Dad was a B-24 bombardier who was shot down on his 10th mission. Target was Wiener Neustadt. he saved the life of fellow crewman “Vic” radio operator [Nose gunner Victor Lemle]. Prior to his bail out he was injured by flak in the back and broke his ankle on landing by parachute. “Ken” was the pilot. [Heinbuch Crew]
After landing a “Hungarian who had lived in Chicago” and spoke English to him put him on a wagon for an hour ride to a military hospital. “I felt every bump”. He had his ankle pinned, “without anesthesia” and it was kept in a “horseshoe clamp” to keep traction on it as it healed. He was there for a “couple months” and turned over to the Germans. He was then in a hospital in Budapest but eventually transferred to Stalag Luft III in Zagan, Poland. The was the site of the “Great Escape” in March of 1944.
Dad never told me more than a few words about his POW experience but I was able to verify by him “The Last Escape” which was his forced march in a blizzard out of Poland and into extremely overcrowded German Stalags. The urgency of this forced march in horrible conditions was due the Russian advance and Hitler’s wanting to keep the POW’s as a bargaining chip and in his possession.
This is only a thumbnail sketch of his experience and has had to be put together from research and the few clues he gave me before his death. Needless to say he was the epitome of the “Greatest Generation”. He returned home to my mother, who had received confirmation of his death after he was shot down, another powerful story never fully discussed. He started his civilian life and family including my brother born in 1948, myself in 1953 and sister in 1958.
Only a few years prior to his death did he get treatment for the PTSD that had plagued him, unbeknownst to me, throughout his post war life. He was a hero and as all who knew him a “Great Guy”.