Jack, 97

(1/2) “I went into the service about six months after Pearl Harbor. I volunteered. I flew 50 missions. I was stationed in Italy in the 15th air force (AF) and we flew all over Europe. [On one mission] we went in to bring some POWs out of Romania. This was the time when Russia was fighting at Stalingrad and they finally broke the Nazis back and pushed them through Romania. The higher ups in the military got a call from Romanian government saying there was a large POW camp there. The Russians were completely disregarding them. They wouldn’t help them and there were guys who were sick. They didn’t give them food or water. There were 1,040 of them, so they converted the B-17 bomber so they could put the prisoners of war in there. They pulled out all the bomb bays and equipment and put in flooring, and then they flew in. There was an airstrip the Nazis had used when they occupied Romania. It was a small airstrip they had used for their fighter planes. When our plane went into the air strip it wasn’t wide enough for a B17,  and when we came in for a landing it hit something on the runway, maybe a hole or something, and one-half of the undercarriage, where the wheel is, collapsed completely. One wing scraped the runway and all of a sudden it blew up because the fuel tanks were in the wings. I guess a spark touched it off. The rusult was we had a plane there with no means of getting it out. Our crew stayed at a hotel in Bucharest, which was the capital, and we had parts for the plane and mechanics flown in to repair the plane there. They said it would take two weeks to repair. It took ten days.”

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