I was the right waist gunner and second engineer on Lt. Roger's crew. The morning of April 29 was really something because, that morning we were really down. None of the fellows talked to each other or said " Hi "... everybody was down in the dumps. Our plane, The Bad Penny, was getting fixed and so we were flying Double Trouble. We were in formation until we approached the target, then we started to fall back. One of the turbo-superchargers wasn't working; it was like flying on three engines. As we fell back from the formation, we were like sitting ducks out there; when the fighters came down on us, we didn't have a chance really. After the war, I met a fellow from Kings Lynn, and asked him if he remembered the Bad Penny. He said:" Oh yeah! She lasted a long time. I don't know how many missions she made!"
The fighters only made one pass. The bullets went right down the middle of the plane. The bombardier, Kane got killed; I heard him holler when the fighters first attacked us. Eddy Gienko, in the top turret, had his flak suit hanging up there and said he could hear the bullets hitting it. Two bullets hit Bob Danford, the ball turret gunner. One bullet hit me in the back, but it didn't do anything; it just went in and came out again through my leather jacket. The whole ship was ablaze, so I called them over the intercom and said, " Everything is hot back here!" The co-pilot, Dick Weir, heard me and says: Bail out!
Somehow, Jack Roper, the navigator, got out of the nose. I met up with him later, and he had bad burns on his face. The co-pilot Weir told me he had to bail out the top hatch. The fire was so bad, he couldn't go out the bombay. He had some kind of bruise on his chin; I think he hit one of the guns as he bailed out. I asked him: " What happened to Kane?" and he says:" Oh, he got killed. Lt. Rogers held the plane for us, but then he couldn't get out. I asked Dick:" What happened to the plane?" He said;" Oh it blew up, Bob". Quite a few times I got letters from Washington, after the war, wanting to know about Kane and Rogers. We used to call them Killer Kane and Buck Rogers.
What happened to me was that, as I was going down, I could see a little town below me and I could hear a bunch of civilians hollering below me. So, I spilled my chute a little and sailed past them into a little swamp just north of the town. It was about an acre, and after I rolled up my chute, I started out through it. I ended up in water up to my neck... the next thing you know, a bunch of civilians came up to me. One of the fellows had an arm amputated, and I said to myself:" Oh boy! I bet he must have got hit in a raid! Maybe they're going to do something!"
Just then, a soldier came up on a motorcycle and told me to get my parachute. I put it on the back of his motorcycle and had to push that thing several miles to an old barn or garage. As we walked along, the German told me to look up. There were two B-24's flying by themselves above us. All of a sudden, one of the planes got hit by some flak, then they both exploded. Two guys got out of one and nobody got out of the other. The German says:" Ha ha, look at that!". So I laughed and said:" So what, We've got thousands more coming!" He didn't like that.
I was sitting at this barn and that's where I met up with Jack Roper and Dick Weir. Roper was Jewish and had to throw out his dogtags before he bailed out. He understood German, and told us this doctor we had examining us was real mad, so we'd better look out. Our guards weren't too friendly. One of them took my jacket from me and I didn't like that... I wanted to keep it because it had those two bullet holes coming through it; I thought it was my lucky jacket! But, I couldn't do much. The fact is, my temper got me separated from my crew. I ended up arguing with the guard and they threw me into solitary. Our guys took off for Dulag Luft and I was several days behind them.
I didn't know where the heck they got sent, but I ended up sitting alone on a train with this one soldier going down to a camp in Frankfort. Afterwards, I was sent on a boxcar, with 23 other POW's, way down south to Liepzig. I didn't know it at the time, but we were headed for Heydekrug up on the Baltic. We were packed in like sardines in our half of the boxcar, and the Germans had the whole other half to themselves. I got pissed off at one of the guards and said:" What the hell's the matter with you guys? You've got all that extra room and we're sitting on top of each other." Would you believe, one of them lets me go over to his side. Of course the other Germans got mad at him. It took us six or seven days to get up to Luft 6.
We weren't there a hell of a long time, as things go. What stands out in my mind was the guy who got shot one morning. I was right there in the barracks with him. We weren't too far from the wash house, which was across the compound from us. He had the GIs and had to go to the bathroom. Normally, they opened the doors at seven o'clock in the morning and you would head for the john. When he tried the door to the barracks it was open. The trouble was, it wasn't time to get out. He was in the middle of the compound when they shot him, and we couldn't figure out why. I used to get the duty to crank the handle for the showers, but after that I was real careful about going over there.
I was on that Run Up The Road, where they chained us up and put us on the boat from Memel to Swinemunde. When we finally got to Keifeheide, I was chained to this guy Bob McAllister, from Pennsylvania. He had been on my crew from Kings Lynn. We got out of the boxcars, and were on the left side of the road. The guys up ahead were the first group to head for the camp, and they made it all right. The Germans didn't take their equipment or anything.
I was carrying a lot of food and clothes, and was going to have a party when I got to the new camp. Mac and I were both carrying a lot of stuff, and it was getting awkward, being handcuffed and all. All of a sudden, this Red Headed Captain comes along with his young Marines and their bayonets. Well, he said something to them and we took off. We were the first group to start the Run. There was all this hollering and loud screaming. So, we took off. Then all of a sudden I see these young Marines jabbing their bayonets in our soldier's backs. Mac and I didn't get touched, but I told him we'd better get rid of our packs or we wouldn't make it. We came up the hill, and out to the vorlagar of the camp and just fell in a heap. Then we watched as the others came up behind us. Geez, some of the fellows were in awful shape. Then we had to stay outside for days, until we got settled in.
The funny thing was, not long after the Run, a guy came into the compound, all dressed up in nice clothes and everything. After about a week, we say;" Who's this guy?" We figured something must be wrong here, because everybody else, when they come up the hill into camp... they're all ragged. So we started complaining and pretty soon they took him out of there. One of our barracks leaders was pretty friendly with the krauts also. There were times when we thought he might be in cahoots with them, but nothing ever came of it.
The compound leader of Lagar B, was Willard Miller and he was one of the original guys at Luft IV. He was a little older than I was at the time, which was 20.That would make him about 24. He could interpret from the Germans and had been given the job by Richard Chapman, the original camp leader.
Another thing I remember, was when the British came over at night and bombed for a week steady. You could feel our barracks shake, and even though you had to keep the shutters closed, you could see the flames off in the distance. We felt that somehow the Allies had found out about the Run and it was a warning. That's the thing...They could never break our morale!
The Russians started getting closer, and you could hear their guns in the distance, so they closed the camp that winter. I'm not sure why I got sent to Barth, but I was having some problems with frostbite and had hurt my leg on the bailout. They sent us out by train to Barth, and that ride was miserable. We were on there for four or five days; we didn't get any water and we were packed in there with guys; just stacked up. After a while, we started complaining, and got some water. Trouble was, I think must have been brook water or something. It wasn't long before guy started getting sick. I know I was all bound up myself, and had a hell of a time myself.
When we finally got to Luft I, they treated us pretty good, as I remember. I paired up with Mike Katuga, from Rhode Island. We shared our food, and they called us " Muckers" over there. At first, we got our food from a mess hall. That burned down at some point, and later for a while, the food got pretty scarce. We heard that the Germans were stealing our Red Cross Parcels and giving our food to civilians. There were some hassles in camp over food, but that got straightened out pretty soon. I don't remember going hungry; I always managed to get something to eat.
The Russians liberated us in May. Actually, the Mongolians came up first. They did a lot of damage to the town, raped the women and what not. When they came into the camp, they took watches off the GIs. They left and the Russians came and ripped down the barbed wire. I don't know where it came from, but we saw meat for the first time. Of course, we went to town. The Germans were complaining about how they were being treated. All their soldiers had taken off and left them to fend for themselves.
Now, for most of the year I spent in Germany, I had slept on the floor. May and June up at Heydekrug, I had a bunk; but all through Gross Tech and Barth, I had to sleep on the floor. So, I went down into the town and dragged home a couple of mattresses, so I could get good nights' sleep.