April 10, 1945 the co-pilot speaks out !

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the old Sage
May 20, 2004
Platonic Sphere
Ladies and gents I interviewed one of the crewmen of this B-17 that was co-piloted by Ben. The attacks by the Me 262's of JG 7 were so fast the gunners could not even track them with their turrets/.50's.

Ben Hauck
8th Af, 487th BG, 837BS Co-Pilot, F/O

The day I baled out we were on a mission to Brandenburg, which is on the outskirts of Berlin. It was April 10, 1945. We were just about ready to go on the IP when we were attacked by ME 262 jet fighters. We had seen them a couple times before.

The first ones that came through got one plane; I don't think anyone got out of it. I didn't see any chutes. A couple minutes later we got hit in the number 1 main gas tank and it started a fire. So we tried to get back to the American lines because we knew they had stopped at the Elbe River. But when the aluminum slags started falling off the back of the wing, we said it's time to get out of this. The communication system was knocked out in the back, so it was hard to get their attention, but they got the message and they all bailed out.

We started to get out at the front hatch - we couldn't go through the bomb bay because it was on fire. I was the co-pilot and I looked down and I saw that the guys were having trouble getting the hatch door open. I told Ted, the pilot, I gotta go down and help those guys. So I jumped down there. I said "Robbie, you pull on the release and I'll jump on the door." Well, the adrenaline was running so fast, I didn't notice that my leg straps [of the parachute] weren't fastened; I always flew with them unfastened because it was more comfortable to fly that way. When I jumped on the door, out I went.

I counted to ten, then I counted to ten, then I counted to ten one last time. When I pulled the ripcord and the chute opened, one of the buckles flew up and cut my lip wide open. That's when I realized what I had done. The part of the harness that goes across your chest came up and popped me under my armpits. If I had had my arms up, hey I would have been gone.

They said to count to three or four, then pull, but we were at about 28,000 feet. We didn't have bailout bottles.

We all made out it out OK, but we were still over enemy territory. They gathered us all up and the next day we were in the Madenburg Luftwaffe airfield jail. Another plane from our squadron that got shot down that day had their crew there, too.

The only bad part about the whole ordeal was the food. The Germans were starving to death themselves, and they knew it. They didn't treat us badly otherwise. I had a piece of bread about the size of a bar of soap maybe twice a week. It was terrible, but you had to eat something.

When we left the airfield, they marched us across Germany over to Leipzig. That's quite a ways! It took us five days to get over there. It took us five days because the guards were crippled with canes and crutches - we had to go slow because of them. But in those five days, one day we got a sort of stew with a few potatoes and carrots in it and maybe a bit of meat.

Other than that the only food we got was when one night they put us in an empty potato cellar. It was a quonset style hut covered with earth. We started digging around in there and lo and behold we found some potatoes. The guards didn't come in the cellar because it was cold in there; they stayed outside where they had a big fire going. So I can speak German, and I went out and asked them if I could throw the potatoes in the fire. I had maybe a dozen or so - it wasn't enough for everybody - but they let me throw them in there for about half an hour. They were all burnt to a crisp, but when I brought them back in I just about got mobbed. At least it was something to put in your stomach.

In prison, the food that we got was potato peelings, carrot tops, rotten rutebagas, all kinds of crap they'd throw in a garbage can with some water. Once a day we got a tin cup about 4" in diameter and about 3" tall full of that stinking mess it smelled horrible.

I didn't eat anything for the first three days. The guys who'd been in for a long time were fighting over my stuff [laughs]. But after about the fourth day I held my nose and just ate it. Well, you eat or you die, period. It gave you just enough nourishment to survive. In the month I was a POW I lost 22 lbs without even trying [laughs].

The 3rd Armored Division liberated us. They took us up to Hildesteim Germany. They took all the clothes away from us and burned them and put us in a DDT # they fogged us up real good and gave us clean clothes. The first meal was just broth from a killed sheep - there was no meat. It wasn't much. Then there was a bunch of prisoners on litters who had malnutrition paralysis.

They had about a dozen C-47's there but no pilots - I don't know what happened to the pilots, but they didn't have enough. There was about 5 or 6 of us who volunteered. I had never flown a C-47. I'd never been in one. But I figured, hell, if I can fly a B-17, I can fly one of these. They loaded those planes up and we flew to Paris. They ran the sick guys to the hospital, but they didn't have quarters for us pilots, so they put us in the hospital. it was a good place - good food, a warm bed.

After we got to Paris they forgot about us. We were there for 24 days. We got sick and tired of nothing to do and we said we want to go home! We had to beat the table and they sent us up to Camp Lucky Strike, then they sent us home.

enjoy all ! :D


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