These stories are a vitally important part of these "Living Monuments." |
Recollections written by Jeane Hicks 4/19/2009
On April 8th, 1944 I was awakened at 4AM in the morning and told I was to fly as a spare gunner in a crew whose crew member was ill.
I had my first 3 day pass. There went my pass!
Had breakfast at 5 AM; had briefing at 5:30 AM and from there I was assigned to a crew and was introduced to them. Lt. Sprinkle was the pilot.
We went to the prep building to dress in flight clothing and receive a parachute harness and a chute.
From there we were driven to our assigned plane where we checked out the aircraft.
My job was to check the bombs and ammunition for the guns.
Then we played the old army game of "hurry up and wait".
Before this we were met by the mechanics and fuel personnel.
These are the people that keep us in the air.
We then were told to start the engines and wait to taxi out and take off in order.
The first planes had to circle around until everyone could form a formation. Then we headed for the channel and crossed Holland and flew into Germany.
I don't recall the timing but we were beyond the turning point on the bomb run to Brunswick.
We were the last formation and the last plane to join that formation.
I was stationed in the left window with a hand held 50 caliber gun.
I could not see another plane in the sky.
"Theirs or ours”. I was later told that about 70 fighters came through our formation at one time.
The first I knew of the attack was a puff from a 20 mm cannon projectile hitting the leading edge of the wing. A 3 or 4 ft. piece of the wing rolled by in front of me and flew off the plane.
I heard the jump bell almost immediately. I turned and saw the man behind me dead. I grabbed my chute and strapped it on.
By that time there was fire coming through the bomb bay door. I reached down and opened the escape door about 3 to 4 ft. Then I jumped!
I don't remember coming down but my chute was put on upside down. I found the D ring and pulled it. The chute worked fine. I had a soft landing but the wind in the chute was pulling me along.
To spill the air out of the chute, you must pull on the bottom cords which kept sliding through my hands.
On the way down I had lost my gloves and silk glove liners, pulling on nylon, did not have much grasp.
When I spilled the chute and undid the harness 2 Messerschmidt 109's buzzed me to let the Germans on the ground know where I was.
Two French workers came out of the woods and shook my hand and told me they were French. By that time two 14-16 yr. old German Youth kids showed up and had burp guns.
When they appeared the 2 Frenchmen disappeared into the woods.
One of the kids said "Halt" in German and it sounded like "Hault" but I knew what it meant and stopped immediately.
They marched me over to a road to 2 men in Volkswagen bug.
They had me sit in the jump seat. This was my first ride in a bug.
I was then taken to A Dulag where I was interrogated the next morning. I was just a 19 yr. old kid and did not know anything. Just my Name, Rank, and Serial Number. #39410222.
The next morning they put us in a 1900's 40 and 8 boxcar which was formerly used in WWI to transport 40 men and 8 horses. After a week we arrived at Stalag 17B.
They took our clothes and gave us a shower and delousing, and assigned us to Barrack 31. I was interned in Stalag 17B for the next 13 months as a POW near Krems, Austria.
On April 8th 1945 The Gennans saw Russian tanks across the Danube.
We were gathered and marched out for 17days and arrived in the woods near Insbruck where we were recaptured by Patton's 13th armored division.
A few days later we were flown to La Harve, France where we spent about a week in Camp Lucky Strike.
This was a medical station. We were then loaded on a ship and arrived in the states 16 days later.
During WWII I did not get a scratch. We were well treated during imprisonment. For that I am thankful.
I recently told my story to an interviewer who registered my experience in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
I am alive and well living in Sonora, California and will be celebrating my 85th birthday this week.
Staff Sergent Jeane Martin Hicks, 39410222