JOHN JOSEPH BROWN|
World War II
Memories and Biography
On April 8, 1944, we were hit by enemy fighters. I believe they were mostly ME109s. The number of B24s in our group that were lost that day varies in reports from different sources. Some reported five planes on up to 11. Well, as for the plane we were flying, it was hit on the first pass by the German fighters. By the time we knew they were there, we were being fired at.
As engineer and being up on the flight deck in the top turret, I could observe everything. The damage was this, No. 1 and 2 engines were out and smoking, No. 3 engine was on fire. The flames had engulfed the whole wing area. No. 4 engine was the only engine operating.
I reported this to Lt. Herzing, our pilot, and it seemed that a long time elapsed, so I reported it the second time. But he and the copilot Lt. Filbach surely had their work cut out for themselves at the moment. Lt. Herzing then said to the copilot, "What do you think, Phil?" The reply was, "Let's get the hell out of here." The next order was to "salvo the bombs and prepare to jump; go ahead and jump."
Well it was our first jump. All practice jumps prior to this was done on the ground, just to orientate each person which exit to take. To complicate matters, after the bombs were salvoed the bomb bay doors were swinging back and forth. After checking the swing of the doors, it was decided to jump as they were about to open, because they swung back almost immediately.
Well, we all bailed out and arrived back to the ground with a few bumps, bruises, banged up legs and backs, but otherwise in good shape. I was told that shortly after we left the plane, it blew up. We then were taken by German soldiers and taken to a German guardhouse somewhere near Hanover, and within a few days shipped to Dulag Luft in Frankfurt. There, we were held in solitary confinement for several days and on occasions brought out to be interrogated. Later, we were shipped by boxcar on the railroad to Stalag 17B in Krems, Austria. We were interned there until about April 7 or 8, 1945. At that time we were forced to march to Brauneau, Germany. During this forced march, which took a few weeks, we were fed only six meals of slop. I think a pig would turn away from it. Once there, we lived in the forest until the U.S. Army came along and we were liberated.
The pilot, copilot, bombardier and navigator were sent to an officer's camp. Which one, I do not know. All of the non-com's were all shipped to Stalag 17B, Krems, Austria.
Sorry it took this long to answer your inquiry, but writing just isn't my bag. I hope there may be some information here that can be of some value.
John J. Brown
Crewmembers name and address as of April 8, 1944, unless otherwise noted. 506th bomb squadron, 44th bomb group.
Lt. Ernest A. Herzing, Del Reo, Texas Pilot
Lt. Virgil W. Fillbach Gregory, S. Dakota Copilot
Lt. William F. Ball, Jr., Bessimer, Alabama Bombardier
Lt. Gayle J. Dunkerly, Detroit, MI,
2825 Linwood Ave, Royal Oak 48073.
Phone 313-288-6699 Navigator
*T/Sgt. John J. Brown, 40 Church St.,
Whitman, Mass. Engineer-Gunner
*T/Sgt. William E. Weiss, 38 Jefferson St.
Weatherly, PA 18255 Radio-Op.
S/Sgt. Albert A. LeBlanc, Waltham, Mass
(Deceased) Waist Gunner
*S/Sgt. Alvin L. Thorsen, 158 Ray St., Hinckley, Ill Waist Gunner
S/Sgt. Francis X. MaHaney, Silver Springs, MD T/Gunner
S/Sgt. Moren Hirsch, New York City, NY Ball/Gunner
I visit Bill Weiss at least once a year and he and his family also visit us. I also contact Al Thorsen on occasion. I have been to see "Hank" MaHaney in 1953 and 1957. The others I have no idea where they live now.
John J. Brown
40 Church St.
Whitman, Mass 02382