A Surprised Landing
410th Bomb Group, 9th AF, USAAF
Aug. 4, 1944 - 1800 hrs, chow line, Gosfield, England
Cry went out - "need a volunteer gunner; turret - quick!" I volunteered: immature mind not thinking of all the ramifications, crew problems, etc. As I ran away, following the orderly, someone, namely John Deary, shouted, "You`ll be sorry" - when have I heard THAT before! McCarthy had come up sick, and the crew needed a turret gunner now! I went. Strangely, I had no fear of being killed; the worst that could happen to a flyer had already happened to me, when in Basic Flight training, Class 43-K, I was told, Convenience of the government, we don`t need you anymore, you can back to re-classification, Bombardier, gunnery. Because my number started with a 1, I chose to get into combat the quickest way; gunnery. So I volunteered again.
Mission was the RR Bridge over the Seine at Oissel, south of Rouen, overcast on first run. Most flak came from port side, but for some reason, known only to the leader, we made our turn to the left. Flak was heavy, and into IP turn, our empennage was blown away by a direct hit by a big shell - didn`t get it`s number as it hit!
Pilot, Lt. Walsh, called to advise us we better get out, he could not control the ship. I called back, "we`re going", as tunnel gunner Fred Herman had signaled me, as he went out. My "Mae West" strap got caught on something in the turret, which I yanked loose, and tore it in two! Clipped on the chest pack, holding firmly on to the red handle. The nose heavy plane was spinning, and so I was virtually catapulted out of the big hole where the tail section used to be. Besides the quick movements, I do remember the acrid smell of the AA shell.
Counting to whatever, tumbling crazily, I remembered the advice of our British Advisers, "Delay opening your chute"! Better chance to avoid capture. Finally, I spread-eagled, which stopped the awful tumbling, and brought some sense to Earth and Sky. But, how fast the dumb earth was approaching! So not being experienced in this kind "flying", I pulled the red handle that was in my hot hand. Where, where was Herman, who had gone out before me.
Just about then, my attention was focused on the plane, which, just about then, hit the French hillside, big flame, then black smoke, then silence. I wondered about Walsh, how does a pilot get out of one of these A 20`s, especially when it went out of control, and spinning. For a quick second, and for long since, I thought, "How lucky you are".
Upon not seeing Herman`s chute, I manipulated the chute, and swung around, finally seeing a small white circle in the sky, waa-y up there. He must have pulled as soon as he cleared the ship. He , too was safe for now.
Quickly, I learned all about flying a chute - probably what Airborne guys study for weeks, and decided to again follow orders, determine drift, and land face forward. As I was planning this, I heard firecrackers on the ground, and funny whistling sound going past my ears, even tho my fabric British helmet was still on my head. The flak helmet was left in the plane. Landed softly in alfalfa field, with my "hunter" watching, about 50 ft. away. I dumped the chute and reached for my .45, under my arm. As he came forward, waving the machine pistol, reality, and common sense took over, and I just waited for him. He slung the weapon, and gave me a right to the face! As I cocked my right to do the same to him, great arms enfolded me from the rear, threw me down into the aldalfa. Turns out, this was Luftwaffe Sgt. Feldwebel in charge of the battery that shot us up!
All the way into town, he proudly showed me off to the French, who were giving me the V for victory sign. (ala Churchill)
First contact with a 'superior' German officer, facing him across desk, he playing with my loaded .45, I telling him in very direct, and not too polite English, 'that's loaded, no use you killing both of us,' he finally agreed to let me unload it, - with 4 guards rifles poking my back. Everywhere we went, even out to a tree for you know what, at least 4 rifles in back!
Finally we would up on a truck to Paris, unloaded on a mezzanine overlooking the train loading platforms, with SS guards, and wounded Wehrmacht soldiers, stumps, bloody, hardly ambulatory, trying to return to Germany, and care. Pitiful! Scared? You know IT!
Finally on train, Italian POW car, bars on windows, German guards at each end of car, 9 POWs to section. French Red Cross Ladies and giving us each a 1/2 liter bottle of water, some cheese, and some sausage. Next morning , when looking at the sausage, most guys turned up their noses. Blutwurst ( blood sausage ! ) , chesse with some mold . Strange, how circumstances can make a gourmet out of a GI.
We understand we are on way to Germany, thru Metz, on French-German border. First day out , P-51s find our engine, "poof !" , and strafe train. No casualties. Took 2 days to replace engine. Next time, P-38s do the job, this time strafing our POW car. Killed 6, wounded 9. ( Gentle reader, have you ever been on the receiving end of 6 cal.50's? ) Finally , after 8 days we made the 300 miles to Metz. Then through the interrogation camp at Oberursel, and the transit camp at Wetzlar, we were sent to a new camp at St Wendel in the Saar. Our stay was short , as the Allied Forces were advancing, and ' Grasshopper' were dropping ' surrender' leaflets.
They then moved us up to Poland by ' 40 & 8 ' boxcars, 2 days, watching B-17 contrails at noon , in the Frankfurt Bahnhof!
Kreiegie camp life was not bad, just what you made it, within the limits. Jerry always had a gun , food was poor, if available, Red Cross rations kept us alive, even though rationed by Jerry to one parcel to 3 men per week. We Started a tunnel, but the snow made it difficult to hid the dirt! We left there Jan. 30, when the Russians came close .
Over 10,000 of us marched away from Poland, towards Germany, finally broke up into groups of about 250,300, staying in farm yards, fields, wherever, scrounging for whatever we could find to eat, many days going without any food, ( 7 days once ) , getting weaker from dysentery, plodding along, with no news, no food, Jerry shooting anyone who lagged behind - not too nice.
Long story short, we marched for 89 days, over 800 kms, ( 500 mi ), finally liberated by US forces on the Mulde River at Bitterfeld, now East Germany. After moving to a major Luftwaffe base at Halle, for delousing, new clothes, etc., we were flown ( without parachutes- and what a commotion from all the ex-POW`s) to France, then to the debarkation camps, (Chesterfield, Lucky Strike, etc) got aboard a Liberty ship at LeHavre, arrived New York, June 30, 1945.
One funny! After about 30 days at a camp in France, we were marched by the US ARMY guys to a formation at a nearby airfield. Soon a P-27D (Jug) made a pass, low level approach, landed, and we marched closer. The pilot, Lt. Col. Gabreski, stood on the wing with a mike, and exhorted all of us, ex POW`s like him, to volunteer to head to the Pacific, and end the war over there more quickly! He had been a POW for 3 months, probably treated royally, as befits an "ACE", and now he wants us, (civilians-in-uniform), to follow him to greater glory! You never heard such a thunderous silence, I`m sure he, too, was embarrassed, as much as we were, cause his takeoff was straight-away, no "Buzz" job -- just got the hell out of there!
I was able recently, June, 1989, to retrace some of my steps from then. I visited the camp in Poland, Stalag Luft IV, where there is a monument put up by the local Polish residents dedicated to "THE ALLIED FLYERS". nothing else remains except the potato cellar, that kept us alive. As yopu read this, I hope you will remember the pilot, Lt. Walsh and stop for a moment of thought. "GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN"
----- Karl Haeuser
What Karl left out is the name of the plane "MOPSY" if you go to web site
http://www.web-birds.com and go to the 410th bomb group you will see a pic of her
----- Submitted by "Big0410"
Biography of Jack Deuitch, S/Sgt, Gunner, 644th Bomb Sqdn, 410th Bomb Group, 9th AF, USAAF
Diary of Guiseppe A. Siciliano, S/Sgt, Eng/Gunner, A20#714 "Dexter's Dragon", 646th Bomb Sqdn, 410th Bomb Group, Unit History, 9th AF, USAAF - Not a Center Page Use Back Key to Retuurn
410th Bomb Group at Christmas Mass, 1944, 410th Bomb Group
A20 Flak Hit, 410th Bomb Group
A20J Bombs Away, 410th Bomb Group
Col. Parret with A20, Col., Pilot, A20 "Maxine", 646th Bomb Sqdn, 410th Bomb Group, 9th AF, USAAF
Guiseppe A. Siciliano with A20, S/Sgt, Eng/Gunner, A20#714 "Dexter's Dragon", 646th Bomb Sqdn, 410th Bomb Group, 9th AF, USAAF
A20 of the 410th Photo at Boeing Co. Site, Use Back Key to Return
Photo Gallery 410th Bomb Group Not A Center Page use Back Key to Return
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