- 99th Bomb Group, USAAF during the Second World War -
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99th Bomb Group, USAAF
29th Dec 1943 Night Raids
January 1944 New Targets
If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.
Those known to have served with 99th Bomb Group, USAAF during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Mills Robert Welch. Staff Sergeant (d.5th July 1943)
- Patzke Jack D.. T/SGT (d.8th April 1945)
- Rice Olan. S/Sgt.
- Sulick George Theodore. S/Sgt
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
Staff Sergeant Robert Welch " " Mills 348th Bomber Sqd. (d.5th July 1943)Does anyone have info or photo's they would share with me? I only have one of my grandfather S/Sgt. Robert Mills. He is buried in Florence Italy, He was a tail gunner with 348th Bomber Sqd. He enlisted May 12, 1942 in Camp Blanding, Florida.Nancy
S/Sgt George Theodore Sulick 334th Squadron 95th Bomb GroupMy Dad, Thoedore Sulick, was prisoner in Stalag Luft I, but his name is not on any list that I can find for Luft I. His B17 was named Holy Matrimony and the crew were:
- Everett D. Peery
- james W. Daniels
- Lawrence Kleinman
- Guiseppe G. Merlo
- Dominick Maffetone
- George T. Sulick
- John H. Detweiler
- Michael J. Natt
- Francis E. Sutpin
All were held as POW's, originally, Dad was in Stalag Luft IV, but was transported by boxcar, along with a lot of other men, to Stalag Luft I. This was done to try and evade tne encroaching Russian liberators.
This is his story:
My military training began on February 3, 1943. I was an inductee, therefore, I was sent to an induction center for my physical and general aptitude testing. This is most important, as it has tremendous bearing on one’s destiny, in the service of one’s country. From the center, I was shipped to Fort Devens, Massachusetts for basic training. Upon completion of said training, assignment was to the Air Corps and I was shipped to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Billeting was in a large oceanfront hotel - for guess what? Eight more weeks of basic training! This consisted of close order drill on sandy beaches, marching through city streets all-day and singing Air Corps marching songs. After completion of training, we received orders, transferring our group to Seymour Johnson Field, North Carolina. When we arrived, the Command did not know what to do with us. Consequently, we received “basic training” once more, along with K.P. duty.
This field was a huge facility and was operational, 24 hours a day. The troops had to be fed. I was assigned my first duty. It was my task to remove frozen sausage from a carton, and separate them from layers of cardboard, tossing them into a kettle the size of a hot tub. As you might suspect, this is not a simple task. Trying to separate frozen sausage from frozen cardboard can be a trial. I soon learned; it could be quite simple. Looking over my shoulder was the “K.P. pusher (he’s the boss). Seeing the kettle only half filled, he picked up a carton and removed the sausage – no problem! When he reached the layers, he had difficulty removing the frozen sausages from the frozen cardboard. Immediately, he changed the procedure. He told me, “If the sausages are not cooperative, toss them into the kettle, cardboard and all”. From this experience, I never ordered sausage and gravy. It was always, “just sausage, please”.
Our next orders for assignment would be Hammer Field, California, for schooling. It didn’t happen. Instead, we were shipped to Camp Pinedale in Fresno California, for classification. I accepted the offer to become a radio operator. The classes were to be held at Camp Kohler, in Sacramento, California. After listening to Morse code for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, it becomes a drag. However, graduation was achieved because I was capable of receiving 20 words a minute without error. At our graduation ceremony we were told, because of our accomplishments, the class would attend a “High Speed Radio Operators” course. This was at a former CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp Camp), located in Yosemite National Park, California, at Waiwona Point.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by the First Sergeant, who was armed with a 45-caliber pistol. This location had a country club atmosphere, consisting of five buildings. Two were classrooms, two were administration buildings and one was a mess hall. As new students, we were to sleep in 8-man pyramid tents, in clearings surrounding the compound. After the sergeant finished his orientation lecture, a recruit from Brooklyn, New York, who was overcome with curiosity, asked: “Hey Sarge, why the sidearm”? The Sergeant’s sole reply was “Bears”! After a few weeks of schooling and country club living, some of us became restless. We were not involved in the real war! Ten of us made a pact that we would go to see the captain and request a transfer to become aircrew members or Paratroopers. Our agreement was whichever came first, we all would accept, since we bonded together as buddies. Now it was back to classes and our daily routine – listening to code and learning to type at the same time. The only excitement was returning to our tents at the end of our day to find that the bears had pulled a raid, stealing the Brooklyn recruit’s salami. He had a startled look because some recruits didn’t know what a bear looked like, let alone seeing one in the wild! More excitement occurred because our request for transfer became the news of the day throughout the entire camp. The next day, we were off to Air Force Gunnery School, north of Las Vegas, Nevada. The training was interesting, as we learned about disassembling and reassembling 50 caliber machine guns at high altitudes with mittens on. It is very cold above the clouds. We had 6 weeks of strafing the floor of Death Valley and shooting at a fighter plane and towing a target. This was significant because each crew member was assigned a belt of 50 caliber tracer bullets with a color-coded slug. The color was put into the individual’s record for scoring purposes. We all thought that shooting tracer bullets at a tow target was a no brainer – how could anyone miss? The target will come back in shreds. It came back, but not in shreds and our instructor read the results of each individual’s performance. There was not a Sergeant York among the crew!
These exercises completed our training. We were then transferred to a reception center for the formation of individual crews. The center was in Tampa, Florida. Each B-17 was to consist of a 10-man crew for further training at an Overseas Training Unit (OTU). Most of the crews were waiting for the tenth man, who was to become our Navigator. Scuttlebutt came out concerning attendance at classes. Classes were supposed to be longer in order for the recruits to earn their wings as full-fledged Navigators. During the waiting period, there was not much to do. Our days were filled with the mundane – roll call, meals, sleep and visits to the theater, which was on the base.
After 2 weeks of waiting, we got our Navigator. Now we became a complete crew ready for our OUT assignment. We did not have long to wait. We were assigned to Avon Park, Florida, which was not far from Tampa. Upon arrival, we were immediately assigned to the Cromer Group, flying B-17’s. Training began in earnest and it was much like Gunnery School, except we flew in the positions for which we were trained. Guess who was the Radio Operator? On all missions my requirements were this: maintain a radio log, monitor the frequencies selected for the missions, and keep in touch with our base. There was a briefing before each mission, and it was at this briefing that we were informed of our destination, the dead reckoning signs, and when to return. Most of the flights took us over the Gulf of Mexico. I recall that our Briefing Officer would always warn the Navigators not to mistake Lake Okeechobee for the Gulf of Mexico. All missions returning from the Gulf would routinely buzz Fort Myers Beach. It stirred our patriotism to see the excitement we created on the beach. The sunbathers jumped up and screamed. The pilot would tip the wings of our plane and our crew would wave back from the windows in the waist of the B-17.
While at Avon Park, several crewmembers invited their fiancées to visit because this would be our last stateside base. During this time, our engineer and his fiancée decided to marry. We were all involved with the wedding arrangements. The ceremony was performed in the base chapel. The reception was held in town. The guests enjoyed a menu of potato chips, sandwiches and beer.
This was May 1944 and we were still stateside. Approximately one week from the wedding, we were put on 24 hour alert. This meant we would be shipped to Hunter Field, Georgia, pick up our spanking new B-17, and we would fly it over to “Merry Olde England”. When we arrived, we found out there was a shortage of planes. For several weeks we did busy work until we were sent to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. Then it was on to Brooklyn, New York to board a ship bound for England. The ship was a former luxury liner. We sailed past the Statue of Liberty into the Atlantic Ocean. Once on the Atlantic, we became part of a large convoy, bound for the British Isles. The head count on board was 9,000 men – all heading for the unknown. Not much happened aboard ship. We whiled away the time, waiting in long lines for our meals, playing card games. The only interruption to this routine was the occasional submarine alert. After 5 days at sea, we docked in Liverpool, England. In about 20 more years Liverpool would become famous as the home of the Beatles. It was June 1944 and the only singing the Beatles were doing was from their cribs! We were not in port for long. Trucks pulled in and drove us to a reception center, not far from Birmingham, England. After several days, it was announced that our crew would be assigned to the 8th Air Force, 95th Bomb Group, 334th Squadron, stationed in Horham, England. During our orientation, the Briefing Officer told us that a British Colonel from World War I had invited us to his estate for afternoon tea. This was to acquaint us with the local female population. These young ladies would be responsible for serving tea. Our lodging was in Nisson Huts, two crew to each hut.
It was now our responsibility to check the bulletin board daily. The board would list which crews were scheduled for a bombing mission the following day. Eighteen months of training and anticipation finally fell upon us on August 25, 1944. We were in a combat ready mode.
The wake up call was at 3 AM. It was breakfast, religious services of your choice, then report to the briefing room at 5 AM. This is where it all began. The Briefing Officer instructed us on the details of our mission. Our target was oil storage dumps in Politz, Germany. Intelligence reported 99 anti-aircraft guns at this location, all waiting for our arrival. We were cautioned to wear our parachute at all times. If it became necessary to use it, we were instructed NOT to pull the ripcord until we could see the ground spinning below. As a crew, we had never had so much as a practice jump during any of our training. We were given the name of the plane we would fly. Our plane was called Nagasaki. We were dismissed with “Good Luck Men”. The jeeps were waiting to take us to our bomber. Before entering the plane, our pilot gave instructions on what he expected from us during the mission. He also announced, following completion of 3 missions, we would be eligible for a weekend pass to London.
Soon we heard the pilot announce that we were now in enemy territory. He reminded us to keep our eyes open for enemy fighters and maintain our positions. The pilot then announced we were approaching the target. At this point, it was my job to quickly start jumping “Chaff” (8 pieces of tin foil) through a small hole in the floor of the radio room. There wasn’t much visibility through the hole, but I cold see puffs of black smoke below, caused by the bursting of anti-aircraft shells. Within seconds, I could hear and see pieces of shrapnel coming through the ship. I then heard “Bombs Away” and I watched the bombs drop from the bomb bay, heading for the target.
The waist gunner called to the pilot: “Sir, one of our engines is on fire”. The pilot quickly asked the navigator to give him a fix for Sweden, as we were not too far from that neutral country. Attempts were made to put out the fire, but they didn’t work. Then came the moment of reckoning – the pilot issued the order – ABANDON SHIP! Seconds later someone said they had seen the navigator bail out and his chute had opened. With that information, I walked back to the waist of the ship and saw that it was empty. I noticed the tail gunner crawling into the waist and I waited for him at the door. We watched the flames for a few seconds, and I commented to the gunner that the flames would never go out. With that, I jumped. Drifting down, I looked over my shoulder and saw the ground spinning and I pulled the ripcord. The jerk was so great that I lost my portable oxygen tent and mask. The next thing I saw in front of me was a billowing parachute, dragging me out to the open sea. It was imperative to rid myself of my chute and keep afloat. Finally I managed to free myself from the harness, inflate my “Mae West”, and sink the chute. I headed toward shore, but it was very difficult to swim with my heavy sheepskin-lined flying boots, so I discarded them. This was a big mistake because when I reached shore, my first task was to fashion some sort of footwear from my flying suit coveralls. It was time to open my escape kit and see what I had. I found a map, two buttonhole compasses, a D bar (chocolate candy), a plastic tube to carry water, a tiny saw, and two types of pills. One was for purifying water. The other pills were “bennies” (Benadryl for energy). The map was not helpful because I didn’t have a clue where I was, although I knew I was in enemy territory. One thing I did know was West was the direction I should follow. Despite the fact that I was soaked to the skin, I fell asleep in the bushes. I awoke before daylight and started my journey into the unknown as an evader. Go West was firmly implanted in my mind, and I headed in that direction, staying close to brush and forest. After several hours of walking, I found a pond and decided to stop. My clothes were still very wet and the day was very bright and sunny. I removed my clothing and laid it on the grass to dry. I sat down and rested and slipped into periods of fretful sleep. Suddenly I head young female laughter in the distance. Shocked, I jumped up quickly, gathered my clothing, and bolted for cover in a nearby forest.
Walking in the forest I heard a train whistle. This was music to my ears. Intelligence always told us to follow railroad tracks. Following the tracks I came upon a small village railroad station with its name on the building. Quickly I checked my map for the location. I could not find any listing resembling the name. Traveling on, not too far from the station, I passed a farmhouse. People were sitting on the porch, so I waved as a friendly neighbor. Darkness was falling, so I found the next available haystack and fell asleep. When I woke up, there was breakfast to be had. Luckily it was not far away. Within sight there was a farm that ran along the tracks. There, for my picking, I found carrots, rutabaga, apples and pears. Well supplied, but getting nowhere, I altered my course. I was more comfortable in the forest, than out in the open along the tracks. I chose a wagon trail, which was a straight line versus a huge curve in the railroad tracks. Halfway along, I passed two German soldiers. They did not speak, so I kept my mouth shut. Quickly I found refuge and burrowed under a pine tree and stopped breathing! I’m not sure, but I believe I slept there for the night. Later it occurred to me that the German soldiers might have thought I was a tired woodsman, because I was carrying a large branch on my shoulder as a weapon.
This experience frightened me, so I altered my course again and followed the tracks, which were now in a straight line through the forest. Looking ahead, I spotted a sentry post at the entrance to a fenced-in factory compound. It was necessary to circle around and follow the tracks to the other end of the compound. Before reaching the tracks, there was a small gully where I stopped to sit and eat my lunch. Suddenly I heard rustling from behind. Turning to see the cause of the sound, there was an uniformed plant guard, jumping from his bicycle. He had a rifle pointed at me. He motioned for me to climb over the fence. From a call in station inside the perimeter, he announced his capture or spread an alarm. He then motioned for me to march ahead. My homemade boots no longer had bottoms. A severe blister developed on the ball of my right foot. Walking became most difficult. After a short distance we arrived at the desk of the receptionist. She questioned me in German. I gave her what the Geneva Convention required: Name, Rank and Serial Number. The receptionist called someone on the phone. Soon a blond, English speaking young lady came in and asked whom, what, why and where are you from. Intelligence cautioned us to be wary of young, blonde, German women. They wine and dine you, hoping to elicit information. It didn’t happen that way to me. Appearing at the door was an uniformed policeman, who beckoned me to follow. Outside, he mounted his bicycle and pedaled behind me. It was a long walk to the police station in the town of Barth, Germany. I was strip-searched and placed in a room with a bed made of boards, and an empty pail. There was no food for the night.
Early the next morning, the policeman awakened me. He left some bread and coffee for my breakfast. I pointed to my blistered foot and he shook his head up and down and said Yah. An hour went by and in walked a Luftwaffe soldier who would remain my personal guard until we reached our destination. It was a short walk to the railroad station to board the train to a German Airdrome. There I was put in solitary confinement and fed a good meal for dinner. The meal consisted of noodles in hot milk. With the warm feeling I fell into a sound sleep. The morning came quickly – so did my breakfast, which was a tasty bowl of millet. Soon I was escorted to my personal guard who was waiting outside the jail. He pointed his finger in the direction I was to walk and I pointed my finger to my blistered foot. He shook his head up and down, which I accepted as Yes, OK. Sure enough we ended up at sick call in a German Airdrome. It was as crowded as those were in the United States (full of goof-offs). The guard left me in the center of the overcrowded room and walked into the inner office. Seconds later, he opened the door and motioned for me to enter, despite the grumbling of the other patients. Even though I did not understand German, I felt strongly that I understood what they were saying. Inside a doctor in a long white coat looked at my foot. He treated and bandaged it with crepe paper. I bowed my head and thanked him. He became enraged and kept hollering and waving his arms. Finally I detected a word that sounded like salute. As soon as I realized what he meant, I saluted him and everything was fine. My guard and I went out the door, through the crowd of grumbling sick call Luftwaffe soldiers. We boarded a train headed south. Along the way we picked up a seriously burned P38 pilot and a paratrooper from Brooklyn, who was dropped in error behind enemy lines. Our train stopped in Wetzlar, Germany, which was the Interrogation Center for all POW airmen.
I was put in solitary confinement like all the others, as we waited to be interrogated. On my second day I was taken to another room to meet with my interrogator. It was not an intense, stressful situation. The questions asked were about the group I flew with and its location. To all questions, my answer remained Name, Rank and Serial Number. I returned to my cell for one more day in solitary before I became part of a large group of United States Airmen who were assembled in the area. Colonel Charles W. Stark, U.S. Army Air Corps, greeted us. He announced that we were here to receive proper clothing, a good meal, and assignment to a Luftwaffe camp. That evening we had what would be our last meal, sitting at a table, in a Mess Hall for the next 9 months. Early the next morning we were issued a cardboard suitcase with pajamas, socks, handkerchiefs, soap, razors, toothbrush, writing paper and a pencil. We also received a G.I. overcoat and fatigue cap. In addition, I received a pair of shoes. This was the first time I had footwear since bailout.
The morning of September 5, Colonel Stark informed us that we were leaving for our permanent camp by train. The train traveled in a northeasterly direction to the town of Kiefheide, Germany. This was the location of Stalag Luft IV. After the war, this town reverted back to Poland and became known as Podborsko. When our train was pulling into the station, there was a patrol of armed guards with German Shepherd dogs, waiting for us to be discharged. On the platform, the guards lined us up for the march to our new home – Stalag Luft IV. If anyone lagged behind, the guard would command the dogs to bark, snarl, and snip at the person that lagged behind. Approaching the camp, we could see the guard towers with machine guns pointing at the formation. When inside the Lager, we were assigned to a barrack with a room number.
The barrack leader ushered me to my room and announced who I was. He also explained that I would be spending my time with the rest of them until the end of the war. With introductions accomplished, the prisoners began asking questions. Most of the questions were “Where’s Patton, where’s Montgomery and where are the Russians”? They also wanted to know how long I thought the war would last, and how many missions I had flown. For the first 3 questions I had no information that would raise their spirits. However, I did say we would be home for Christmas. As to how many missions I had flown, I told them it was my first! One of my new roommates pulled me aside and whispered the next time anyone asks what mission you are on, tell them it was your last! It adds more glory to your record, and it really is the truth.
The shout “roll call” sounded through the barrack. We left to be counted by the guards. Standing for my first roll call as a POW was memorable because the RAF (Royal Air Force) arranged with the Germans for the presentation of a cardboard medal to a RAF pilot, who was shot down during the siege of Poland in September, 1939. Returning to our room after roll call, the room leader told me it would be best for me to use the table as my bed, since the floor would be very cold. The room was small, so my roommates would stumble over me on the way to the latrine.
Soon, 2 G.I.’s left to get our dinner from the kitchen. They returned with a bucket of boiled potatoes. The room leader had the tedious task of dividing equal portions for 15 hungry men, salivating over the bucket. It did not take much time to fall into the daily routine of life in a POW Lager. The day began with roll call – then breakfast. Breakfast consisted of hot water, a slice of black bread, and a lump of coal to heat our room. Then we had free time. We played bridge, pinochle or read all day. We would listen to the arguments over the other games. The bridge games were very serious business, non-stop all day, except for chow time. Normally we had a lunch of soup and then more free time. At this point you were allowed to get some fresh air and exercise. We were not allowed to exercise too much because it would make us more hungry and dirty. In the evening there was another roll call and lights out at 8 PM. As a new recruit, I listened to many horror stories from my roommates. In the course of exchanging experiences, I learned that the body of water I bailed into was the Baltic Sea. Daily rumors were abundant. There was bad news when the guards would shake down a barracks and claim they found a tunnel being dug or a radio in a room. For this, punishment was being locked in the barrack for a day or more – often without food.
This is where the Red Cross parcels filled the void. Sixteen items were in each carton. There was a bartering value on each item. For example, two packs of cigarettes could get you a D-bar or a package of prunes, etc. We did not always receive full parcels. At times it would become necessary to split and share the contents of the parcels. The Germans gave several excuses for the shortages. One excuse was that our fighter planes strafed the running railroad cars carrying the goods, and another excuse was the U.S. had bombed the warehouse containing the parcels. For our fresh air and exercise, we would walk around the compound. At times you could hear machine gun fire from the tower, blasting at the center of the compound. When this occurred, our top ranking officer would register a complaint. The German response to this was usually that they were testing their guns. Thanksgiving arrived and we made the best of what we had. I made an icebox cake with cracker crumbs for the crust. I formed the cake in an empty prune package, and I filled it with stewed prunes, minus the pits. A layer of chocolate sauce from a D-bar and then a layer of whipped powdered milk topped the cake. I cracked the pits of the prunes and used the seed to decorate the top. Some of my roommates were willing to sign an IOU from their back pay for a slice. When they heard the price, they found it was beyond their reach.
Time passed and we started to prepare for the Christmas holidays. Raisins were claiming a high price in the bartering market. The winemakers were forming wine clubs. If you wanted to toast both Christmas and the New Year, it would cost you your raisins. The Community Room was not large enough, so we were allowed to celebrate Christmas Eve services in shifts. We sang Christmas carols by the Christmas tree. The wine club members were anxious to get back and have the wine tasting. I must say, it was a very unusual vintage. There wasn’t a lot of wine, but it did upset many stomachs. Time seemed to pass quickly because there were many rumors concerning the Russian advances in the East. We began to hear the muffled sounds of heavy artillery. With every salvo we heard, the lager would erupt with whistles, screaming and jumping up and down. We would yell “Come on Joe (Stalin)”.
In January 1945, a new rumor was rampant every day. The one that was so vivid was that the Russians were very close. You had a sense of this in everyone’s mood. This continued for weeks. On January 30th some of us were marched out of camp, despite severe blizzard conditions. We were herded onto boxcars that were waiting for us. The Germans loaded 50 to 52 men in each car and threw us some bread and an empty pail. The pail was our latrine. They locked the door and left. There was not a configuration we could come up with for a comfortable seating arrangement. There was not enough room because the cars were not big enough for 50 plus men. At 2300 hours, the train left the station for an unknown destination. The second day of our trip, the guards opened all doors, allowing us to jump out and relieve ourselves. This was in the snow-covered meadows along the track. I don’t know how many cars made up the train, but I do know that at least 1300 to 1400 men were relieving their bowels at the same time. What added to the drama was the appearance of a horse-drawn sleigh, with its bells tingling. The passengers in the sleigh were teenagers witnessing this spectacle. This was the longest “mooning line” in history. The trip was long and complications developed. There was sickness and physical pain and a lot of mental stress. One of the men broke down. He had been standing for such a long time that his legs could not support him any longer. We managed to sling a blanket in one of the corners of the boxcar. This gave him the necessary relief. There were delays because of bombing raids, which took place day and night. We also had to wait for German troop trains to pass. On the 8th day of our trip, we arrived at Stalag Luft I. It had taken us 8 days to arrive at this camp in Barth, Germany. It was less than 300 miles from our former camp. The camp was laid out the same as the other camp. Overcrowding was still a problem. We also learned that the men we left behind were marched out the next day, headed on foot over the countryside to keep them from being liberated by the advancing Russian troops. Again, the booming of field artillery could be heard. We knew liberation was at hand. At 5am on May 1, 1945, we were awakened by shouts inside the barracks. ‘’G.I.’s in the towers”!!!! Sure enough, the German guards had moved out in the still of the night, leaving us to the Russians.
The Russians arrived at the main gate later that morning. All hell broke loose. The Russians gave us gifts of flour, cattle, pigs, and geese. We had some Texans in our barracks, and they shot one of the herd. They butchered it into steaks and stew meat. After being hungry for several months, this was quite a bonanza! One of our senior officers, Colonel Zemke, was in charge of negotiations with the Russian command. One order was to remain in camp for our safety. Some of the men became adventurous and wanted to take part in the spoils of war. They were commandeering boats and rowing across the peninsula into town. My buddies and I swam across from another side of the peninsula and walked into a small hamlet outside of town. There were four small cottages in this lonely village that seemed abandoned. We decided to enter one to see what it was like. To our surprise it had not been ransacked. It was as though a family might have gone off to church. Suddenly we heard a woman’s voice hollering at someone in German. We looked over and saw a Russian soldier with a gun trying to remove something from her home. Quickly we ran out the back door to the safety of our camp.
The camp was all-abuzz because word was out that planes (B-17’s) would be arriving daily to evacuate the camp. On Mother’s Day 1945 I climbed aboard a plane and headed for a landing field, somewhere in France. When we landed we were loaded into trucks headed for Ramp Camp (Recovered Allied Military Personnel). There were several ramp camps in the region. Ours was Camp Lucky Strike outside of LeHavre, France. On arrival, we were stripped, deloused, showered, issued new uniforms and fed. The tents we were assigned to were huge. I don’t know how it was possible to keep track of the thousands of G.I.’s that poured into the camp. We were immediately allowed to send a telegram to our folks telling them we were headed home. One health tip given to us was to be sure to drink a lot of eggnog. For this, an area was set up to dispense eggnogs all day and well into the evening. Instead of saying let’s go for a Coke or a beer, it was let’s have an eggnog. Actually it was a social event, watching the endless line of G.I.’s going for their tonic. One day, while watching this flow of humanity, I met all the members of my crew, except the navigator. From this meeting I learned that only 3 of us landed in the sea – the pilot, tail gunner and me. A German patrol boat picked up the pilot and tail gunner. Their captors punched them around.
In a few days a passenger list was posted. My name was on it and the ship was leaving the next morning. Trucks delivered us to the pier. There we boarded a creaky old tub known as a Liberty Ship. The second day out it was stormy and I got seasick. What a nightmare! After all I had been through, I wanted to die because I was so ill from seasickness. There were many suggestions for a cure. None worked. Finally I crawled to sick bay. I received some pills and strong advice from the medic to be sure to take small amounts of food each day. This prescription worked out fine. After 7 or 8 days at sea, we pulled into New York Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty. A briefing officer came aboard from Fort Dix, New Jersey. He told us we would be going by train to the Fort for debriefing, cleaning up, and food. From there we would receive our orders and transportation to our next base. My orders sent me back to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. There was more debriefing there, a physical examination, and completion of our military wardrobe. After 6 weeks of leave and 2 weeks of R & R in Atlantic City, New Jersey, my next assignment was Bedford Army Airbase in Bedford, Massachusetts. If I had enough points for discharge, this latter stint would not have been necessary. However, it was fun and games. They caught up with me though and put me in charge of traffic. This was the office that handled the paperwork for incoming and outgoing flights. The GI who had this assignment before me had enough points for discharge. He was out of there. I was not trained for the job and my first day was a predictable catastrophe. It all started with a call over the intercom. “Traffic, this is tower”. Aircraft coming in for a landing with a VIP aboard. The VIP aboard is Fleet Admiral Nimitz. Traffic to tower – what do I do? This is my first hour on the job. They told me to find the Officer of the Day quickly. He took the pressure away from my end and arranged for the proper receiving line for the Admiral. Weeks dragged on and I began to accept what I was doing. However, as each week ticked by, I finally earned the points necessary for discharge. My orders were cut for Mitchell Field, New York. This was not a lengthy stay, but just enough time for them to prepare my records for discharge. I was finally a free man and they sent me home to my family and loved ones. This happened on November 15, 1945. Soon it was Thanksgiving and I was, indeed, most thankful.
Report on Stalag Luft IV
Map of the area.Patricia Mazella
T/SGT Jack D. Patzke 347th Squadron (d.8th April 1945)My Great Uncle T/SGT. Jack D. Patzke served with the 99th Bomb Group 347th Squadron in Italy. He flew 33 missions as radio operator/gunner, his first was on January 1, 1944 and his last was April 30, 1944.
On his last mission their B-17 42-32014 Pappy Yokum was hit by fighters all crew members bailed out. They were captured sometime after. Stalag Luft 3 is where they were sent. He stayed in barrack 72 and room 2 his POW number was 4323. I found out that he took to boxing as a recreation.
When the camp was evacuated and the POWs were forced to march, sometime between Moosberg and Nuremberg he left the column with two other POWs. It was figured on April 8, 1945 is the day he was killed along with one of the other POWs. His remains were found sometime in 1949 and then brought back to the States in 1950.
I am hoping to find an ex-POW or a family member of a POW that might have some information on Jack. I know some of the POWs wrote diaries of the times in camp and about friends. Any information would be helpful.Lee McGinnis
S/Sgt. Olan Rice 99th Bomb GroupDad, Olan Rice, was a tail gunner on a B-17. He flew out of Foggia, Italy with the 15th AAF, 99th Bomb group. He was shot down over Austria on 25th of April 1945. He was taken prisoner and held at Stalag 18c at Pongau.Boyd Rice
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