Biography of Jack Deuitch

S/Sgt, 644th Bmb Sqdn, 410th Bmb Grp, 9th AF

     

       It was late October 1944,and without knowing it I was flying my last mission with the 644th Sqd. We took of about 1:00p.m. and were over our target south of Duren about 3:30p.m. There was heavy flak south of Duren and after we droped our bombs, I smelled smoke. At that moment our pilot, Frank Braisted, called on the intercom to say our nose was on fire and we should bail out, so Barnet Craig and I jumped. I never saw either Frank or Barney again, but heard after the war that they had been killed.

     My chute hit me in the face temporarily knocking me out. When I came to, I saw trees as I was floating down over the Ardenne Forest not far from Annarode,Germany. I came down between two huge pine trees and was caught in one of them about forty feet in the air. After swinging myself back and forth, I managed to grab the trunk of one of the trees and was able to cut the chute straps and then slide down the tree.I got out of my heavy flying boots and left them…a big mistake because I was to find out the nights get very cold. I ran to a clump of trees and stayed there till dark. Although I heard a voice calling, I didn`t see anyone. Amazingly enough, I walked for three days without seeing a person. Fortunately, I had my escape kit with candy bars, a compass, and pills for purifying water.

     After three days, I finally found some water and used the first the pill after filling the plastic bag with water. I then followed a river till I came to a T in the road in a samll town where I saw a German soldier to the right, so I turned and left and walked out of town. As I was walking, I spotted a fire tower, so I climbed to the top of it where I found a piece of pie crust that I ate. I was about to lay down to get some much needed sleep, when I heard some voices below. I looked down and although two German officers were looking up, they did not see me. After they left, I decided I had better leave also.

     I walked day and night for 8 lonely days, laying down from timt to time to rest but not to sleep. Finally, I decided to give myself up to the first person I saw. I walked down a road, but did not see anyone. I walked across a field and lay down in a hay stack, covering myself up all except my face. After about ten minutes, I heard someone and a German soldier came around the hay stack and stopped about two feet from me. I had my 45 on my chest, I looked into his eyes, but he never looked down and did not see me, and he went on. I laid there for about an hour and then got up and headed for a small patch of woods. I came to a road and followed it until I came to a German guard shack about 50 feet down the road with a German in it.

     He didn`t speak to me. So I kept going and went on to another patch of woods. It was dark, and later I found out that I had walked by two German tanks. I laid down till it was light when I saw two Germans cutting down a tree.

     I intended to circle around them, but suddenly several Germans popped up out of a trench. I could do nothing but surrender. I then discovered I was at the front lines. They grabbed my gun, and marched me back to a house where a German officer who gave me the coldest stare I have ever seen in my life. They loaded me onto a half-track and we went out into the woods where they sent a message. Then we went back to the house. At that point, I really wondered if it would be my last ride. But then a soldier marched me through a field to an underground bunker. There they questioned me, searched me and fed me beef stew. It was my first real food since leaving the 644th eight days earlier.

     Then I was taken to a small town near Duren, where I spent the night in a small room with about five Germans. One of the soldiers gave me a half bottle of beer, and another soldier gave him hell for doing it. The next day they marched me into Duren. One civilian kept yelling at me kicked me in the rear end after a soldier told him I was a flyer. There was a German prison not far from there, where I spent 6 days in solitary confinement. In fact, that`s where I spent my 21st birthday. One foot got frostbite while I was walking, and that gave me a problem for a few days. The only food that I was given to eat was black bread and a cup of German coffee every morning and night.

     In the prison were also a Canadian an Englishman, and several German prisoners, and one Sunday we were all allowed to go to church. The next day, they got us up at 4:00 a.m. and took us to Cologne by car. That city was really bombed out, and the car could barely get through the debris. When we finally reached the train station, we were amazed to see it had hardly been hit at all. It had a huge camouflage net over it. We then went to Frankfort to the interrogation center where I was again put in solitary confinement for 12 days. After all that time in solitary confinement you were ready to climb the walls. I was questioned repeatedly about where I came from, how many planes were in my outfit, etc., but the only information any of us gave was our name and serial number.

     From there, we went to Wetziar, a camp where we were given Red Cross personal supplies including tooth brush, tooth paste, soap and such. We were held there until they had a trainload of prisoners. Then we were taken by rail to Stalag Luft IV near the Baltic, about two miles from the small village of Kiefheide not far from Poland. The camp was divided into four separate parts with guard dogs and towers all around. We checked in, And I was assigned to D compound, where the rooms were about 16 by 23 feet and housed 25 prisoners. Every week we received half of a Red Cross package. The total weight of a package was eleven pounds. We were also given a pail of potatoes that when divided up gave each of us 2 or 3 potatoes for the day. Sometimes we were given soup. At other times we got dehydrated sauerkraut, but as hungry as we were , we just could not eat it.

     I spent Christmas in that camp, and we did receive a whole Christmas parcel. Some of the fellows even put on a Christmas show. We didn`t have to do any work in camp. In fact, there was nothing to do but lay around hoping the 644th was giving them hell, and that we would be out of there soon. The wounded who couldn`t walk were sent to an officer`s camp in Hamburg, because they were short of their quota, I could have gone, but I didn`t. I should have, it would have save me a lot of walking that I found out was still ahead.

    The only POW`s from the 644th that I saw once in a while on the march still ahead were Fred Herman and Haeuser , their pilot LT. Walsh was killed when the tail of their plane was shot off.

    On Feb.6, 1945, 10,000 Air Corps prisoners of war left Kiefheide, Germany and Stalag Luft IV at 10:00 a.m. to march from the German and Russian battle zone. We marched 636 kilometers in all in 51 days. We walked from 15 to 25 miles a day and slept in barns or out in the open at night. I`ll never forget Feb. 14th Valentines Day, we walked 25 miles and had to sleep out in the rain. It was freezing cold and it`s a wonder that any of us survived and made it. The next day we crossed at Swinemunde where a big bridge had been blown out, they had big planks for us to cross over.

    At night we slept close together in barns most of the time. There were about 500 of us in a group, and everyone had body lice. They would get in the seams of your clothing and you just couldn`t get rid of them. When you were walking, you didn`t notice them so much but as soon as you were lying down and you were still, they would start to bite. My arms and legs were full of welts. Once we had a chance to build a fire and boil some water. We boiled our clothes and were rid of lice for a few days, bit once you laid down next to someone you would get lice all over again.

    Food was the main thing on everyone`s mind, so you had to watch what few rations you had or someone would steal them. When there are that many hungry men together, they behave like animals. When we had left camp, we had been given 2 Red Cross packages. I had a pair of long johns, and I sewed up its top and fly to make a knapsack to hold my rations, to carry it, I tied the legs around my neck. With only 8 or 10 guards for a group of 500 prisoners, any could have escaped at any time, but it was a lot safer to stay with the group. However, a few guys did take off, but we never knew what happened to them. Incidentally, because Fred Herman spoke German, he was at the front of one of the groups that would march head to the barns we were to stay in that night, his group would cook. Every once in a while, I would see Herman and Haeuser on the march.

    When we reached Uelzen, we took a 200 Kilometer train ride to Mockern and then on to Stalag Luft XI-A. There we were housed in tents for 14 days, from there we marched to Annaburg and stayed in a glass factory for about 6 days. But after B-26`s bombed an oil dump about 2 blocks from where we were staying, the guards moved us out in a hurry because they were afraid the towns people would turn on us. We then marched across the Elbe River and stayed in a barn for 2 days. There we could hear the Russian machine gun fire getting close, so they moved us on to Krima, Germany. The next day we walked 14 kilometers to Bitterfeld.

    There we saw a most welcome and beautiful sight….Americans patrolling on our side of the Elbe River. When we saw that, we immediately disarmed the Germans. I still have a bayonet that I took off one. On APR. 26, 1945, we were liberated at 2:45 p.m. by the 104th Infantry Division. That was one day after the 410th`s last mission. That night we were fed a good meal that was very welcome. We could have slept inside the barracks, but because we were so used to being outdoors we built a big fire and stayed outside. The next day, we flown in C-47s to Reims where we were sprayed to get rid of the lice and were given new clothes. We then went back to Camp Lucky Strike, and finally home. In all, I walked 500 miles in 3 months, and I went from 135lbs. Down to 100lbs.

    Looking back, I have often thought that if I could have made it another half mile, I would have been back on the American side, and would not have had to go though prison camp and that march. But I really can`t complain, because LT. Braisted and Barney Craig didn`t make it for which I am very sorry, However, I have often wondered, why me?"

----- Jack Deuitch

submitted by BigO410@aol.com

LINKS

410th Bomb Group, Unit History, 9th AF, USAAF

410th Bomb Group POWs and Evadees, By Jack Deuitch

A Surprise Landing, biography of Karl Haeuser, Mopsy, 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 Return

Stalag Luft IV, By Jack Deuitch

PHOTO LINKS

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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