Shot Down Over Enemy Territory | Memoirs Of WWII #17


As we neared Berlin, you could see the cloud of flak that we were going to be flying into. We lost two engines in that flak attack. And as we were losing altitude, I said to
the pilot, “I suggest we get out of the airplane right
now.” By the Fall of 1942, the United States’ war
drive was in full swing, and 21 year old Richard Kinder was determined
to do his part by joining the Army Air Corps. Upon completing basic training, Richard became
a navigator for a B-17 flying fortress and was sent to Rapid City, South Dakota to
join his squadron. Arriving at Rapid City, I met my crew in the
303rd Bomb Group, 358th Bomb Squadron. And the next day happened to be my 22nd birthday. And I decided, “Well guys, there’s a dance
going on down the street. Let’s go.” We walked in and I spotted a girl. Gene. And I said, “Dick, you’re gonna marry that
girl someday.” And I walked up and asked her to dance and
we danced for three hours. Over the next few weeks, knowing he would
soon be deployed to war, Richard spent every moment he could spare
with Gene. And I dated her every day that I could get
off that air base. Left her with a pair of miniature wings and
said, “I’ll be back.” And went off to war. Shortly after that, we started flying missions. Our first mission was the day after D-Day. We made ten sorties into France, knocking
out railroad bridges and other means of transportation for the
German armored corps to hit our boys on the beach. We also flew three missions to Germany. The first two were against submarine pens
on the German coast. And then, on the 21st of June, we were flying
our thirteenth mission. We made a run on Berlin. More airplanes than you could shake a stick at were in the air that day, going towards Berlin. Both, bombers and fighters. As we neared Berlin, you could see the black
cloud of flak we were gonna be flying into. And as we hit that flak cloud, the two airplanes just in front of us were
blown up. We lost two engines in that flak attack, but
we finished our bomb run, turned around and headed for home, losing
altitude on the way. Probably within about 30 miles, or so, of
the coast, all of a sudden we, got hit by flak again. We lost out hydraulic systems and our wheels
fell down. And I said to the pilot, “This airplane is
going to land in the Baltic. And it’s not gonna land on water very well
with the wheels down. So, I suggest we get out of the airplane right
now. Otherwise, we’re dead airmen.” We started bailing out. When Richard touched down, the rest of his
crew was nowhere in sight. He was alone in enemy territory. I managed to evade overnight, and wound up
on the coast. And it wasn’t a very smart move on my part,
cause it turned out to be two guards and an eighty pound German Shepherd
walking the beach. And they turned the dog loose. And when you weigh about 135 lbs, I suggest
that you not argue with 80 lbs of German Shepherd. It’s not conducive to a long life. Now a prisoner of war, Richard was sent to
Frankfurt, Germany to undergo interrogation concerning his latest
bombing mission. Upon arrival, he was delighted to find that
most of his crew had survived. Only the pilot was unaccounted for. And they were all alive and well. A couple had been wounded slightly. I learned later from the bombardier that he
came down in the middle of the flak guns. Finally sent down to the interrogation center
in Frankfurt, Germany, and gave them name, rank, and serial number
for two days, while they showed me pictures of the bomb
run. And we did a really good job. Over the following months, Richard and his
crew would be moved time and again to various prison camps across Germany. Meanwhile, back home in South Dakota, Gene was just receiving word that Richard
had been shot down. By the early Spring of 1945, the war was quickly
closing in on Germany from all sides. Increasing numbers of German forces were eager
to accept the terms of peace, while others fought on with all the more ferocity. Richard saw the extremism of this contrast
up close when a Waffen-SS officer and his regiment
arrived at the prison camp, demanding that the camp’s residing German
commandant provide them with soldiers for a mission. We had a visit from an SS troop. And they were going to set up a roadblock
somewhere, and they asked the commandant to provide two or three hundred men from his prison compliment
to support them. And he refused to do it. So they took about 200 of his guys, herded
them into a barracks, blocked all the windows and doors and stuff, and set fire to it. And then they left without bothering any P.O.W.’s, but, boy. It was a big threat as far as the Germans
were concerned. And that’s when we took over the camp entirely. Basically the commandant said, “You guys have
got it.” About two days later, Patton’s 14th Armored
arrived at camp. Finally and officially liberated, Richard
and his crew were together one last time before heading back to the States. But this time, it was the entire crew. The day before we left, our pilot showed up. They had finally gotten him out of Stalag
Luft 1, which was in Northen Germany. So I got to meet all the crew members on the
ground, in Europe. And then we left, to the United States. After thirteen bombing missions, and ten months
in German captivity, Richard’s enthusiasm for returning to his
home country was overshadowed by his excitement to hear
a voice he had not heard for over a year. They let us have a half a day in New York
City. And I got in the telephone line at the first
telephone that I could find. And I called Rapid City, South Dakota. And I said, “Gene, are you still available?” And she said, “Yes, I’m still here.” “I’m coming, just as fast as I can.” On the 26th of June, we got married. And that’s the World War Two story.

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