their unit insignia. Consequently, The Keesler Field News cameraman made a tear of the post the other day and "shot the insignia which attracted his attention m ost Above is the result

Squadrons Stationed at Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi.


Mai and John Ephrata, Washington, 1943


Ginny Greenlee Ephrata, Washington 1943

Mai and John with Tommy and friend


Dora Greenlee, Lillian Moore, Mai, and Ann Williams


John, Ephrata, W ashington, 1943


John, Spokane, W ashington, 1943


Spokane, W ashington, 1943


John with other members of crew Spokane, Washington, 1943


Mai, Spokane, W ashington, 1943.


Lighting Strikes Plane John was shot down on



John, Bassingborne, England, 1943


John with Bill Douponce Bassingborne, England, 1943


John with British bomber, 1943



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Crew that John trained and flew with on Ramblin W reck Official photo Irom 383rd Bomb. Grp. Photo Section Navigator, Bill Shea Co-pilot, Clyde McCallum Pilot, Bill Gibbons Bombardier, W endy Quattlebaum Radio Operator, Bill Douponce Waist Gunner, Julius Edwards Waistgunner, Julius Ginsberg Ball Turret Gunner, Clarence Bateman Tail Gunner, Paul Goecke Top Turret Gunner & Flight Engineer, John Parsons


Johns plane Ramblin W reck. John flew 12 missions in this plane before it was damaged too badlv to fly.

Clarence Bateman Ball Turret Gunner

Bill Douponce

Bassingborne, England, 1943


John on board bomber, with .45 caliber pistol each crew member carried, 1943

Royston Station, where the 911,1Bomb Group crews caught the LNER R.R. to London.

91st Bomb Group Briefing; Room 1943

Bassingborne, England Home of the 91st Bomb Group 1943


John in Bassingborne, England 1943


Bassingborne, England, 1943


Cartoon of John

German airplanes that landed at Bassingborne, England, 1944


Pages from Johns diary Bassingborne, England



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W. : : GIBBONS : MC William Clyde F . , I/ L t . C ., ?/ L 1 . . 0-802738 0-678288 0-739517 0-676555 35371110 16111904 18130916 32271927 18041290 15340756




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Wilfred John

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W i ll i am Clarence Julius S., W


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Casualty Report, February 2 1, 1944


Johns Prisoner of W ar picture


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Johns barracks at Stalag Luft IV


Com beef or C rations 12 oz. Cigarette value 2 packs. Canned Spam 12 oz. " " 2 Butter 16 oz. " " 2 Cheese 08 oz. " " 2 Pate 06 oz. " " 1 Peanut butter 08 oz. " " 2 2 D Bars (chocolate) 08 oz. " " 4 Tuna, Salmon or Sardines 08 oz. " " 1 Occasional salt & pepper (no value established) Prunes or Raisins 08 oz. " " 2 Milk (powdered) 16 oz. " " 4 Coffee (soluble) 04 oz. " " 3to4 Sugar (cubes) 08 oz. " " 2 Cigarettes (4 to 5 packs) Jam 06 oz. " " 2 Soap (Swan) 02 bars " 0 Vitamin C Pills 07 daysupply " 0

Trading value of cigarettes. Food listed here was received in Red Cross parcels.

Photos Mai sent to John while he was in Stalag Luft 3 Received October 31 and November 3, 1944


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Locations of Prisoner of W ar camps



1 111 I E
I c e r t if y th a t I have read and f u lly understand, a l l the pro v is io n s o f the D ir e c tiv e o f the S ecreta ry o f War, AG 583.6 (24 Mar 45) -OB-S-B-il, Su bjects " P u b lic ity in C onnection w ith Escaped, L ib erated or R ep atriated P rison ers o f 7/ar, e tc .,'-1 and w i l l a t ALL TBJES h ere a fte r comply f u l ly th erew ith . I understand th a t d isc lo su r e to unauthorized person w ill make ne lia b le to d is c ip lin a r y a ctio n fo r f a ilu r e to safeguard MILITARY ItiPORMATION. I r e a liz e th a t i t i s my duty during my m ilita r y s e r v ic e , and la t e r as a .c iv i li a n , to tak e a l l p o s s ib le p reca u tio n s to prevent d is c lo s u r e , by word o f mouth or o th erv d ss, o f m ilita r y in form ation o f t h is n a tu re.

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Signed certificate regarding military information while a prisoner of war.



Two young Germans killed by Pattons men


P.O.W .s 194S

Stalag Luft VIIA, Moosburg, Germany May 194S


Stalag Luft VIIA, Moosburg, Germany Mav 1945 J


Stalag Luft VIIA, Moosburg, Germany May 1945


P.O.W. camp just after liberation, 1945


P.O .W .s waiting for plane to take them to France 1945


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Poem written by W. H. Hippensteel after hearing that John (Bob) was coming home from P.O.W. camp.

Stalag Luft IV John was in D barracks last barracks in right foreground.

Stalag Luft IV, May 1944-February 1945


The Indianapolis News


Jack Bowen, Waist Gunner on Lightin Strikes In Miami, Florida, 1945


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M rs/M ae Parsons w as presented the Air Medal w ith one Oak Leaf Cluster, In behalf of her husband, T. :Sgt. John Robert Parsons, a German prisoner of war, in a colorfQl .ceremony at the Brown Rub ber plant. Mrs. Parsons is an office employe of the company, and all plant em ployes were a s sembled for the program. ; Lieut. J .'J . G. Schatz, navigator on a B-17 w ith the eighth AAF until he was injured, read the or ders and citation and presented' the medal to Mrs. Parsons. Lieut. Schatz, who holds m any honors and medals and has now been compelled to give up combat duty I because of major injuries, gave an | inspirational address. '

Wife of Prisoner ; - 'i*tGets His Medal * y i

E. A. Callanan, president of the Brown Rubber company, intro duced distinguished guests to the assembled employes. Major W il liam O. Dorough, representing M ajor Roy W hlsehunt, Indianapo lis area representative of the Air Service Technical Command, ex pressed appreciation for the com panys production record in m anu facturing a difficult war product. Capt. Lee H. Strahl, Indianapolis, w as also present. : The Flying Fortress on w hich Sgt. Parsons was top turret gun ner was shot down over Bruns wick, Germany, Feb. 21, 1944, w hile he was on his twenty-first m is sion. Mr5,'.'Parsons has received several letters from , her hi^sband, the latest, dated Aug. 20, arriving shortly after she had been, pre sented his A il M edal.. .,.'

Mai receiving Johns air medal, 1944



Receiving medal on stage at Brown Rubber Co.

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Card sent to Theresa Klooz, sister of Mai.


James Klooz, brother of Mai, served in the Navy from 1943-1945


Teddy Klooz, brother of Mai, was Top Petty Officer aboard the U.S.S. Wisconsin, 1941-1945

David and Charles Parsons, brothers of John. Both enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor. Neither one saw combat.

Drawing of a B-17 under fire


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John sent Mai this cable from Camp Lucky Strike after he was liberated from P.O.W. camp.


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JOHN R PARSONS 35 371 110 T echnical Sergeant 4 0 1 st Bombardment Squadrdh 9 1 st Bombardment Group

Arm y of ttje ttniteii S ta te s

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AAF SEPARATION BASE B aer F ie ld F o r t Wayne In d ia n a 8 November 1945

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R E C E IV E D FOR R E C O R D R E C O R D E D IN R E C O R D NO..XV 3 Ai..PA O E ..S ..


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DECS 1945

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By direction of the President, TECHNICAL SERGEANT JOHN R. PARSONS, SN 35371110, is awarded the PURPLE HEART for wounds incurred as a direct result of an act of an enemy on 21 February 1944. PAS: YYYYYYYY. RDP: N/A, COND: 5. BY THE ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE

EDWARD A. PARDINI, Colonel, IJSAF Director of Information Management








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John Randolph Parsons Born November 2 1, 1947


Randys Baptism

John, John Randolph, and Mai


Mai, Randy and John 1952


Mai with Randv J and Carmen Ft. Benning, GA 1952

Randy and Aunt Theresa Taken during Korean W ar 1952


Randy on porch of our home in Cheyene, Wyoming 1952

fohn and Randy in Wyoming, Lawson AFB 1952

J ean and J im Genasci Bakalar AFB 1951

Peggy Peterson Bakalar AFB 1951

Photos taken during the Korean War. 174





Found on the wall of day-room at Ft. Benning, Georgia, 1952


June 2!, J9S2

Vean Rex:
VouA l e t t e x doited 23 19 $2 haA in d e e d a tin n e d up many me.motu.te> o f W onld Wax I I , th e E ig h th K in Fonce and my dayA a t BaAAingbounn.

I have, a v i v i d n e c o ll e c tio n o f the. bom bing m in io n ove a H onthenn Ffiance, on 2 4 Vecem bex 1944.
Fi x s t o f a l l i t was C hnistm aA E ve. AI s o th e B A ie fin g O ffic e n was ve n y vague, a b o u t th e ta n g e t. I t woa i d e n t i f i e d o n ly oa t a r g e t "No B a l l." I b e lie v e i t waA i n th e v i.c i.n ity o f Le H anve, F ra nce. I fo u n d o u t L a te x t h a t we had A e t o u t to deA tA oy th e L au n ch in g d eviceA w h ich w ou ld A ub ie.q ue.n tly tuA n o u t t o be th e "[/-Bomb." We cnoAAzd th e C hannel q u ite lou> - appnoxA jnately I S , 000 f e e t and we wexe to dAop oua bombA i n th e ta A g e t a xea and im m e d ia te ly make a 1 SO * tuA n and head b ack o u t oveA th e C ha n nel. S p itfiA e A accom panied ua oveA th e C hannel and p ic k e d ua up oa we l e f t th e co a A t o f Fn a n ce .

I am n o t TOOI A uxe that uie weAe flying "Old EaithfuZ." was the "Hamblin1 Wnzck" and, oa I necall, i t had been m iAAion to R oA tock and may have been in foA n ep a iX A .


Oua negulax aJxdamaged on a

In any e v e n t, j u s t oa we. cnoAAzd th e Fnench CoaAt we nan i n t o a baAAage o f f l a k , th e L ik ej, o f w h ich I had n e v e x w itn eA A ed . 11 waA h ea vy and a c c u n a te and I b e lie v e Aome GeAman n a v a l guns weAe A h o o tin g a t ua a ls o .
W hat A ta n te d o u t as w ha t we c o n sid e n e d a. " m ilk nun tu n n e d o u t to be a d iA aA teA .
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My BombadieA was h i t i n th e ja w w ith a f l a k fn a g m en t and b le e d in g p n o fu& eZy. T h is happened as we w ene on th e ta A g e t n u n . The N a v ig a to n dnopp bombA on A ig n a l and t n i e d to a tte n d to th e n eeds o f th e Bom badieA. To th e b e A t o f my n e c o ll e c tio n we had no tn o u b le w ith th e bomb bay d o o n s.
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Now I know why i t was ao h e a v ily d e fe n d e d and why th e B n ie fin g G ffic e x was ao vague. I do n o t b e li e v e oux i n t e l l i g e n c e knew a t th e tim e w ha t we w exe bom bing.
Af t e x we l e f t th e Fnench C o a st and w exe u n d ex th e p n o te c tio n fix e J ,, I dxopped o u t o f fo A m a tio n because, my BombadieA was p asA lng o f la c k of oxygen, hiA o xygen maAk had been nem oved b eca u se o f th e I w a n ted to g e t down to a b o u t 10,000 f e e t w hexe o xygen w o u ld n 't be

o f th e S p i t o u t becaitse b le e d in g . neceA Aany.

We n e tu x n e d to BaAAingbouxn a lo n e , fifte d fla x e A on appnoach to a l e x t th e. m ed ics and Wendy woa ta k e n away i n an am b u la nce.

Letter concerning Christmas Eve, 1943 176

Youth group sponsored by Hometown Federal. John Parsons, Vice President 1983

Taken on a return trip to England in 1986. John near old air base in Bassingborne, England.

John at Bassingborne, England, 1986 179

Johns old barracks showing his window on upper floor 1986


Johns old barracks now used by Queens Guards Bassingborne, 1986


John with Patrick McMahon at old Bassingborne Tower 1986


A B-17 visited Purdue University, W est Lafayette, Indiana, on October 2 1, 1995. Johns wife and son flew with him on this flight.

The Lafayette Journal and Courier


John Randolph Parsons Education Director for the Verde Natural Resource Conservation District



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John loved old cars


John and Mai Celebrated their 50th W edding Anniversary on May 6, 1992
Mr. and Mrs. John Parsons of 3504 S. County Road 100 E. celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary May 6 with re newal of their wedding vows at St. Cecelia Catholic Church in Verde Valley, Ariz. Their son, John Randolph Parsons, en tertained at a family dinner at Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Ariz. They also were en tertained at a barbecue at their sons ranch. Mr. Parsons, retired vice president of Hometown Federal Bank, and the former Mai G. Klooz, a freelance artist, were married May 6, 1942, in St. Lawrence Catholic Church. They have one son, John. A trip around the world is planned for this fall.
Mr. and Mrs. J. Parsons

John and Mai, 1997


April 18, 1922Aug. 2. 1998 John Robert Parsons, 76, of 3504 S. 100 E., died Aug. 2, in St. Elizabeth Medical Center. H ehadbeenillfor over six years and hospitalized for a week. He was born on April 18,1922, in W est Lafayette. He had lived in Lafayette his en tire life. He a t Parsons tended Klondike Grade School and was a 1941 graduate of Klondike High School. He attended Lafayette Business College and Pur due. He m arried Mai G. Klooz on May 6, 1942, in Lafayette. She survives. Mr. Parsons was a vice president of Hometown Federal Savings and Loan Bank and the National Homes Accep tance Corp. in Lafayette. He worked there until retiring in 1988. He served in the Army ^ Air Force as a techical |> sergeant flight engineer and top tu rret gunner on a < m s' * B-17 bomber. After 13 bomb runs over Germany, his plane was shot down on Feb. 21,1944, and he was taken pris oner. His captivity lead him to six dif ferent Nazi prisoner-of-war camps before being liberated by the troops of Gen. Patton in May 1945.


From 1951 to 1953, he was recalled to serve in the Korean War as a supply sergeant in various stateside bases. He was a member of St. Mary Cathe dral, the Lafayette Country Club and the Air Force Association. He was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion Post 11 and the National Ex POW Association. He was a former member of the Lafay ette Exchange Club and the Civil Air Patrol. He also wrote a book recalling his war experiences called Best Seat in the House. The book is to be published and released this fall. Mr. Parsons also collected and re stored antique cars and enjoyed wood carving. Surviving with his wife are one son, Randy Parsons of Rimrock, Ariz.; a brother, David Parsons of Sparks, Nev.; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his par ents and two brothers, Charles and Rich Parsons. Hahn Funeral Home handled the arrangem ents with the Revs. David Hellmann and JeffBram bora officiat ing. Interm ent St. Boniface Cemetery with m ilitary graveside rites. Memorials may be made to Precious Blood Monastery.


Adios, Dad, I love you. 193

H y d e l c m g T vu n

In July 1944, Russian armour had broken through the German lines southwest of Leningrad and was hurrying through Estonia toward Lithuania. Stalag Luft VI lay directly in the path of the Russian advance. The German authorities decided to evacuate the camp. July 14, 1944, was a very beautiful summer day which was soon spoiled by orders from the German Kommandatur to prepare to move out. The prisoners in D Lager were to leave ahead of those in A and E Lagers. Shortly after noon, the prisoners hoisted their homemade packs. Urged on by shouts of Raus, they shambled off to a railroad siding where they were to be loaded into box cars, the famous 40 Homines 8 Chevaux (40 men and 8 horses) of W orld W ar I. A short journey eventually brought us to the port of Memmel. Convinced by shouting, gesticulating guards, the prisoners climbed aboard the collier S.S. Insterburg, a most unprepossessing, rusty old tramp that had plied the Baltic for many a long year. W hen the men reached the head of the gangplank, they saw the prisoners ahead of them disappearing down a hatchway. Some, in the confusion, managed, in spite of the guards, to slip away and hide among; the deck cargo. However, it was only temporary as bayonets soon rousted them out and convinced them to join the others. A steel ladder led down to the coal bunkers thirty feet below. The bunkers were cold, dark and damp. A terrible smell of old bilge poisoned the air. As they arrived at the bottom, the men arranged themselves on the steel plates, but it soon became crowded. Shouts of no more men, it is too crowded were ignored, as more and more men were

forced down until every inch of space was occupied. Some even climbed up onto the propeller shaft housing. More men continued to descend and, for them, accommodations were made by each man sitting between another mans legs. There was no room to lie down. Sanitary arrangements consisted of a bucket. If the bucket was full, some, were allowed on deck one at a time to relieve themselves in the scuppers. At the hatch, armed guards with Schmeissers and steam hoses watched over the wretches below. After the first night, some of the men began to get sick from the foul odor and, since there was no spare room, they simply vomited all over themselves and their companions. Conditions such as this tend to draw men together and it was a touching sight to see a dirty, unshaven sergeant wiping the face of a vomit-covered airman, or holding his head while his stomach heaved. Throughout the long days and nights, each man tried to bolster the others. One airman, apparently overcome by claustrophobia, started screaming and ran up the stairs toward the guards. It rather took the guards by surprise as the airman was able to get passed them, get up onto the deck and jump overboard. The guards immediately shot him as he swam about in the water. Rumors of a mutiny to take over the ship and sail it to Sweden were soon squelched by saner heads who had noticed, when on deck, that the Insterburg was accompanied by a torpedo boat. A detailed description of the E boat by one of the fortunate ones who had seen it was listened to eagerly, as many had never seen a torpedo boat. Each man tried to stifle his thoughts of Russian submarines as the ship made her way down the coast of the Gulf of Danzig past Frische Nehrung, north to round the caps at the head of the Gulf and then due West. While the Insterburg drove forward at a steady seven or eight knots, the main drive shaft made a noticeable thum p-thum p, which was perfectly audible for miles and could be heard by any submarine

in the vicinity. Some of the airmen had been members of aircraft which had sowed mines in the Baltic, and pictures of the ugly horns on the mines haunted their imaginations. Each noise transmitted through the plates made them wonder if a mine was scraping the hull. After three long days and nights, the Insterburg approached the harbor at Swinemunde. Egged on by the familiar Raus, Raus of the guards, the prisoners climbed the ladder to fresh air and sunshine. They savored these as they moved off the ship. The boat was docked amidst row upon row of German submarines. W e walked over to a long line of Side Car Pullmans. These rail cars had been altered somewhat and were divided in half at the doors by a wire mesh. One side of the car held fifty to sixty Hommes, and the other half held one lone guard armed with an automatic weapon. The m ens boots and shoes were taken as they climbed into the half car set aside for their exclusive use. Again, it was very crowded, but the men had learned to cope. Just as loading was completed, the air raid sirens started their high-pitched sound and the guards wisely scrambled out of the cars and looked for a hiding place. Batteries of anti-aircraft guns set up a dreadful noise just behind the rail yards. As each battery fired, the freight car would give a little jump. None of this contributed to the prisoners peace of mind as the guards thoughtfully locked the cars before seeking shelter. Over the sound of the anti-aircraft guns, the shell bursts, the continued wailing of the sirens and the beat of the aircraft engines could be heard the rising scream of falling bombs, followed shortly by explosions. Fortunately, the raid seemed to be a small diversion by the United States Air Force and the dock area was not hit. The raid hastened the final loading. The guards quickly climbed aboard, the doors were shut, the locomotives hooked on and, jerking and lurching, the train moved out.

All the prisoners wondered, W here to now? The future looked bleak and uncertain. The train made its way slowly east and south from Swinemunde, and some twenty-four hours of travel brought it to its destination at an obscure siding. The prisoners were shackled in twos, hand and foot. Amid much shouting by the guards and barking and snarling by the guard dogs, the airmen vacated the freight cars. A vague uneasiness gripped the men when the volume of shouting and barking rose to new heights. W hen thev turned the corner around the station, their worst fears were realized. Commanded and egged on by a seemingly madman, the guards urged the prisoners into a shambling run up a hill through a forest. As the guards became more excited, they resorted to bayonet stabs, rifle butts and dog bites to increase the pace. I was stabbed by the bayonets. Possessions were discarded as the run quickened. Men began to fall by the wayside where they were beaten and bayoneted as they lay. The dogs, excited by their handlers, ripped and tore at the wounded and exhausted airmen. Bateman and I were shackled together. At one point, he took a bad fall and pulled me down with him. It was difficult to get back on our feet without being overrun by dogs, men and guards. Bateman kept saying that he couldnt make it, so I dragged and carried him along the way. He kept saying, Johnny, were going to die, w ere both going to die. Over and over he repeated this. One of the guards took a powerful jab at me and somehow missed. The bayonet went between my back and a backpack that I had fashioned out of a shirt. How he avoided bayoneting me seriously in the side is beyond me. He jabbed at me again. This second bayonet jab was intended to puncture my left side. The jab was too high and I remember the end of the gun barrel (to which the bayonet was attached) ending up right in front of my nose. I had

thrown up my hand to protect myself. I had a very bad cut on my hand, which was bleeding profusely. Many acts of courage were enacted in the midst of the confusion. All along, men shouted encouragement to each other and warnings against attempts to fall out into the woods to try and escape. Some had noticed machine gunners stationed in the woods on either side of the road. They were just waiting to cut down any would-be escapees. O ther exhausted men were being assisted as I was assisting Bateman. The stronger of the prisoners moved to the outside of the column in order to protect the injured and weaker men in the center. Finally, after an uphill run of some three kilometers, the weary men arrived at a field outside the barbed wire of a prison camp. Many of us thought we were being run up the hill to our deaths, and we were relieved to find a camp at the top of the hill. As the men lay exhausted on the grass, the medical officer moved among them to treat the bayonet wounds and dog bites. The padre also comforted the wounded. Neither water, food nor medication was forthcoming. One guard kept pumping water from a well and letting it run out on the ground. The prisoners were trying to scoop it up with their hands. Some of the prisoners were trying to show a bravado that might hide their actual fear and they were laughing at the situation that we were in. This angered the guards. They started screaming and shouting in German and proceeded to carry in the critically injured and dying prisoners. The men had been badly bayoneted and bitten by the dogs. They laid the men amongst us and said, Now laugh, now laugh. And everyone was very quiet while the guards laughed. That night, we slept where we had fallen. The following day we were supplied with several tents and drinking wrater, but no food. On the third day, the men were to enter the camp, but this was not the end of their trials. To enter the camp, they had to run in single file through a gauntlet of twenty

young Kriegsmarine, who bayoneted them again and belted them with rifle butts as they ran through the gate. Once inside the gate, a vigorous strip search was made of each individual, accompanied by beatings and confiscation of all personal belongings. Most of our clothing was also taken and many arrived in the main camp wearing only a pair of undershorts. Finally, we received a bowl of watery soup, our first meal since leaving Swinemunde.


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The following day we were led back to the gate and directed to a compound. There were a lot of guys. The compound had little pig houses between the barracks and I was lucky enough to get in the last barracks, D barracks, at the end of the line. This camp was known as Stalag Luft IV, near Grotchy Chow, Poland. It was cold and snowy. The bath facilities was a chicken roost over a concrete area. The guys could sit there on that chicken roost and go at the same time. And God help us, some of the guys were so weak, theyd slip and fall into the pit, into the mess. A fellow I knew bv the name of Sam Aldrich, hes dead now,' bless J his heart, but old Sam said that he hadnt gone to the bathroom for so long that he didnt think he could go. He was scared to death. Well, he kept trying to have a bowel movement and finally, at last, he was able to pass what was a very large turd. He felt like hed had a baby. It was the biggest darn thing youd ever seen. It was as big around as an eggplant and twice as long. He said hed felt like hed given birth. So he came on around and showed everybody what a predicament he was in and how he came out of it. There was no bath house. We did have a pump outside and we had sort of a big dishpan. I made up my mind I wasnt going to get as sick as some of those guvs. They were dirty, scabby and smelly, and I thought, thats the last thing Ill get. I traded food for soap so I could go outside, stand there, soap myself all off and pour this dishpan ol water over me. And I did that every day, rain or shine, regardless of the temperature. Everybody would say hey, John, I think youre nuts, but at least I didnt break out with sores and lice or anything like that. I felt good. I felt proud of myself for doing it.


Stalag Luft IV was pretty good, although the conditions we had to start with were horrible. Anv minute wed expect somebody was going to shoot us. They seemed to have an open hatred for Americans. They didnt pretend to act otherwise. There was a young German who strung an electrical line on one ol the poles just outside the gate to our compound. The poor little fellow got electrocuted, and he hung right there on that post. Everybody would come to see that guy. I went up there and all these guys were standing around saying, That damn Kraut, and all that. Hey, you guys, knock it ofl. If somebody would come along here, theyll be madder than hell. So they said, Thats the best Goddamn German here. Well, here comes the commandant. He reached down and pulled out his sidearm. He looked right at me and started shooting. There were nine shots in that damn thing and I ran. I could hear those things hit the ground and I just kept running. He never touched me. I don't know how lucky a guy could get, but he never touched me with that damn thing. And the guys that were making the most fun never got shot at. The guards went into one of the pig houses and killed a prisoner. It was quite unfortunate. They didnt kill anybody else, just killed one guy. The pig houses remained until they finished the other compound, which was right out our gate, across the walk there and right into the other compound. Of course, most ol the pig house people went into that area. It was kind of hectic. People werent as understanding as they were back in Stalag Luft VI. One time we got a pound of Cudahay margarine. W e were dividing it up. Nobodv wanted that damn job. This kid from Iowa said, I will. Hey, right or wrong, I dont want to hear one damn word. So he started cutting this butter. W hen he got down to the end, there was one piece smaller than the rest. I dont know how in the hell it happened, but this little old boy was 011 our crew I really liked this little fellow-well, he got the smallest piece of butter. He was a gutsy-type guv, but he just couldnt control himself. He had a

little stool he was sitting on. He just raised up from the stool, jiggled that thing up and down, and just had one hell of a fit. He finally started bawling and screaming. I said, Come on, Bateman, let's go outside. After I got him outside, of course, he was sorry that it all happened, but everybody in that room was pissed. They didnt want him around. About this time they were ready to open that other compound. Bateman and I were talking about walking over there, sort of exercise and that sort of thing. I said, Get in line, and he said, I dont want to, John. And I said, Get in line. So he stepped over there and I went up with him. As we came near the gate to leave our compound, I just pushed him in. I said, Bateman, Ill see you later. I always regretted that. I liked him so much, but I was glad to see him go and for all the comments to stop. I was always thankful for Mai, she was a real lifesaver. She contacted Liggett and Myers and made arrangements through them to send me cigarettes. I was probably the only guy to receive that many cigarettes. It was barter that was good for food, good for soap, and everything. I really appreciated her effort and encouraged her to stay with that and make sure it was done. It was a nice thing and meant a lot to me. The system around here was that for so many cigarettes you could buy a bar of soap. So many cigarettes could do this or that if you found somebody to sell them to. And it was fun gambling. Youd put your cigarettes up there for five-card draw, stud, or that sort of thing, and Id draw. Im not usually a gambler, but I had four deuces, and I thought theres nobody in hell going to beat four deuces. Well, I was betting heavy on the cigarettes, and somebody came up with four kings, which blew me away. Well, that was my lesson, I quit gambling . . . right then and there. I did had some cigarettes left. They were getting kind of dog eared and a little dirty and so forth, but hell, they were smokable. And thats the main thing. I used cigarettes mostly for soap. I wasnt

interested in food because I figured itd be too high anyhow, so I had quite a stash of soap. One day, as we were standing out in the compound, we heard a couple of aircraft doing maneuvers above us. Suddenly, here came an airplane. Hed gone just about on the underside of the undercast where hed made a turn to the left. Here came the pilot down. W hen he caught the undercast, he drove it right straight into the ground. And that thing, my God, just blew to pieces. O f course, it had all that ammunition on it, and it burned and exploded. Some of the guards were talking about it. They said the only thing they found from that young pilot was a glove, and in that glove was a finger. So, everybody felt very bad about that. W e had morning fallout at Stalag Luft IV. W e just stood in two rows in front of our barracks, four deep. W e had a guard in front and a guard in back, and the guards would go along counting, ein, zwei, drei, fier, this sort of thing. Our group would face the east. Old Moot, who was standing next to me, held his hand up to shield his eyes from the sun. A guard from the back stepped through and hit him right in the back with that gun butt and he fell to the ground. It sounded terrible. I reached over and I was going to pick him up, but the guard stuck the gun right in my face, right under my nose, and he said, No, no, no. So I stood there while Moot was trying to get his breath. For Christs sake, it was just a horrible scene. Finally, he was able to get his breath and he managed under his own power to stand up, which really surprised me. W hen I tried to help him, I thought, that old boys going to kill me. The deal of it was, he thought M oot was mocking the salute, the sig heil, Hitler salute, and thats the reason that he felt punishment was due. At the end of the barracks was a small room that was called a piss can where you urinated. There was a wooden chicken area there if you had to go, but usually that would get messy. Hell, it was dark and you couldn't see anything. Youd go in there and youd just try to hit the can. Things were just messy. Every once in a while they'd

bring this horse-drawn vehicle around. It was a big tank on four wheels with a pump on the side. They would pump the thing back and forth and get gases and such in there and light a match that caused a vacuum, which sucked everything into this tank. It was always good to see that thing come around and get rid of some of the odors. I pity the poor people that slept next to the john. It was a terrible, terrible smell. W e each had a little stove, a heating stove in our room, which was set on some rocks in two-by-four squares. There was no flue for it, although there was a flue going out above. One day the guards came around and said, heres your fuel. Well, hell, they gave us four cubes of compressed coal and that was supposed to last us. Well, it didnt go anywhere. But we had to fashion a flue, first. So everybody that could contributed a can. W e would tie these things together and run them up to meet the flue outside. The guard came back one day, and he said, No, no, and he tore it dow'n. So here we were, no heat again, and we didnt know what the hell to do. So we just waited until he left and fashioned it again. That finally gave us an opportunity to burn the coal. I think we got six cubes of coal a day. It was cold and snowy, and in our room there were 2 8 men. There were blocks under the bunks so somebody could sleep on the floor. So youre looking at three deep, really, around the room. It was a bear putting up with that because they didnt allow for any extras. W hen you got your dinner, you just got so much, a big pitcher full of hot water, or a big old pitcher full of potatoes or soup or something. Twenty-eight men or eighteen, it didnt make a damn bit of difference, thats what you got. The boards on the wall didnt go together. There was about a half-inch space between some, maybe a little more between others. I had a blanket, a GI blanket. I had one over me and one under me. Id lav there at night, stiff as a board. I wouldnt move because I was afraid Id get cold. W hen it snowed, I had the cutest little sift of

snow. It must have been one foot high. I thought, youre no better off on the inside than Jyou are on the outside. But it didnt make anv difference. W e did the best we could with what we had and made everything work. There were these old potato cellars out our compound up to the left near the fence. It was just a mound and had a little front entry door. They put potatoes and stuff in there so it would keep. One day the guards came around and said they were going to test their guns. And I said, hell, thats all right. But what they wanted to do was shoot into the barracks and all that, so they said to roust out. Im sitting there and I said, man, Id better get the hell out of here. There was a fellow there by the name of Baker, and he was laying on his bunk with his head over the side or the end of it. I said, Come on, Bake, lets get out of here. He said, Hell, naw, they aint gonna do nothing. And boy, about that time I heard boom, boom, their shoes coming down the hall, and they got in there and they started screaming. Hell, you cant understand what theyre saying when theyre screaming. Baker started to get up and they reached up and grabbed his hair and they didnt let go. Damn, they almost scalped that kid. Finally, when he had enough strength to pull himself away, we flew out of there. W e just barely got out and dove over the potato cellar when they started shooting in the barracks. It was the oddest thing. I think they just wanted us to know', hey, they run the roost and youre gonna do what they want you to do. This was a lonely place, it seemed so cold. You kept to good thoughts. It seemed to me that they were running the camp on the fear tactic. II they could instill fear in you, then they could pretty much control you. I think thats what it was. But it was, oh, lonely as hell. It was cold at night and we didnt have any fuel. It was one of those nights where vou stand out in the winter and a little rain falls on your face. Youre reallv nowhere, but youre thinking youre everywhere, however that is, and thats more or less the way this was. The brighter side . . . you just couldnt fool yourself. There was

no brighter side of this damn place. There was a surrey drawn by a team of horses. They would come out of the woods and go by the camp. It was such a pleasant sight to see that. I once saw a sled with milk cans come out of there in the winter. The snow was good for sleds. W e were all uptight and this sort of thing. W e even traded cigarettes for matches. W hen wed get low on matches, wed bum for them. It was my night on the door and I waited for the guard to come around and lock the door. I would stick my foot in the door and hold out my hand with the cigarettes. He gave me some matches and away he went. But the hysteria, that fellow was frozen with fear, to think that someone might catch him. Well, hell, I was just as frozen with fear as he was. But I got my matches and he got his cigarettes. There was a fellow that had some drumsticks, little snare drumsticks, and he would riky-riky-tik on the table, rikkty-tik on the table, and somebody said, Knock it off. Well, he kept going, rikkty-tik, and the guy said, Hey, Ace, Im going to have to shove that thing up your butt. He said, Well, just try. And, man, you talk about a fight. Those guys were over the beds, under the beds, the slats fell out, they were down on the floor, pounding on each other, until we finally got them separated. Well, they were pretty angry until they finally cooled down. But that seemed to be typical of the feeling of everybody in that camp. W e got more Red Cross parcels in this camp than we had in the other camp and sometimes we could share one box between two of us. Most of the time the box was shared by three men. It was delightful to think that we had that much more to eat and it was good, psychologically, that w e did have a little more food. W e always got our bread and it would come two to three days apart. Some of it was just about a quarter of an inch thick, hard as a damn rock, and curled up like shoe leather. It was the hardest stuff to eat. Youd think, how in the world am I going to chew on that. But, hey, listen,

if youre hungry, youll find a way to get that thing down. One of the men said, W hy dont we just take these damn things and put them on our feet and use them for shoes. The bread was made out of a light sawdust that had a line about a half-inch from the bottom. I dont know why they called it bread. W e didnt have any jam or anything like that, unless you were just lucky enough to save some out of one of those Red Cross parcels. I was lucky. I got all those cigarettes Mai sent to me. And, hey, I w'as a big man. I had all sorts of bargaining power there. It was all due to Mai. Sort of the envy of everybody, I guess youd say. It was real cute. One day we had navy beans. Just the thought of navy beans was something really nice. So here we went. I carried the pitcher back from the mess hall and when we got there (we were down to twenty-eight men at that time) I said, Ive got enough for twenty-eight people, how do you want to handle it? Somebody said, I dont give a damn. Well, this little old boy from Iowa and Meady said theyd help me out, and I said, Sure. So we went by with a ladle and I gave everybody a load of beans. Hell, they ate those in nothing flat. They were good. So came the end, and everybody got beans. Meady looked at me and he said, John, its you and me, well split whatevers left. I said, Thats all right with m e. Hell, he got that spoon out and pounded on the dish and only two beans came out. I thought that was so damn funny. I wasnt the least bit hungry for them, but to me, it was the funniest thing that had happened for awhile. It just tickled me to death. At night I could hear people sobbing. Nobody cried out loud or anything, but they would sob. I suppose everyone cried inside an awful lot. In any group there was always someone who would take the forward step, or get something started. There were several Catholics in the group. This one old boy, he must have been an altar boy or something, because he really had religion. He had fashioned a rosary

out of prune pits. Hed sit and carve the thing, get the end over and work up the middle and run a shoestring up through there. It was very cute. O f course, he was bumming everybody for the prune pits. W e got those in the Red Cross package. So, he was saying, All right, were going to have the rosary at seven p.m. every night. So about seven, we were sitting there. We m et and looked at each other and we thought, heres this guys going to run the show and all that, hes going to be next to a priest. Well, we m et that one night and that was the end of it, but the thought was good. I washed in this dishpan. People would pump water to wash their face and so forth. The ice would freeze near the warning wire, and these guys who were walking around the compound would stay close to the warning wire. Occasionally one of the men would slip and their body would slide under the warning wire. There was nothing but shear panic getting back because every time somebody went across that wire, the guard had the right to shoot them. And it was a panic to see those guys pick themselves up and fly down the way.


,/\) w r e m b e r g

In Stalag Luft IV they periodically had nude inspections where you stood before a number of guards and they would look in all your openings such as eyes, ears, nose, mouth, rectumwherever they thought that there was an opening where you might be able to conceal something. But this was quite serious business with those guys it was something that they were told to do and they were strong about doing what they were told to do. I remember one time, I went in to the inspection and I laid everything on the counter that I had. I was standing there nude. They were making remarks about this and that of my possessions. As they looked through things, they handed them back and the first damn thing that they handed back was a little ole cap that I had managed to hang on to. It was just a little round thing, a wool military cap. There was not much left to it. They gave it to me and I put that thing on my head. From out of nowhere, I was struck so hard that I felt that I was three to four feet horizontal with the floor. I was hit that hard. I fell on the floor like an old inner tube. I didnt know what the hell was going on. Suddenly Big Stoop stuck the gun butt in my neck and put his huge feet on my back with those old hob nail shoes that he always wore. I had dents all over my back. Anyway, I didnt knowr what the hell he wantedwhat had I done to deserve this. Then he stuck the muzzle of the gun right in my mouth. I didnt know what to do. Finally, the noise, the screaming and all the pandomonium stopped for a second and I heard a voice say, Disrespect. Big Stoop made me get up and stand at attention, right in front of him. I couldnt understand a word that he was saying and didnt know what was going on, but I stood there until he got ready to let me go. I was in so damn much pain that I could hardly stand. Finally, someone else said, At ease soldier. So I stood there at ease.

But Big Stoop, you have to remember that he was called Big Stoop because he must have been over six feet tall and his back was hunched over. His hands were so large that they looked abnormal even for the size of his body. They were huge hands. W e all believed that he had a cruel, sadistic streak. If he didnt like certain things that were going on that day or didnt like certain people that day, he just carried on like a maniac. I never heard him talk much, he usually made gestures. He did know the word, Raus. I can still see this fellow walking along with a gun over his shoulder and he was so damn big that the gun looked like a small side weapon hanging there. It was just a picture that you can never forget. Big Stoop m et a very violent end, which I will talk about later. In February 1944, the Germans decided to vacate Stalug Luft IV. First of all, all of the POWs that were being taken by train were sick and malnourished. Some were not able to stand for long periods of time. Thev started putting the POWs on the trains. There were twice as many guys in the box cars than should have been there. The POWs finally adjusted themselves around and were able to sit, sort of, with their bottom touching the floor and throwing their legs over someone else or something like that. But for the most part we got as comfortable as we could. I headed for the window. There were two windows in the box car, on opposite ends of each car. Fortunately, I got a window, as I felt claustrophobic. But I could see out and that helped me an awful lot, just seeing what was going on, on the outside. There was barbed wire strung across this opening of the window and wood hammered on there. I finally managed to beat the wood off and separate the wire so you could get the piss can out. I was the one on piss can duty so to speak, standing at the window. The POWs would urinate and pass the can to me. Id throw it out the window and pass it back. I was pretty much constantly emptying the can out the window, but still I wanted to be where I could breathe fresh air.

The guys on the train were really upset because they were hungry and were thirsty, and they didnt have any room. The box car itself is black inside. You could not see your hand in front of you, except I had the advantage of being by the window. It seemed like an eternity before the train finally moved. But as it did, we had a little bit better feeling about everything. Occasionally, once a day, the train would stop, maybe to put on water. Guards stood there and opened the door. As they put on water, we got whatever we could get. Then the door would close and the train would move on. There was one little old fellow who kept wimpering, then he started moaning and then he was sobbing. He kept calling for his mother. The guys sitting near him would pat him and put their arms around him and try to assure him that everything was going to be okay. He tried to quiet down and settle down a bit. Claustrophobia was a hell of a thing. Like hysteria, youd go nuts. There was nothing to do but just go crazy. I guess the little fellow didnt have enough strength to get ahold of himself and stop his moaning and whimpering. He would silently sob and sometime during the night, he died. He laid there and no one said a word. He laid there and the guy next to him had his arms around him. The train had stopped on a siding and the guards came out, unlocked the door, and rolled it back. Everyone told them that there was a dead POW in there. They just grabbed him by his arms and feet and threw him off the sides of the tracks. They left the door open for a little bit which, God, it was nice. There was air in there, and we took on some water while we were stopped. W e were not allowed to have very much. W e could just get a little water and make sure everyone had a drink and then we went on. This experience was quite difficult to handle, but everyone did a good job. Once the little fellow was out of the car and gone, there was never one word spoken about it. As the train progressed, I could see out the window where fighter airplanes had come in and groundlooped and were just sitting out in the field. They had no

protection, no nothing. I expect in one area, and I have no idea what area it was, that I had seen four airplanes. Three were ME 109s and one was an FW 190. They had just groundlooped. Not torn to shreds. Shot up, but not a sprawling crash site. The train was travelling through Berlin at dusk and we could see a little of the ground lights as we were going through the marshaling yards. The sirens were sounding off like mad. The whole city was nothing but sirens. Suddenly the train stopped. They quickly unhooked the engine and drove it off and left us sitting there in box cars in the marshaling yards. Sure enough, here came the R.AF. They started bombing the marshaling yards and I was standing there in this window looking out. I saw this signal stand. Railroad yards used to have these houses which were up on stilts and it was just rig;ht out the window and down the tracks a little ways. I was thinking how cute it was, the little area there and, my God, the bombs were getting so close and the railroad tracks near me blew and turned like cork screws. I looked down there and the little shanty house was gone. I thought that there was no way in hell that we would survive the bombing of this marshaling yards. Somehow or another we lucked out. The bombing stopped. As it started getting daylight, they were out there with their crews. They got us hooked up and we would move a little ways and change tracks, move a little ways and change tracks. Over and over we did this. Get over on another track. W e just zigzagged around until we got out of that area. I truthfully saw no way that we could get out of there. Nothing consequential happened after that, until we got to Nuremberg. W e learned that Nuremberg had just suffered extensive bombing and as the train stopped in Nuremberg, we were told to unload and start down the road. The roads were just filled with rubble. Houses and buildings were just blown all to hell and we could not see the road. W e were climbing over these huge pieces of buildings and finally made our way out of it, out of the bombed area. W e could see the POW camp at a very short distance. W e walked

over to the camp and it was rather a nondescript area with a lot of tarpaper-covered buildings. The guards were quite informal. They would say, Get in here. I got in a building which was the third one from the area where we wash our hands. All that was, was just a pipe running through this area. It dripped, maybe squirted a little bit, and that was where we could wash, shave, take a bath or whatever wre had to do. They had a callout for people to serve as a burial group and I fell out for this assignment. There were a lot of ground soldiers there that had been captured in Sicily and a lot of those people were standing out there for the burial crew. W hen I got there, one of the larger fellows said, Hey Shorty, you dont want on this. You get the hell out of here. This is not a pleasant task. Sure you get to eat a bit better, but what the hell is that. He said that one saw grotesque sights and, while he could take it, that I should not take part in it. I always felt glad that I didnt go. In the conditions that we lived in, there were double-deck bunks plus one on the floor under the double deck. So there were three people in each bunk space. The guys were kind of nice and I felt that there was a bit more space than we had had before, although we had the same damn celsor bags and selzer pillows and slats and this sort of thing. The barracks was not full, so that helped a lot. I had to help get wood. W e started taking wood off the shit housewash room. The Commandant came around and said no more burning of the wood from the toilet that if anyone were caught taking the wood off the toilet, they would be shot. Goecke, my chow partner, said, Hey John, why dont we go down there and pull off some pieces, then just jump down and run. Hey, thats okay, but weve got to be really careful not to make any noise. Goecke said, Oh hell, John, they will never hear us. Goecke got right up there and he started pulling off wood. Well, it did make noise, the noise of the nails squeaking, all kinds of damn noise, and he was throwing these pieces of wood on the ground by me. I said, Come on, Paul, lets get the hell out of here. At that moment I

looked up and there was a guard. Paul saw the same guard and he ran. I was standing there within three feet of this guard. He reached in his holster, took out his weapon and stuck it right in my face. I thought what in the hell am I going to do. I just put my finger up to my m outh and went, S-h-h-h-h, and I pointed to my left, which would have been to his right. He lowered the gun and looked to his right and man, I got the hell out of there. I ran like you never saw anyone run before in your life. I got to the window of the barracks, which fortunately was open, and I just flewr right through it. I got down in the lower bunk and covered up with a selzer sack. The guards came through and poked bayonnets here and there and walked out. I was just lucky as hell, all the way around. A guard came by one day and ordered us out of the building. He told us that we should dig trenches, just in case the camp was bombed. So everyone dug a little bit and made a zigzag trench between the two barracks. Im sure that it would have afforded some protection. The first raid we had I thought that we would run out and jump in those holes, but it didnt work like that. Every time we had a raid, the guard locked the door and stood there. You could not get out and your windows were not supposed to be opened. I had a way that I could break the lock on the one window where I was and see what was going on outside. It was interesting to see how the British bombers bombed at night. I admired those fellows. I think they had lots of guts because they would come in low over the target. They had parachute flares that they would put out and light up. I swear that the parachute flares would light the area as much as if it wrere noon. You could look up and see the searchlights spotting the aircraft going right through there. The ack-ack was so thundering, it was real close to us. The flak that stuff explodes in the air and it would come down and fall right through the roof. That in itself was quite frightening. I remember one night very well. W e could see this one plane get hit. It started a little fire and the plane turned off the target to the

left. It was descending and it made a sharp left turn and came back toward the camp. Just as he got near the camp, just outside the fence, there were sheets of fire coming out of that thing. I saw this fellow trying to get out, and as he was getting out the left side of the plane, the plane exploded and the fellow went up with the explosion. You just felt so sorry that he didnt make it. Many of the planes were hit bad and fell out of formation. W e knew that most of them didnt make it back to England. The 8th Air Force aircraft would come over in the morning. Once the British had done their bombing at night, the Americans came over and we could look up and see the airplanes right above us. W e could see the bombs come out. W e would just stand there and watch those things and we wondered if we would survive the bombing, but we never got a bomb in the compound even though Nuremburg was being obliterated. The RAF bombed Nuremburg all night and the 8th Air Force bombed all day. I remember seeing this gas storage tank, a big one, and when that blew, it all went into the air . . . the whole container. It was very high in the air and flames were just everywhere. There was a lot of smoke. There was absolute chaos and confusion. W ith all the noise and everything, I look back and think how many times I felt that this earth cannot take it. It has got to split open. I kept thinking that its got to. Jesus, it would just shake the earth as though someone were standing there shaking you. It was that bad. I know that was a juvenile thought, but nonetheless, I felt that way and I can still remember to this day how I felt at that time. Ive never gotten over that. There were some Russians there in the compound behind us, but I didnt see them unless they would come into our compound. There was this one little fellow, he had had a leg blown off and he pulled himself around. He didnt have a cane, hed just drag himself. There was one fellow there that had both legs blown off. W hat they would do is they would come into our compound wanting to trade things.

They were quite skillful in the little things that they did. For instance, I dont know how they got parts of airplanes that had been shot down in that area, but they made things out of them. They would drag the aluminum onto a rock. They worked it down to size and shape. They came down there one day and wanted cigarettes. They had a cigarette holder that they had made and I was impressed. I traded them some cigarettes. W e could not understand each other. I held out a handful of cigarettes, whatever. Anyway I ended up with the nice cigarette holder. 1 dont smoke today, but I still treasure that little cigarette holder. One morning, after days and nights of horrendous bombing, a guard came back and told us to be prepared to leave immediately. He meant that too. About 10:00 oclock in the morning, they threw the gates open, told us to line up and stay in line 2 to 4 abreaststay on the road and do exactly as we were told to do. W e started out of the compound. As we got a little ways out, we were being strafed by our fighters. Everyone contributed a piece of clothing which we laid out on the ground spelling POW and we went on. Not too much further down the road, we stopped. W e watched the destruction of Nuremberg which was just terrible. Hundreds of airplanes, one after another, wrere dropping their bombs. Bombs were exploding everywhere. W e learned later that that was the blitz of Nuremberg their objective was to flatten the city and Im pretty sure they accomplished that.


D e a fk M a rc K

W e were told to stay in a column of three on the roaddont leave the road until someone blows a whistle or makes some kind of statement about getting off the road and you will be safe. Otherwise, you would be shot. So that was uppermost in everyones mind. W e went through a little village at the bottom of a hill. All they had was a house or two and a water pump. Everyone was dying of thirst, but we had to go by and quickly get a drink of water and keep on going. So we went up to the top of the hill. After a fashion we got up on top and we kept hearing these airplanes. P-47s. Almost a solid overcast and we kept looking and looking. Did not see anything at all. All of a sudden, we saw a little bitty hole and here came the P47s. There were about six of them and the guards ordered us off the road blew the whistles and all that sort of thing. Im standing there, still looking, trying to figure out what the hell to do. I was the only guy left standing on the road. So I made a record-breaking leap and grabbed a tree I got behind a tree. That tree must have been about a foot and a half thick. It just so happened that I was turned the wrong way. My body length was toward the oncoming aircraft. They bombed a train which was down near the pump in the small village about 3/4 of a mile from where we were. They blew the train all to hell. I laid there at the base of that tree and we could hear the projectiles hit the ground. Hell, it had to be right next to us. It snapped the branches and all that. Two guys came around as the planes left and asked for anything that we could spare, to lay down on the ground and spell out POW. After that, the P-47s came by and wiggled their wings and left. Another interesting thing that happened when we were marching. It was late in the afternoon. The sky was turning to dusk and getting dark, quite dark, and storms were coming up. Very

shortly, rain started coming down in buckets and it was pitch black. Here we were, nearing an overhead electrical supply line, and the energy from the supply line was making sort of a buzzing noise and the light around that wire must have been two foot wide on either side. It was about four feet across-just nothing but a glow of light through the sky. They kept us on the road and finally told us to get into a woods and they pointed to a certain wooded area. W e had to climb a fence. I was with Paul Goecke and I told Goecke that when I was a kid and lived on a farm that I liked to do things like this. So I said that we would try to make a little watershed. Cut some branches or rather just break them off and throw some leaves and stuff on it so that the water would not come through as bad and would drain off. W e had a cute little watershed there in about an hour, but we were soaking wet constructing the watershed. He told me at this time that he was really, really sick. I kept telling him that wed be all right, we'll make it. So Paul got in there and I told him to take off his shoes and lay on his socks. He did. I slept like a log although I was wet. W ater kept dripping right through the shed roof that we had. It was early in the morning and still very dark and they came through shouting, Raus, Now, raus, raus. I said, Come on Paul, lets go. He said, No, Im too sick. I said, No, Paul, youre going with m e. He said, I cant, John, you go on without m e. I said, Thats all right. And I just jumped up on top of him and pounded the hell out of that guy. I guess I was just hysterical. I could not leave him there to die. I said, You have to go, lets get out of here. These guards will kill you. About that time, they blew' the whistle again. Raus NOW Raus. Finally I got Paul up on his feet. I got what clothes I could on him. There were just the three of us standing there and the guard (Frederik) said, Come. The three of us started walking down the road. There were POW s still in the woods and they were yelling, Go to Hell. Up your ass and all this sort of thing. They were sick and they were not going to move, regardless. It wasnt too long before we could hear the machine guns bursting into the woods and we

could hear the guns firing and a lot of screaming. W e just kept going, did not even look back. I suppose those guys that were wising off were all killed, just like that. This also served as an example that the guards meant what they said. Paul Goecke was my chow partner. W e had been together since meeting up in Ephrata, Washington, early in the summer of 1943. All the training together, the missions, that last mission and since the verv first POW camp we shared everything equally. W hat he had was half mine and what I had was half his. He kept telling me that he could not make it. He was dragging along with me. W e had been with the same guard, Frederik, for several weeks. The poor old fellow, he had to be over 70 years old and he was sick and tired too. W e were going alongthe guard, Paul and myselfeach more or less helping to support the other. The guard said. I am too sick to go on, Im going to lie down here beside the road. This gun and ammunition is too heavy, I am never going to make it. I said, Here, give me the gun and ammunition. And I took the gun and ammunition, hooked it on one shoulder. I put my arm around the guard and he put his arm around Paul and here were the three of us going down the road. I thought it was kinda nice. That old boy, hell, he knew that neither of us would hurt him. And we knew that he wouldnt hurt us. Of course, all this time w e had no food. W e foraged for ourselves for any kind of food that we could eat. Hell, if it was flower bulbs, grass, or whatever it was, we ate it. W hen we got into the small village, Paul was very sick. I helped him lay down, but he could not open his mouth. He kept saying his jaws were lockedhe was sort of mumbling this. I told him that somehow I would get him something to eat. I went around and found a conscript laborer, you know, farm labor. I told him that I had cigarettes. How I used those cigarettes that Mai had been able to send to me! He gave me a motion with his finger and we went into a barn where he reached his arm way back into the hay and pulled out two eggs. I just opened my cigarette

package and he took what he wanted. He seemed to be satisfied. I was real happy as I went back to Paul. I had some crackers from a former Red Cross parcel and I borrowed a Klim can from someone and whittled up some wood. I sat there and poached both eggs. By this time Paul was very sick and hallucinating. I figured somehow I would get that food down Paul. So I took a cracker and made crumbs out of it and stirred it into the eggs. I went over to Paul and managed to get his m outh open a little bit. He was lying on his side and I finally got all that egg and cracker down him. Seeing him so sick, I realized that he was not going to be able to go on. Someone told me that there was a medical man in the village who might be able to help Paul. I went around until I found this man and he said, All right, Ill get some kind of transportation and try to get him out of here and perhaps into a hospital. Pretty soon a farmer came who had one oxen and an ox cart. W e threw our blankets up into the straw that was in the ox cart and they lifted Paul up into the cart. That was the last time I saw Paul until we got back to the States. There was one thing that made it bad. I had given Paul one of my blankets. I had cherished those two blankets and do believe that they helped to keep me well. I would have fought to keep them. Now I had only the one blanket. I tried to make the best of it by rolling myself up into the blanket to sleep. I was very thin, so it wrapped around me a time or two. Well, here came some old boy and he didnt even have a blanket. I told him that I w^ould split my blanket with him. So we just tore the damn blanket in half and he used one half and I used the other half. That night we were told to go into a barn. W e went into this barn and I went upstairs in the hay mow. As I laid down, this guy that I had given half of my blanket to followed me up there and laid down beside me. I thought, God, we ought to sleep like rocks. Well, we did get a good nights sleep. It was cold as Hell up there, though.

It was useless to look around and try to find another chowr partnerwe just had to forage for ourself. W e had to do the best we could and, maybe if we needed help, someone might help us. Several nights later we were told to go into a barn. I was completely exhaustedreally worn out. There were some implements there, like a hay rack and this sort of stuff, and the chickens roosted on those. They would also get below and dig in the dirt. They had holes where they had dug and I got the idea to sort of connect the holes and get in the trench for warmth. I slept really good, but the next day I began to get sick. I could hardly walk. I managed to walk somehow, but with a lot of effort. I started coughing and I was just generally faggedworn out. I saw a fellow that had a fire going and had a pan like a skilletand he was through cooking whatever he had been cooking. I asked him if he would do me a favor and he said, Yea. I said, Loan me your pan and leave the fire going and Ill try to cook up something. I think I just had plain flower bulbs or something, and I put those damn things in there and fried them up. The fellow did give me a little bit of a potato and I put that in there too. I then proceeded to eat it. It was warm, but that is about all you could say for it. It was late in the day and I couldnt walk, so I laid down on my belly and pulled myself around with my elbows. I seemed to go where I wanted to go, although it was a crude way of doing it and took any energy that I might have had. The next day I felt a little bit better and I got so that I could walk a bit. I was standing in the barn door looking down at the pigpen when here came a lady out feeding the pigs raw potatoes. I thought, Oh Jesus, Ive got to get some of those potatoes. I was starved. I went right down to the hog pen and got in between them and stole potatoes from the hog trough. One hog had a big potato in his m outh and I reached right up and pulled it out. I thought, you sucker, its my night to eat, not yours. I managed to get five or six potatoes and they were bigger than golf balls.

I got back up into the barnyard area and a fellow asked if he could help me. I asked him if he would loan me his pan and help me make a fire. W e started a little fire and he loaned me his pan. He had some margarine and it served the purpose well for shortening. That was the most that I had eaten on the march because we did not get any food from the guards. The guards themselves had to scrounge for food, just as the POWs were doing. W e stayed in barns along the way and at different farmhouses. One day when we were ready to leave a farmhouse area, we had to march by several women standing in front of their houses. One woman looked at me and motioned her finger to come to her. W hen I did, she reached in all this clothing that she had on and pulled out a half a loaf of bread. Jesus, what a surprise! It tasted just like cake. Another time, as we were marching down the road, there was a full column of people on the road. W e looked up and saw a B-17 flying above us that was having a bit of a problem, it was coming in low and smoking like mad. W ithin a few yards from our group, a parachute came out of that plane. Just after the parachute came out, the plane exploded. This guy landed and came over as we were marching along. W e told him to fall in with us. So he got in line. Another day while marching, we came through a very, very small town. Our guard stopped us before we got to the bridge leading into the town. He told us he did not want to hear anything except the trudging of feet. No talking, dont even sneeze. No nothing, because if you do, this town is occupied by S.S. and they will kill you. As we were crossing the bridge, they were wiring it. They had three bombs on either side, so they could blow the bridge. Every one of them was busy and they didnt say a word. They just went about their business. Several of them were digging holes, like fox holes, where one could jump into and fight. Poor bastards, anyone that got into the holes would meet his maker right there.


W e marched through the little town and all you could hear was just the sound of trudging feet. W e got that whole goddamn column of men through there without incident. By and large, what the guards told you to do, you had better do for your own good. As an example, they made it specific that you must stay on the road. You cannot leave the road until you were told to. Everyone took heed to that warning except a couple of guys. W e were going up a low grade and it had a hairpin turn with a creek running through there. These fellows came along and said, To Hell with it, were not going to go up to the corner and walk around. W ere going to cut through the willows by the creek. I was sitting on the bridge for a m oment and I told them that they were nuts. You get down in there and they will kill you. Youll never get out. They yelled obscenities at me and about five of them stepped off the road into the willows. And, by God, they never came out. The guards killed them. And that was supposed to be a little lessonlike, See, I told you so. The Germans stopped our column early one afternoon and everyone laid down and made themselves comfortable. There was J one little fellow there who was from Pennsylvania. He said, John, lets get that dog and take a little walk. So we went over to the guard and asked him if we could take his dog for a walk. The guard said, Ya. So we got that dog and started over the hill and there was a house. There were about five ladies and a couple of little babies at this house. W e just asked them if we could look around and they nodded their heads. They had a buggy, a baby buggy, that had been thrown out in the garbage and I after a fashionasked them if I could have the two wheels off the back. They seemed happy that I might want the wheels. While standing there, I saw a wooden box and asked if I might have that also. I took the box back and nailed the axles to the box. Then I threw all my stuff in there and just walked along. Of course, everyone wanted to put his stuff in there too. 1 had to refuse, as the cart would only accommodate so much. Some w^ere not too happy about that.

S t a l a g Luf+ VC7C7

After all the hardships, we finally arrived at Moosburg. The camp was small and had a lot of tents on the back side of camp, which is where I went. W e got to the gate and we were directed to an area where there were a lot of showers. My first thought was that we were going to be gassed. They told us that we would have to take a decontamination shower. A number of other guys and I were thinking it might be the last thing that w'e ever did. But, at least, we finally got in there and it did have, in fact, real showers. It was a pleasure. The water was warm and there was soap. It was wonderful. In that shower, there was a guy who was rather tall, standing there not saying anything. I gouged him with my elbow and asked him what was going on, what was happening? He gave a sound much like an animal, most of the sound came from his throat. I looked at him as he was pointing to his mouth. There was no tongue. Apparently the Germans had cut out his tongue. His ears had been pierced with a blade acrosswhich sealed the ear. There were about lour guys standing there beside this particular guy that could not hear or speak. They had absolutely been starved to near death. All the flesh on their arms had settled down below the elbows and all the flesh on their legs, everything had settled below their knees. They were the most pathetic group that I had ever seen. How could one human being treat another human being this badly? It made me feel so terrible to think that these men had been treated as they were. I lingered in that shower until I was told to get out. I walked by some wooden barracks that had windows. Sitting in the window, of all things, were some Manchurians or Mongolians. Their mustaches must have been one foot long. They had braided hair and their skin was yellow. There were no smiles on any of them at all. But to see these bearded faces hanging out the window was

almost sureal. W e kept on marching back through the area until we got to the tent area. They had pitched the tents and there was gravel on the ground. Thats where we were told to billet. They did not give us any pillows, blankets or anything else. It was very cold. I laid down on my back and rationalized that I would warm up the gravel and cover up with my half of a blanket. W hen I woke up the next morning, there was frost in my neck area, from my shoulders to my head. It must have gotten very chilly, but I was more than a little weary, so I slept right through the night. Next to the area where we were, there were Russians. There were barracks and they were in the barracks. Looking over there at all the men and so forth, I saw a person with small feet standing in the doorway. I thought, W hat the hell is that. It must be a very young person. But it was a woman. She must have been a little over five feet tall. She stood there, leaning her left shoulder against the door jam and her right hand was jammed into her hip, defiant as hell. She looked as though she had suffered a lot and was hard as nails. I walked up and spoke to her and she spoke in Russian. She had long scars all over her face. Someone must have taken a knife to her or something. Her cohorts the other peoplewere all big men. I felt very sorry for those people because you knew that they were really fighting soldiers. They had to be as tough as iron and they appeared to be associating with one another. They seemed, for the most part, content with the fate that had befallen them. Thev cooked their little j meal or whatever they had the same way we did. They shaved pieces of wood from the bed slats or from the building or however they could manage and squatted down by the fire. They had a little Klim (milk) can there and they heated their water. They made coffee or whatever. W e used to share the food that we had, but they had no food to share with us. W e were told that their government sent them no such thing as Red Cross parcels as we had previously received.

W e did not have to fall out for count or anything like this. Im sure the older guards sensed that the war was coming to an end, so nothing was demanded of us. The guards seemed anxious to get the hell out of there. As we layed under the American Artillery fire, it was scary as hell because those big shells made a different type of noise . . . they would explode. W e were right next to the woods and trees would come crashing down as though we were in a tornado. But the shells never hit the camp. They had a little L-S airplane (Army) with a pilot who was gutsy as hell. He flew over a couple of times and wiggled his wings and all that sort of thing. Then he came back and he landed. He waved at everyone, then got back in the plane and flew off. It was really a gutsy call, but I suppose he just wanted to ensure us, Hey you guys, hang loose and well get to you soon. There were a number of air strikes near the camp. There was a railroad track not too far away. I remember one time they caught a steam engine there and it started sputtering, and then hell, it exploded. There was a road near the railroad track where they caught a convoy and got damn near everything in the convoy. Blew the roads all to hell. One day a lot of the guards moved out. They had little carts and hooked dogs to the carts and put their junk in the cart and away they went. The tower guards just disappeared. There were just a few ground guards. One morning, April 2 9, after we had had a lot of shelling activity, I looked up over the city. The whole horizon rose the height of man and machinery. It was just a stupendous sight to see. It was a little scary there, as they were killing as they came and they were a little reckless with small arms fire, army rifle fire, and they had a lot of tanks. They had a lot of carrier wagons. Troop carrier wagons. The village wras not too far from us, so we were between the oncoming forces and the men fighting from the village. There were a number of people in that little town and there was one soldier putting up a show of force. He resisted the idea of being

taken over by the Americans. He was shooting from the top of a church bell tower, of all damn things. He was shooting like mad and the next thing you knew, he came flying out. His legs and arms were fully extended, you know, and he came out dead. Once that was over with, that was the end of the fighting. Then came the armor wagons, tanks and so forth. They came up to the fence and wished everyone well and told them how happy they were to see us. They threw over rations to us and any damn thing they could that they thought might be needed. Lucky for me, I got a damn can of hash. I ate that, it was the best piece of food that I had had for a very long time. Someone had a piece of bread, GI bread, and damn, I ate that and it was like angel food cake . . . not knowing that 1 would probably be sick as a horse with such rich food. Sure enough, as soon as I got the bread down, I started vomiting and vomiting. To this day I cannot stand the sight of hash. It was the damnedest thing, someone cut a hole in the fence. Youd think that the first thing you would want to do is to get out and run, but people didnt do that. W e would step outside the fence, look around, and jump back into the compound. Stupid things like that. But the Russians they went into the town. There was a small winery where they made wine. The Russians brought wine back by the buckets. They would drink and get very sick. Someone burnt down the winery and the Russians started to drink benzene. They came back to the camp and they were very, very sick. Many of them died right there. Fifteen or twenty of them died there next to us. All the guards did was to throw them outside. Their bodies would swell unbelievably. Some of the old boys who didnt drink came outside and wanted to start their fires. Hell, they just sat on a dead m ans leg, sat there and shaved their wood and heated their Klim can. I was just aghast that they had no more feeling than that for a former comrade. I went into the small town and everybody near there who had a weapon was coming to the town to turn it in. As I was going to town across this field, along came a Russian soldier, and he was holding his

rifle out to me. I went over and patted him on the back and I told him, Come. We wrent on into town. As we got there, he ejected the ammunition from the gun, and threw the gun into a pile. I would surmise that pile was seven feet tall and maybe ten feet across. Any kind of weapon that you could think of was in that pile. I passed by a barber shop while in the town and there was a fellow in there giving a guy a shave. Well, I wasnt smart enough to realize that he was covering up an S.S. trooper. I walked down the street a little wav and a fellow asked me if there were any S.S. men around. I told him,' I J dont know. There is someone down there in the barber shop getting a shave. The fellow went into the barber shop and asked the man seated in the barber chair if he was S.S. and the man said nothing. The fellow grabbed him right out of the chair and told him, You are S.S. They beat him all to hell before they took him off. It turned out that he definitely was an S.S. trooper. Houses in the village were extremely well kept with painted white picket fences. I was waving at this one fellow on a tank and he pointed where he was going to go, up next to the house there. He rolled right over one of the picket fences and scraped right up next to the house and stopped right by a window. He just kicked the window out and jumped in. I was standing there looking at this fellow. I should explain here that the people I am referring to as fellows were actually American G.I.s. They were fighting soldiers and tougher than hell. They had probably seen it all at this stage of the game. He jumped right into that house and asked for beer. They were negative about it and the G.I. took his machine gun out and just shot around the room several times. He stopped and said, Schnaps. And, boy, Im telling you, he got the beer and wine that he wanted. Then he started rampaging through the house. He would pull out a chest of drawers and upset them. He kicked stuff all over hell. He was looking for jewelry which he did find. They were reluctant to let him take it, but they did not have much choice in the m atter with this maniac.

I went to the bank and the G.I.s had blown out the concrete areas and there was money flying all over hell. T hese boxes (lock boxes) were still in the bank area. I did manage to pick up a few bucks and once when Mai and I were in Switzerland, we inquired as to the value of the bills. W e were told that the money was worthless. I had picked the Reicht note over the Deutshmark and it was of no value. Also, another thing had happened while I was in the small village. There was a young, defiant German girl and apparently she had decided to walk down the main street in the strident goose step that was associated with the Nazis regime. She held her head high and walked just as though she was walking to the beat of a drum. She was a beautiful voung girl and it was heart rendering for me when some G.I. just pulled oiit his machine gun and gunned her down in cold blood. This sickened me. I had had enough of the little towrn, so I left immediately and walked across the lield back to camp. Frederik, the guard that had walked with Paul and me from Nuremberg, was also shot by a G.I. I had gotten his address and we had promised to write to each other some day. I dont know why he did not leave with the others. Maybe he was sick, maybe just old and tired, and did not think that harm would befall him. Right after Pattons Third Arny liberated us, I saw his body lying near the gate. One guard who did not leave when he had the opportunity was Big Stoop. I saw two POWs acting wild and crazy they were carrying Big Stoop's head in a bushel basket.


L u c k y S tr ik e

Four days after being liberated, on May 3, we boarded trucks and were transported to the city of Landshut, where the ME 2 62 was manufactured. It was about 10 miles east of Moosburg. There we boarded C-47s and started our flight home. Just belore noon of May 4 we landed on a short runway just outside the city of Reims, France. Our plane unloaded and we were trucked to a temporary camp set up to feed incoming POWs. One of the camp personnel pointed out the chateau nearby, where General Eisenhowers SHAEF Headquarters for Europe had been set up. As soon as we exited the trucks, we were directed into the mess tent. Since it was just after 12 :00 noon, we were hungry. The medical personnel present knew which camp we had been in, and had knowledge of what we had been eating for the past several weeks. There were doctors located on each side of the line. They took a quick look at each of us and warned us to go easy on the amount we ate. The first thing everyone commented on was the fresh baked white bread. Again I must say it truly tasted like cake! Our meal consisted of steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, fresh vegetables, and ice cream for dessert. It was the very best meal any one of us could J j ever remember eating. W e were immediately told we would be boarding a train in Reims for a RAMP camp. No one knew what a RAMP camp was, but it had to be better than anything we had seen since being shot down. The American Armed Forces were well organized and kept us informed as to what would happen for the balance of the day. W ithin approximately two hours we were on a passenger train, in first class compartments, headed in a northwesterly direction toward

the temporary camp, where we would be processed for the trip home. As we stopped at various stations on our way to the camp, the French civilians cheered when they found we were liberated American flyers. Their underground assisted many American crew members and fighter pilots back to England, thus preventing their capture by the Germans during the occcupation of France. Our train pulled into a station near St. Valery France, on the English Channel. This was an area between Dieppe and Fecamp. It had been part of the German coastal defense or the Atlantic Wall. There were two RAMP (Recovered Allied Military Personnel) camps. The one we arrived at was known as Lucky Strike. The other was known as Camp Chesterfield. W e were loaded on trucks at the train station and driven the short distance to the camp. Our arrival was approximately 4:00 to 5:00 P.M. They told us to quickly shed our clothing. Now we were deloused and had a chance to shower and shave before our new uniforms were issued. W e were issued new bedding and told to pick a tent that had already been pitched. This was the largest tented area that I had ever seen. W e were given instructions on where to report for a medical exam the next day, and the location of S-2 , where we each had an appointment to be debriefed. The following morning we started our processing for the trip home. POWs in the poorest condition were processed first and, apparently, I fell in that category. W hen the doctor weighed me, I weighed in at 70 pounds and I am sure that I had gained some since first being liberated. Each recovered POW was interrogated by an S-2 Army Air Corps Intelligence Officer. After filling out papers identifying our bomb group, and information about where we were shot down, the next questions had to do with the kind of treatm ent we received at the hands of the German population and armed forces. Fie wanted dates, names and places. He specifically wanted information

concerning the Hvdekrug Run. He also wanted to know about the treatm ent on the boat trip from Memel to Stettin. He mentioned that there would be a W ar Crimes Commission investigating the bad treatm ent that we had received. He wanted names of guards and I tried to give him as much information as possible. The S-2 Officer surprised me by revealing the real name of Big Stoop. I told him how Big Stoop had m et his death and he said, There will be no trial for that bastard, will there? Somehow, I did feel sorry that he had come to the end of the war and then lost his life in such a brutal manner. I suppose, in a way, he was only following orders in his fashion. In a time of peace, he would probably have had a farm, a wife and children, and lived a peaceful life. Just after leaving S-2, I was walking back to my tent and saw our ball turret gunner, Bateman, walking towards me. I could not have been happier to see one of my own brothers. Bateman and I had trained together in Ephrata and Spokane and made all those missions together. Mai and I had met his m other and sister in Grand Island, Nebraska. Bateman told me that he was one of the POWs who had walked for 86 days from Luft 4. He was extremely thin and gaunt. W e exchanged experiences from the time that we had last seen each other. Bateman had been liberated by the British and one soldier wanted to know if he was badly treated. Bateman pointed out a German guard that had been particularly mean and abusive to everyone. The German guards were all standing; in a line and the British soldier just opened fire with a machine gun in the direction of the abusive guard, killing several German guards. I told him that he should not have been that revengeful and he said, John, those g;uys were sons-of-bitches and treated us like dogs. Im glad they are dead. W e talked late into the night and promised to get together when we got home. But that was the last that I ever saw of Bateman. The night before leaving Camp Lucky Strike, I was sitting on my bunk when the fellow in the next bunk started talking. He was shot

down in January 1945. W e discovered that we were both from Tippecanoe County, Indiana. This airmans name was Jack Devault. After coming home, we used to run into each other around Lafayette. Jack has since passed away. I also m et John Deere, Bob Rav and Sam Aldridge in other POW camps. All were from Lafayette, Indiana, mv hometown. Prior to leaving Lucky Strike, we were informed that we could send a message through the Signal Corps to our next-of-kin. My message was as follows: Dearest Mai: I will see you soon. I am in good health and waiting for a boat home. All my love. Mai told me later that the message was delivered to her with a note which read: The enclosed message from a liberated POW was received from overeseas via Army Communications facilities without cost to the sender. It is mailed to the addressee designated in the message. In view of the contemplated immediate evacuation of all liberated prisoners to the United States, a reply to this message cannot be made. The letterhead on the message was Signal Corps, United States Army. The finance section was ordered to give each of us a partial payment on the back pav that had accrued during our incarceration. I had quite a lot of money coming. But they were smart and gave us only a $400 advance. I immediately hurried over to the PX and was able to get Mai a bottle of Joy, her very favorite perfume. She always maintained that she loved the special fragrance of Joy and that maybe she could not afford the most expensive home, car or jewels in the world, but at least she could wear the most expensive perfume.


S k i p p e d to th e U n ite d S t a t e s

Finally, the moment had arrived when I would start my trip home. The word came that we were supposed to be at Camp Headquarters at 4:00 P.M. sharp, from where we would leave for LeHavre. I didnt have too much in the way of luggage so it did not take long to pack. All those on the shipping list gathered around the front of Camp Headquarters. There were large diesel trucks, pulling long stake trailers in which we would be transported to the docks. I had never seen a truck this large before and I visited with one of the drivers while we were waiting. He told me that he had been hauling troops from the ships up to the front lines where they were assigned to infantry or artillery units. He said that they were very busy during the Battle of the Bulge. Since my group was scheduled to leave around 4:00 P.M., the truck I was on was ready to roll. W e rolled out the front gate and headed for the port. W e all stood as it was a short trip from the area to LeHavre. As we approached the outskirts of the city, we saw total destruction everywhere. LeHavre was one of the first ports captured after D-Day. It is hard to describe the leveling of a city this size. In the area of the port, there was not a single building left standing. This damage had been caused by the American Air Force, the Royal Air Force and the Canadian First Armys artillery. The streets had been cleared of rubble. On the sides of the streets were piles of collapsed buildings. Chunks of concrete, m ortar and piles of brick. There were old men and children sitting there, pounding old mortar from bricks and then placing the bricks in neat stacks. It looked like a hopeless task, but they were diligently w'orking away. In my mind, I rationalized that the better idea might be to just remove all the rubble and start over from scratch.

The port was busy and we saw our first amphibious ducks. These were vehicles that were part boat and part truck. They were carrying cargo that had been unloaded from the ships. I watched them as they went back and forth from the ships. It was beautiful, the weather was perfect and in a very short time I would be back home. It didnt take long for us to load on the ship. The sailors aboard the vessel knew that we were all former Prisoners of W ar and they handled everyone like we were precious china. W e did not have to sleep in rotation (share a bunk at different hours) as we had been promised at Camp Lucky Strike. I was one of the first off the truck and had my choice of bunks in a large cabin. The bunks were only two high and I had a porthole. The boat still had five-inch guns on the stern and a gun crew in place. This gave everyone a feeling that we were in good hands. The dining area of the ship was immaculate with tables of stainless steel. The food was the best ever and we sat down to eat. Our dinner consisted of steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, fresh vegetables, that beautiful white bread, pies and cakes and four flavors of ice cream to choose from. After the evening meal, the ships captain announced over the loudspeaker that we would be at sea about a week. He also told us that we would have good weather throughout the trip. There were card games going on all over the ship, this time with REAL cards. I stayed out of the games, but it was fun watching. It didnt take long just to relax and settle into the ships routine. There wasnt much to see and do, but I did take note of a lot of names carved in the ships teakwood railings. I thought that I might recognize someones name. One never knows. The night before we were to enter New York Harbor, the captain came on the intercom again and warned us not to congregate on the

portside of the vessel. The captain did not want the ship to list so much that it might go over. Marine M.P.s assumed positions to prevent us from moving to the port side of the vessel. W hen we caught sight of the Statue of Liberty, it was the greatest thrill in the world for all of us. Im sure, to a man, we all knew some of the feelings the immigrants must have had on entering the harbor and the U.S.A. for the first time. The Port Authority fire boats shot water into the sky as they came alongside our ship. As we neared our dock, we could hear a band playing John Phillip Sousas music. I Iawaiian music was heard while girls danced the Hula on the spot where we were to dock. W ith dancing girls rolling and shaking their hips on the docks, the POWs ignored the captain. As the ship was eased toward the dock by two tugboats, everyone shifted to the port side and the ship rolled into the timbers with creaking and splintering noises. Debarkation began immediately.


P o r f D ix

Our group of POWs was told that we would be taking a short train ride to Fort Dix,7 New Jjersey. This was about an hour away J J from the port. W e were told that after reaching Fort Dix we would be issued new uniforms and orders would be cut for transportation to a base near our homes. After reaching Fort Dix, we were also told that we would get sixty days of leave and that we would be sent to an R & R Center for two weeks. We were told that there was nothing set up for us to call our families, but I found a telephone and called Mai. There is nothing in the world to describe hearing her voice after all those months. I found the telephone in the pool room on the base and, while waiting for others to use the telephone, I had been playing pool with a fellow that I had met earlier on the ship. I had a couple of beers while waiting and after talking with Mai lor a lew minutes, she said, Honey, you havent been drinking, have you? W e still laugh about that today. In the mess hall at Fort Dix, we were served by German POWs. M.P.s were stationed around the Mess Hall to avoid any possible confrontation with the Germans. Most of us had received bad treatment at some time or another while POWs, but none of us had any plans to mistreat the Germans who were serving us. They all looked well fed. Of course, I could not help thinking that they had nothing to go home to. Many of them had deaths in their immediate families, due to our bombing raids. W hen they looked at me, I smiled and it seemed to relax them a bit. All in our group were trying to be kind to the Germans.

Early the next day we were taken to the train station on the base. I learned that my destination would be Camp Atterbury near Indianapolis, Indiana. This was less than a hundred miles from my home. The transportation officer told us that we would be traveling on a special train with triple A priority. This meant we would have the right of way over all trains, whether scheduled or nonscheduled. Again, there are no words to describe how wonderful it was to see the countyside of the United States of America. Just beautiful farm land in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and coming into Indiana had to be the most wonderful thing in all the world. Even the different railroad yards, which were dirty and sooty from all the steam engine trains, were just the most wonderful sight.


H o m e fo F a m \\y

Unless you have been one of those who has faced death many times and stayed awake many nights thinking that never again would you see your wife and loved ones again, then there is no way you can know the joy and happiness of finally coming home. The door of the Greyhound bus opened and I was stepping off into the arms of my wife after all those long months. It is a joy impossible to express with mere words. I was supposed to take the train north from Indianapolis, but I called Mai and told her that the train was going to be an hour late. I told her that I had my face in the hands of the clock. W e both wondered if there wasnt a bus that I could take and get home that much sooner, so she said that she would go to the bus station and wait for me there. As luck would have it, I got a bus out in the next five minutes. Mai had rented a beautiful little apartment in the same neighborhood as w e had lived prior to my induction into the service. It was as though nothing had changedsame grocery stores, same walk to downtownit was truly home. Naturally, my father, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc., were most anxious to see me, so the very next day we started visiting relatives. W e were wined and dined with all my favorite foods. The butchers even saved choice cuts of meat for us. Lafayette was rather a small town in 1945, so everyone knew of my homecoming. We were approached by perfect strangers wishing us well and wondering if there was anything they could help us with. My Uncle Swede and Aunt Freda took us to Michigan for a week on their favorite lake, a wonderful week of fishing and boating. Mai and I had two months of
j j


this and then I had orders to report to Miami Beach, Florida, for a two-week period of rest and recuperation. W e left Lafayette by Pullman and felt like a king and queen traveling first class. After reporting to Miami, we were quartered at the Ocean Grande Hotel right on Miami Beach. All of our meals were provided in a mess hall-type setting with German Prisoners of W ar preparing the food and serving us. Also, there was a canteentype place where we could go anytime day or night and get whatever we wanted with no charge. It was more or less a soda fountain-type place where light sandwiches were served as well as milk shakes, ice cream sodas and the like. Many of the airmen that I had been with in the POW camps were also there with us. The USO scheduled all sorts of activities and entertainment for us such as deep sea fishing, dog racing and various types of tours. Mai and I went deep sea fishing and attended the dog races once, but the activities around the hotel and beach seemed to satisfy us. On August 6, 1945, there was word on the radio that Hiroshima had been bombed. The newsperson kept referring to the bomb as the atomic bomb, which people had never heard of. W e were sitting on the beach when someone told us about this bombing and Mai said that the war would end in a week if we had, indeed, dropped an atom bomb. Everyone thought that that sounded incredulous, but she maintained that her eighth grade teacher, Sister Emilie, had told her students that the country who could split the atom would control the world. She was steadfast in her opinion that the war woiild end in a week. Sure enough, another bomb was dropped two days later on Nagasaki and we heard on the radio that Japan had offered to surrender. Imagine the acclaim that Mai received from all the naysayers. Everyone was in a celebration moodthere was dancing outside around the pools until the wee hours of the morning-just knowing that the war would soon be over and everyone could come home

from the far corners of the world. The news, coupled with my homecoming, was like the icing on the cake. It just overwhelmed us. W e had orders to report to Stout Field in Indianapolis. So after two wonderful weeks of celebrating and the camaraderie with former POW s, we again boarded a Pullman train for Indiana. Mai had an Aunt living in Greenfield, so we stayed with her for a brief time, until we found accommodations close to Stout Field. W e were only there until October and had orders to report to Baer Field in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for discharge. Discharges were granted at this time by a point system. So many points for overseas duty, for combat, etc. Prisoners of W ar had priority, so I was discharged in November 1945. Again, just to spend Christmas with Mai and all of my family was another icing on the cake. It was a wonderful, wonderful time. W hen we arrived back in Lafayette after my discharge, we stayed with Mais Uncle Bill and Aunt Florence. This was Mais very favorite Aunt and Uncle. They had two children, Barbara and Billy, who were almost like a brother and sister to Mai. Mai also had siblings at home who seemed like my own family, Charles, Theresa and Bunny. I wanted to go to Purdue University and get a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I had always enjoyed working with engines and the like (hence my position as Engineer on the plane), but the four years of schooling rather cramped my style at the moment. Mai and I were eager to start a family and build our home. I decided to get a degree at the Indiana Business College which was a period of two years. After graduating from Indiana Business College I took a position with Indiana Bell Telephone Company as an Accountant. W e also had a home built during this period. Mai had worked as a Secretary in a war plant, Brown Rubber Company. This companv made fuel cells for bombers during the war. She had lived very frugally during the war and saved quite a lot of money. O f course,

mv pay had accrued and I received this upon my discharge. Our home was not large, but we thought that it was a palace, especially since we had a large lawn and garden area. W e moved into our new home shortly after we learned that Mai and I would be parents. Our son, John Randolph, was born on November 2 1, 1947. Mai and I felt that God was blessing us triplefold. Mv salary at Indiana Bell was a little inadequte for our needs with the new baby, furnishings for our home, etc., and I did not want Mai to have to go to work. So I made the decision to enlist in the Reserve Program. This only meant that I would be away from home one weekend a m onth and that we would receive $90 every three months. W e could certainly use the additional money and felt that there would be no call-up of reserves. Then North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950 and the 434th Troop Carrier was recalled to active duty. I wanted very much for Mai and our three-year-old son to go with me, so we rented our little house and left for Bakalar AFB at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. We were very lucky in that we were able to rent an apartment in an old farmhouse along with five other couples that had been recalled to active duty. Two of the nicest people who ever lived had decided to rent their farm home. Elsie and Floyd were like parents to all of us. Every night was like a small party. Someone would buy a couple of watermelons and we would all get together and enjoy each others company. W ed have pitch-in dinners at least once a week. W e got orders to report to a Supply School at Cheyenne, Wyoming. W ith our son and little Scotty dog we took off for our new assignment. Shortly after arriving there, we found a lovely basement apartment, again with a wonderful couple, John and Billie W erner. Before long we were sharing every meal with them and their daughter, Mitzi.


It was easy to fall back into the military routine. I went to school during the daytime and left the base each evening. Weekends were free. Billie and John wanted us to go antelope hunting with them. W e had always thought that one had to go to Africa to hunt big game, but we found that there were many antelope right here in Wyoming. W e sort of organized a group and went hunting. W e moved about in our automobile until we spotted the animals. Then wed get out and try to shoot one of them. They were extremely fleetfooted, so one was rather lucky to bag one. I got lucky and got a buck with large antlers. Today, I no longer hunt, but at that time we both thought it was really something to participate in. W e froze the meat and gave most of it to friends. While we were in Wyoming, we spent most of our weekends sightseeing. O f course, we went to a rodeo. W e also went out to Snowy Range where the snow is forever on the mountains. W e thought it the greatest thing to throw snowballs at each other in the middle of the summer. W e visited Flickas ranch from storybook fame. W e also enjoved visiting the ranches of friends (friends of Billie and Johns). Early in December we finished Supply School at Francis E. W arren Air Force Base and received orders to report back to Bakalar AFB in Indiana. W e went back out to Elsie and Floyd Houston, hoping that they would have a vacancy in their apartments, which they did. Most of the same group was still there, so it was a wonderful Christmas for all of us. W e were so close to Lafayette that we were able to visit J with family and friends during the Christmas season as well. In January of 1952, we got orders to report to Fort Benning, Georgia. Our new base would be Lawson Air Force Base located at Fort Benning. This was a leading Infantry Base, but paratroopers

were also trained here. The 434th Troop Training Command moved enmasse to Fort Benning. For a very brief time, we had accommodations that consisted of one bedroom and kitchen privileges. But we soon moved into Camellia Apartments located just outside Fort Benning. Again, we had a lovely apartment with two bedrooms and all appliances were furnished. In the meantime, we had sold our home, so we had our furniture shipped to us at Fort Benning. I was the Sargeant in charge of Supply so I had my share of headaches. However, Mai and I enjoyed the Commissary and PX privileges. Groceries were very inexpensive at the Commissary and purchases made at the PX were also inexpensive. Bread was 60 a loaf. Movies were 2 50, so we saw a lot of movies. There was a golf course and there w^ere also tennis courts and a small swimming pool. W e had a lot of company. Friends and relatives stopped by enroute to Florida and it was fun showing them around the base. W e even attended an Army vs. Georgia Tech game in Atlanta while we lived there. W e spent several weekends at Warm Springs, Georgia, and we travelled to different areas of Florida, particularly the area known as the Panhandle. Fishing was extremely good in the bayous of that area. One time while there with friends we caught 60 fish in an hour. There were three of us fishing. W e m et Hilda and John Fox who were our next door neighbors. Our friendship has continued throughout the years. John is an extraordinary person who enlisted in the Marines at an early age. He was offered a chance to go to Officers Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He earned his commission and upon the completion of School he was offered the chance to take the next group through Officers Candidate School. John did this and rose through the ranks to retire as a full Colonel. He is a person who exemplifies all the best in an officer.

In January of 1953, I was discharged from the Air Force and decided to take a position with Seaboard Finance in Clearwater, Florida, as an Accountant. W e lived there almost two Jvears and throughly enjoyed everything about Florida. However, we both missed our hometown and all our friends and relatives. Our son had attended kindergarten in Georgia at Holy Family Catholic School and was now attending St. Cecelia School enrolled in the first grade. One makes so many friends in Florida and that made it even harder to think about leaving, but we got an offer from National Homes Corporation in Lafayette that was just too good to turn down. We started making plans to return to our hometown. W'e have kept close friends with several people that we m et during this time, but our very favorite friends from that period were Ruth and Bill Scalf. Thev had a son about our sons age and we did everything together . . . lifetime friends and lifetime memories. W e left Clearwater, Florida, in August 1954 and enrolled our son at St. Lawrence School in Lafayette. His grandfather, Theodore Klooz, and his m other had graduated from this same school. We found an apartment just two blocks from the church and school. Our son graduated from St. Lawrence in 1960. In 1960 we built our dream home just a short distance from Central Catholic High School and John Randolph graduated from there in 1965. Thirty-eight vears later we are still in that dream home that we had built in 1960. Our son graduated from Purdue University in 1969. He lives in Rimrock, Arizona, and works for the U.S. Department of Natural Resources. Presentlv,1 he is verv involved in the Verde River J J W atershed Project of Arizona. I worked for National Flomes Acceptance Corporation for 17 years and later opened my own Real Estate Office. A position of Vice President of Hometown Federal Savings and Loan was offered to me and I worked in this position until I retired in 1987. Mai and I have


traveled extensively around the worldbackpacking in Greece and Turkey for one month, a safari (photographic) to Africa with an extended trip to the Seychelles on the same trip. W e have visited Europe several times; also visited England and Scotland several times. While in England I went back to Bassingbourneit is still pretty much the same. The beautiful brick barracks are still there, the tower and the revampments. While there, Mai and I rented a small car and went to the former P-47 basse which was near Bassingbourne. Now there is just a large open field with a small plaque stating that there had been a Thunderbolt Air Base there between 1942 and 1945. We visited Roystonsome of the little haunts that we airmen had frequented. In 1989 we made a trip to the Inca ruins in Macchu Picchu, South America. This was somewhere that we had always dreamed of going and we are both so glad that we made that trip, because shortly after that I started to have serious health problems until finally, at Mayo, the doctors put me on kidney dialysis in December of 1993. Since then,' I am on dialysis three times a week for four J hours each time. I have developed interests that prove invaluable. I am in the process of learning to play a Baldwin organ. I have always liked antique automobiles. Every year we attend the Kruse Brothers auction in Auburn, Indiana. W e own a 1958 Mercedes 190SL (convertible) and also a 1939 Chevy. I propagate iris and lilies, and just for our son, I am constructing a model of a B-17F bomber. Mai finally realized her dream of graduating from Purdue University with a degree in Fine Arts.


M o *e P O W

S to H e s

One person in our room wanted to collect stories as to how we all became POWs. Some felt these stories were pretty m uch the truth because their crew mates verified them. Some stories sound like real miracles. One such incident is the case wherein three crew members were still inside the plane when it blew up. As soon as they realized they were blown out of the plane by the explosion, they pulled their rip cord and all three survived. On another bomber, a radio operator was sitting at his set when his plane exploded and he found himself out in the air. Like me, he always wore his chute over enemy territory. He landed during a strong wind and the chute dragged him past a fence post. His head struck the post and broke his neck. He was released to Luft IV after spending some time in a German hospital. This airman told me that he had pulled and worked out over a hundred pieces of the plane and his heated suit from his body. Another airman told how he had just reached the waist door when the plane exploded. He felt he had been shot out of a canon. He was the only survivor of that plane. A wraist gunner told how he was flying in a B-2 4 over Germany when his plane blew up. He was at the right waist gun and suddenly found himself out in the air still holding the gun. W hen he let go of the gun, it floated right along beside him. This gunner also thought that he was the only survivor of his plane, but after the war he may have found there were others. W e have a friend locally, Spanky Owens, a ball turret gunner, who survived such an explosion and found refuge with a French

family for a few months. He was eventually taken prisoner by the Germans and spent a brief time in a POW camp. Crew members from a plane in that same formation thought that everyone on his plane was killed when they saw the plane explode. He received letters from the pilot of another plane expressing disbelief that he had survived the explosion. W hen we saw planes explode, we usually did not see parachutes come out. In POW camps, we saw airmen who were reported as KIA due to their planes blowing up. One airman had been ordered to bail out as thev had a fire and J engine failure. Four or five of the crew bailed out, but the fire was controlled and the plane made it back to England. He always received parcels from some of his crew members who were now back in the United States. I think the most preposterous story was the one that the fellow told about having been blown out of the airplane in an explosion. The way he told it was that, to his amazement, in all the debris from the explosion, here was his parachute drifting along beside him. He reached out and snapped it on his harness, pulled the ripcord and floated to the ground. I was around this fellow for all those months and everything about him seemed credible. He was a very nice person.


M a i 's R e m e m b m n c e s

All too soon, summer would come to an end. John and I had met the previous summer when John was 19 and I was 17. W e were married May 6, 1942, at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Lafayette, Indiana. Our apartment was in a quaint Victorian home and we had the carefree days of two young people in love. Our free hours and weekends were spent bicycling, swimming, playing tennis and visiting family and friends. These were the days of the 5# Coke and the 10$ hamburger. Even the blue plate special was never more than 50<?, so we ate out a lot. W e dreaded mail arrival each day, as we knew that John's num ber was bound to come up soon. His two brothers, Charles and David, had enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor. One was training in the Signal Corps in California while the other was an airplane mechanic at Shepard AFB in Texas. Charles and David did not see combat and both remained and made the Armed Services their career. My brother, Teddy, had enlisted in the Navy just after Christmas, 1941. Teddy was sent to Pearl Harbor and assigned to a ship within six weeks after enlistment. Teddy served as a Chief Petty Officer in charge of a gun battery on the U.S.S. Wisconsin and received several medals for courage and valor. Many of our friends had enlisted or were drafted. In August, John was placed in Class I by the Selective Service Board. Fie was sent to Indianapolis for his physical and was classified Class 1A. In September, John, along with sixty-nine other Tippecanoe County Selectees, left Lafayette and headed to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, and the beginning of active duty. John was selected for the Army Air Corps and sent immediately by train to Clearwater, Florida, for a brief physical training session.

John called me from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, and asked me to join him there. The next day I was on a bus headed for Biloxi. John and I were able to find a room with George Sarver and his wife. They had a daughter, Myrtle. George Sarver was a shrimp fisherman and often spent the entire week at sea. I started my job at the W oolworth store within a week of arriving in Biloxi. The hours were long from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., five days a wreek; and on Saturdays, the hours were 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. The pay for these long hours was approximately $10.13 after taxes. W e received our pay each Saturday in a small, brown envelope. John wras allowed only a weekend pass 4:00 p.m. on Saturday to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. W e had just those few hours together each week. W e went to Catholic Mass every Sunday morning. W e usually spent the afternoon strolling along the beach, watching the shrimp and oyster boat activity. Later, we ate at one of the small cafes. A couple of times we ventured into the oyster bar and tried to eat the raw oysters. W orking from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day and until 9:00 p.m. on weekends did not allow the G.I. wives much free time. However, we often m et at each other's homes where we played cards or made cookies. Actually, it was a lot of fun just meeting and knowing girls from all over the United States. Although today, we only correspond with two of themRenna (and Earl) Bell from Columbus, Ohio, and Grace (and W arren) Stebbins from Citronelle, Alabama. Both couples have also celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversaries. Renna and I worked together behind the cosmetic counter for a while. There was a floor walker who constantly patrolled the workers and the store. W e were forbidden to chew gum, but we did anyway. One day, we both took our gum out when we saw the floor walker coming our way. W e stuck the gum under the counter on the

wood. Later, when I went to get my gum, I realized that Renna had gotten my gum and was chewing it! W e were always so tired on Saturday night after the long week w e had to put in. One of our duties was to get the broom and sweep behind our counters. One girl, in toys, was frantically trying to find the broom and inadvertently walked up to a customer and asked her if she had the broom. She was mortified when she realized her mistake, but it gave all of us a m uch-needed laugh. One day Renna and I decided to start collections. I suggested that she collect salt and pepper shakers, and I would collect vases. Renna now has over 1,000 salt and pepper shakers, but I have only a few beautiful vases from around the world. After quitting work, Renna and I went by train to New Orleans for the day. W e were typical tourists, in awe of everything about the French Quarter. It seemed a bit unreal that Renna and I were strolling the historic streets of New Orleans. W e even visited the old ancient cemetery where people were buried above the ground. This was the custom in an area such as New Orleans because of the periodic flooding. We also saw a funeral procession for a Negro American winding its way to the Negro cemetery. Folks were dressed in their Sunday best and many carried homemade-looking instruments. The instruments consisted mainly of the drum type and there were many string-type homemade instruments strings drawn across gourds and the like. The Negro cemetery was a low spot and each grave was marked with a stone, just a rock, really. Some rocks had names scratched on them. Renna and I were rather appalled that this was where the Negro dead were buried. People referred to it as the darky cemetery. In March, when Johns training was completed, he left by train for California and I left bv train for Indiana. As soon as I got home, I went to Purdue University and sought out the help of a counselor. John and I thought that it might be a good idea if I enrolled at

Purdue in the fall of 1943. I took a job with Duncan Electric in the interim. Duncan had converted to a wartime plant and was now making bomb sites for submarines. My job consisted of inspecting nuts and bolts. Extremely boring, and hardly ones version of Rosie the Riveter. However, in June, after training in California, Las Vegas and Utah, John was sent to Ephrata, Washington, and he called urging me to come to Washington and spend the summer with him. It was a beautiful train ride to Washington, I had never seen that part of the country before, coupled with the fact that I was riding a Pullman for the first time. In 1943, there were still all the red caps to help with luggage, whatever. In the dining coach, the tables were set with the white tablecloths, china and silver. There were lovely bouquets of flowers on each table and the food was superb. John m et me at the train station in Ephrata and we walked from the station to the little sun porch room that he rented from the Greenlees. There was a small single bed with a trunk turned vertically for a bedside table, a small chest for clothing, a little rug and that was it. There was no light in the room as the sun porch did not have electricity. John and I thought it was beautiful. The very next day I met Dora and Clyde Greenlee and their two children, Ginny and Tommy. They were so wonderful to us and insisted that we share their lunch that dav. Often in the months following my arrival, John and I shared meals with the Greenlees. They treated us like one of the iamily. W e tried to give them our ration stamps for the months that we were there, but they refused to take them. Seldom does one meet such fine folks as Dora and Clvde Greenlee. John had every weekend free and often would be allowed to come in through the week. W e would ride Ginny and Tommy's bikes, sometimes going out to the air base. During the summer of 1943, one could look into the sky any day of the week and see B-17s,


P-38s and P-Sls. There were other fighters and bombers, but those three were mv favorites. I m et all the crew that John would be going overseas with. The onlv other crew member that was married was Clyde MacCullum, the co-pilot. W e would also see other airmen from the base. John and I swam a lot that summer, played tennis and rode bicycles. It was a wonderful three and one-half months that we spent in the little town of Ephrata. Toward the end of our stay, John was lucky enough to get a five-day pass and we went to Seattle by train. W e splurged and stayed at one of the best hotels and ate at a different upscale restaurant every day. I remember the taxi driver telling us that it rained about 350 days out of the year, but it did not rain while we were there. Johns crew got orders to go to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane and wanted me to tag along. Again, we had a small room. This room had once been a linen closet, but it did have electriciy and several times while we were there, I was able to prepare meals on a small hotplate. Again, Mr. and Mrs. Gerber were wonderful to us. They would often invite us to eat with them. They were an older couple and their daughter taught school in Seattle. She did not get home very often, so they were happy to have us around. Spokane was an interesting city to explore, so we thoroughly enjoyed our brief stay there. John and his crew got orders to report to Grand Island, Nebraska, to pick up a B-17 and leave for England. He surmised that they would only be in Nebraska a very short time and asked me to get the next train out. Grand Island was a city that was on the route that I would take home. W hen issuing the ticket to me at the train station, there was no price increase because I wanted to stop over for a few days with my husband. W hen I boarded the train (coach class), I noticed that there were a lot of sailors getting on the train. It turned out that I had managed to get myself on a Troop train, of sorts, because all of these sailors had just graduated from Farragut Naval Base, Idaho, and were


enroute to Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago. After the train started moving, the conductor decided that I should not be on this particular train. I explained that my husband was picking up his plane and going overseas. The conductor conferred with the decision-making folks and they made the decision to let me stav on the train. The train had no air conditioning . In fact, it was a train that looked like it had been resurrected from the last century. The seats were covered with heavy mohair and there was a special little section at the end of the coach for the conductor. After a while, with no air conditioning, the sailors decided to raise all the windows and all the train smoke and soot blew back into the coaches. W hen I got off the train, I was covered with soot from head to toe. I was able to get a room at a better hotel and quickly took a bath. John was knocking on the door just as I finished my bath and I was there in my bathrobe brushing my long hair down over my face. W hen I threw my hair back, all the soot from mv hair had covered my face. How he laughed at me! John was in Grand Island only two days and left for overseas. He took a cardboard box with him as he left the hotel and said to watch for it to come out of a plane the next morning. I did see the box floating down from an airplane. The only bad thing about that, it brought to mind that John himself might float like that out of a plane over Germany. I got back to Lafayette in October and went, almost immediately, to Purdue University. I hoped to enroll in their Spring semester. But, somehow, with Bob going overseas and facing enemy action all the time, I rationalized that I should be working somewhere and saving , money for our luture. It was easy to get employment as all the factories were begging for help. I went to work at the Brown Rubber Company in Lafayette as a Secretary. The Brown Rubber Company made fuel cells for B-17

and B-24 bombers, so not only would I be able to save money, but I would be doing my share for the war effort. Rationing made life rather difficult at this time. One had to have stamps to buy gasoline, shoes, any major food item was rationed. Most stores were always out of meat, sugar, and bare necessities. Soap was rationed. If one wanted to buy clothing, many things were not obtainable. Skirts had buttons instead of zippers. Families would buy food items and trv to save them for their sons homecoming. There were no deep freezers at this time. There was a wonderful group of people working at Brown Rubber Company. There was a family feeling amongst the employees as everyone had close relatives serving in some war zone. The President of the company, Mr. Callanan, cared about every employee. Every Christmas he gave each employee a turkey and a large bag of groceries. And each time that he went to New York City on company business, he brought every Secretary back some beautiful item of clothing. He had the shopper person at leading department stores pick out these things. He had our clothing sizes with him, so all the clothing fit us perfectly. John arrived in England and after receiving his address, I wrote each day, usually walking the letters to the Post Office. Fie tried to write every day and even though there was a sameness to the letters, just hearing from him made my day. All of his letters were censored so there was little he could tell me militarily about what was going on. Fie did write about his visits to Royston and to London. He wrote about the bicycle that he had purchased from another airman and about the comings and goings of members of his crew. I kept very busy with my job. I was living with my Aunt Florence and Uncle Bill and spent my weekends doing various things with my young cousins, Barbara and Billy Klooz. My small sister Theresa and brother Bunny often visited me. Something else we got great pleasure from was ordering sodas and the like from Schaaf s Drug


Store. They delivered to the door then. Aunt Florence and I enjoyed shopping on the weekends. Every day I attended Mass at St. Boniface Catholic Church. I usually walked down to Ninth and Main and caught the bus to Brown Rubber, St. Boniface was right on my way. John tried to attend Mass as often as he could in England. On February 2 1, 1944, John was shot down by German fighters over Germany, but it was March 1, 1944, before I received word from the U.S. Government about this. John was reported as Missing In Action. The first thing that I wanted to do was to be with my parents. So I went there immediately and stayed with them during this difficult time. My parents lived in a rural area and it was more difficult to get transportation than in the city. Later when I learned that John had been taken prisoner of war, I moved back into the city to stay with my Aunt and Uncle. The nights were the worst while he was Missing In Action. During the day, I was at work and kept pretty busy, but at night, I could imagine the worst. I had 31 days to endure this suspense. People with ham radios on the East Coast started getting word that he had been taken prisoner and I received over SO telegrams informing me of this. It was a much longer period before the U.S. Government let me know that John was taken prisoner by the Germans. I started receiving special P.O.W. letters and cards from John about two months after he was in the hands of the Germans. His letters were strictly censored, but his Grandmother had a little dog that was called a Pomeranian and by mentioning this dog, I figured that he was in East Pomerania. This did not tell one much. It was comforting to me to know that he was in a Prisoner of W ar Camp and would not have to be in enemy combat action anymore. In November 1944, I got word that officers would be coming from Washington, D.C., to present me with Johns Air Medal. W ord

of this circulated around the plant where I worked and through the efforts of Mr. Callanan, the officers made arrangements to come to Lafayette and present me with the Air Medal at the Brown Rubber Company. W orkers at the plant built a small stage and decorated it with red, white and blue bunting. W orkers were given time off at the end of the 7-3 shift and at the beginning of the 3-11 shift to attend this ceremony. It was all very impressive and the local newspaper was there to photograph the event and write a story about it. After the invasion of Europe, everyone was very optimistic that the w^ar in Europe would end soon. In March and April of 1945, there were vivid accounts of the concentration camps being liberated. The U.S. troops were rapidly advancing from the W est and the Russians were coming in from the East. On June 6, 1945, the war ended in GermanyV.E. Day. I had no word from John until he called me from Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, early in May to tell me that he would soon be home. Everyone at the Brown Rubber Company shared my joy and Mr. Hippensteel wrote a beautiful poem to John and me. It was as though a member of their family had returned home. I quit my job and Aunt Florence and I found a nice apartment close to the area where John and I had lived just before he entered the service. In a few days, he was actually here in Lafayette and in no time at all, it was as though he had never left. W e had a wonderful two months before he had to report to R& R in Miami. This time was spent visiting relatives and friends. We did a lot of swimming, bicycling, playing tennis and just sort of picked up our life as though there had been no interruption. John weighed less than 70 pounds when he came back, but by summers end he weighed 100. Everyone spoiled us with our favorite foods.

Late in July we left by Pullman train for Miami. W hen we arrived at Miami Beach a few days later, John was seeing all of his friends. O ur food was served to us by German POWs at a Mess Hall. W e had a nice little soda fountain where we could have our favorite milk shakes and sodas any time we wanted. W e spent a lot of time on the beach with our friends. On August 6, 1945, the Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Two days later another Atom Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered formally on August 14, 1945. It was the most wonderful thing in the world to be with all the former POWs when this great event occurred. Most were up all night and even into the next day everyone was celebrating. We left for Indianapolis within a few days as John had to report to Stout Field. After arriving there, we found accommodations with my Aunt Dorothy for a while and then managed to get an apartment in Indianapolis. W e also found a small car that we liked. W ithin a few months, John had orders to report to Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he was discharged. W e came back to Lafayette and John enrolled in Indiana Business College for the spring semester. W e were both anxious to start a family and build a home. W e moved into our new home in the spring of 1947 and our son, John Randolph, was born in November 1947. By this time, John had taken employment at Indiana Telephone Company. john enlisted in the 434th Troop Carrier Commanda Reserve outfit to better our finances a bit. W hen the Korean W ar broke out, Johns Reserve unit was recalled to active duty. John wanted us, myself and small son, to go with him to Bakalar AFB in Columbus, Indiana. So once again, we were a military family.