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WALTER V. LAWRENCE (Bud)
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

May 12, 2000

Dear Will:

Greetings from Kansas. Thanks so much for the information you sent.

I have been working on the information for the 44th BGVA database. I am enclosing some corrections for your information. These will be forwarded to BGVA, Salt Lake City in the packet I am sending. I have filled out to the best of my ability the individual questions for all the crew and will continue to try to find out more. I presume you have more stuff than you need, but here it is for you to peruse then toss as needed.

I am having no luck finding next of kin for the six crewmen KIA, except for Thomas Hine whose cousin lives in Muskogee, OK. I have been corresponding with him and have a biography he wrote for Thomas (Tommy) Hine (N).

I do have a Bio from Crew Chief James (Jim) Boyer for "My Ever Lovin' Gal." I presume I was to send all that heavy stuff to HQ. If you want or need it, let me know. I have sent an e-mail to Art Hand to see if he can give any help and also sent him where some of the crew is buried.

I wrote an article about that day we were shot down and it is too long, but since we have very little from the crew, I thought it might be helpful, especially for any next of kin who would like to know. I think I can send that to you via e-mail and may give that a try.

I think that is it for now.

Sincerely, Walter "Bud" Lawrence
354 Random Rd.
Arkansas City, KS 67005-3915
(316)441-0183


OUR FIRST MISSION
By Walter V. Lawrence

Lt. Westcott's crew was assigned as replacements to the 506th Bomb Squadron, 44th Bomb Group, 2nd Air Division of the 8th Air Force. When we arrived at the 506th in April of 1944, we learned that several of our fellow crews we had trained with in the states had preceded us to the 506th and had been shot down, thus the reason for our replacement orders. This was not very encouraging news to know that some of our friends had been shot down on their first mission and we did not know their fate. (Later in POW camp we were able to visit with some of them to get the rest of the story)

We had attempted one mission on April 15, 1944 but it was aborted. We understood that the norm for a mission was to be aroused from deep sleep in the wee hours of the morning soon after midnight, then go through a set of procedures before actually getting underway. It was also customary to expect to fly during the day as the English "Royal Air Force" always flew their missions at night, and thought Americans were a bit crazy for flying daylight missions. However, on April 22nd 1944, there was no indication of a mission that day and we were rejoicing in the fact and taking advantage of a day of relaxation. It must have been about mid morning when all crews were alerted to report for duty.

The first order of business was to report to the dining hall and eat, because when you flew at high altitude, in those days, there were no pressurized cabins, and any gas forming in your innerds caused your stomach to expand upon reaching high altitude and could become quite painful. Wearing an oxygen mask while sick at you stomach could also cause problems, so it was best to have your food settle as much as possible before take-off.

I actually do not recall the exact order but we dressed in our heated suits, and flight gear, leaving our personal belongings, billfolds etc. and any ID other than dog tags with security. Somewhere in the process we would attend the briefing room to know where we were going and what to expect in the way of flak and fighter activity, enemy as well as friendly escort. When the curtain covering the large map was pulled to reveal the mission for this day, it revealed a rather long mission to bomb the marshalling yards at Hamm, Germany southwest of Berlin. That was no milk run, but what mission was?

We were alerted for take off, cancelled once, and finally cleared to fly, after 1600 hours. (4 PM) It took some time to form in the Group over England as every B-24 pilot had to find his designated position in the Squadron, Group, 2nd Air Div. and on some occasions with the 3rd Air Division (B-17 Groups) as well. I presume this being our first mission, we were probably "Tail End Charley" in our Squadron.

As we crossed the English Channel it was time to test the gun turrets and fire the 50 caliber machine guns with a short burst to make sure they were ready for action and ammo was feeding properly. Lt. Westcott always called us on the intercom when we reached 10,000 feet altitude so the oxygen masks could be put on and tested. We checked our heated suit connections, and the intercom was tested by each crewmember reporting to the pilot from their position. The altitude for the day was to be over 21,000 ft., which was likely reached, before or soon after reaching the French coast.

On that first mission we were all rather tense and it was a very fearful experience, as we did not know what to expect. We had seen films depicting B-24's in action but this was no film, it was the real thing. The order of the day was to be very alert and try to remember our training for this was in a real sense, final examination day and we dare not fail this test.

In the distance we began to see the bursts of flak as we ventured further into enemy territory. Joe Gorski in the tail turret had a bird's eye view of events behind us and kept us informed of the happenings, accuracy of the flak etc. Joe Morris flew the ball turret and could keep an eye on the events below us. (I do not recall of any occasion when we were attacked from below, as most attacks while we were flying were frontal attacks. I think on at least one occasion Joe Gorski was able to get some good shots at a fighter coming up on our rear, but we never actually received credit for any kills. With so many people shooting at the same time it would be difficult to tell who should receive the credit anyway. I'm sure we scared some fighter pilots as they saw those tracers coming their way. He had several occasions to give them a few bursts as they passed when making frontal attacks and we waist gunners only got a short burst as they whizzed past.)

Soon we not only saw the flak bursts but we felt the force of the explosions, as it became quite close. The bursts of flak seemed to come in volleys of four timed to detonate at about the same time but at slightly different altitudes, in order to cover a larger air space. Each burst left a black puff of smoke and at times it was so thick it was hard to see very far ahead. Psychologically the clouds formed by the flak made a rather fearful experience to try to fly through.

My gun position was the left waist window (which was open). The waist gunners both were designated to toss out "Chaff", which is small bundles of tinsel like foil, supposed to cause extra blips on their radar. The right waist gunner was Frank Artym Jr. It probably helped our morale some to know that at least we were doing something that might throw off their aim and reduce the accuracy of the flak. (Along the normal routes over Germany the trees looked like Christmas trees due to the amount of chaff used) A lesson learned on that mission was to protect my face, as I received frostbite on my cheeks. The temperature at 21,000 ft. that day was around 50 degrees below zero.

I do not recall any enemy aircraft coming through our group, but did see attack's on others, and some were shot down. As we neared the target our B-24 "My Everlovin' Gal" was hit and # 3 engine was shot out. The main hydraulic pump was on # 3 engine. The engine oil sump must have been hit also because we could not feather the prop and it continued to windmill and vibrate so bad we feared the wing might go next. Some cylinders evidently did not have any compression and some did and that caused the vibration. We released our bombs but were unable to keep up with the Group with the prop on # 3 still turning the engine (without oil) until the engine finally froze up. That added more drag, but greatly relieved not to have the excessive vibration..

Now it was evident we would have to leave the protection of the formation and go on alone back to base. It was now dark and Lt. Westcott after consulting all of us decided that we should hit the deck and hope we could escape the fighters under protection of night, and head for home. Our mission now was to get back to base safely. Westcott asked me to take my position in the front of the bomb bay and transfer fuel from # 3 to the other three engines tanks. The fuel gages were visual vial type so you could actually see the fuel levels for the tanks. Everything we could toss out had to go in order to lighten the ship, so it would take less fuel, as the unfeathered prop was causing so much resistance & drag. The anti-aircraft fire was very frightening, as it looked like the fourth of July, only we realized these roman candle type flares coming at us were tracers that aided them in homing in on us. You could also see the flashes as the projectiles left the guns. Fortunately we were low enough so that we passed any ground fire quickly. Finally we approached the English Channel and headed for home base, continually watching the fuel level.

(As we approached the Norwich area where all the heavy bomber bases were, we noted there were several fires and the searchlights were being used. Due to the flak damage and slower air speed, we were late getting back to base, which may have been fortunate for us. We learned later that under cover of night some enemy fighter bombers had slipped into some of the groups formations undetected and then shot some B-24's down while on the base leg of their landing pattern. While preparing to land, crews were to secure the guns and assume their safe positions for landing, so it was a surprise attack totally unexpected. (Some bombs were also dropped.)

Since we had no hydraulic pump on # 3 engine, the normal backup was a hand-operated pump. However the line was open and could not hold any pressure. The only alternative was to crank the landing gear down manually, or belly land. Lt. Westcott called and asked me to start cranking down the landing gear much earlier than under normal conditions as we did not know how long it would take. At this point there was very little liquid showing in the fuel gauges. (Edward Thompson, 1st Engineer was not tall enough to reach the crank.) I assumed it would not be a hard job but soon discovered it was a long slow procedure and the crank had to be turned many many times. We had difficulty getting the locking pawl to lock in place, so Lt. Westcott rocked the ship rather sharply from left to right several times until the locks were in place. Lt. Hine & Lt. Toepel kicked the front nose wheel down & made sure it was locked. We all took our landing positions and prayed for a safe landing, which was executed very well, and even the brakes worked enough to keep us from running off the end of the runway. We were indeed a grateful crew, for being back to base, a bit shaken, but safe. I think several of us kissed the ground that late night. It was after 2230, as the mission took 6 and hours. Thus our first mission was completed successfully, in spite of the damage to "My Everlovin' Gal" and after she was repaired we flew her on most all other missions.

(We were told that when the prop sling was in place to remove the prop on # 3 engine it almost fell off. A couple days afterward, Lt. Reeves (Co-Pilot) checked on how the repairs were coming along and mentioned that he had his picture taken in front of "My Everlovin' Gal".)

An interesting aside to this story comes to mind. In the late 70's I was in Kemah, Texas visiting my mother and listening over my Amateur Radio. I happened to be listening to a group on the Houston Amateur Radio repeater and heard a very familiar voice. I could not place it until someone called him by name. I could hardly wait for an opening in the conversation to break in and ask if he was who I thought he was. Sure enough it was my old AAF Friend, Kirby. We both had enlisted in the Army Air Force at Houston Texas and spent a short time at San Antonio taking basic training. As promised we were sent to Ellington Field Texas on our first assignment. After several months at Ellington Field, we both were sent to Keesler Field, MS., for B-24 Aerial Engineer Training and from there we both also went to Gunnery Training at Harlingen, Texas. At that point we were separated and he went to Italy and I went to England, and we did not know what had happened during or after those days together. We had a lot of catching up to do, so have been corresponding & talking over the radio on various occasions.

On another occasion around 1995 when we had visited family at Kemah, Texas and were on the way back to Kansas, we decided to make a stop at Madisonville for breakfast. I had contacted Kirby by radio and he met us at McDonalds. He was rather excited about a trip they had taken back to Italy to visit his base during W.W.II. He began telling me about the trip and a few miracles along the way making it possible to be on the grounds again and he could even pin point where their tent was located and the operations building etc., and had pictures to prove it. On their way back home they stopped in England to visit the grave of his brother-in-law (his wife's brother) who was killed in action. As I began to ask about the circumstances surrounding his death, the time of year etc. it soon became clear that we were in England at the same time, even though in different groups. I learned that he was shot down over England and the whole crew was lost. The pieces soon began to come together and I asked him, do you know if that was the raid on Hamm Germany marshalling yards on April 22, 1944, if it was, that was my first mission! He and I both were surprised because we had not mentioned this event before, after all those years. They knew very little about the circumstances surrounding his death, so when I got home I found several articles I had saved from the 2nd Air Div Journal regarding that mission.

Another article was found written about the mission from a pilot in the same group. The author mentioned that two crews of their group were lost that night and one of them was Kirby's brother-in-law. He expressed that he was a very capable pilot and a fine gentleman and he certainly missed him. I believe that was the last attempt to fly night missions out of England, by our Group.


Walter 'Bud' & Letha Lawrence
wlawrence3@cox.net
(for Lawrence/Pemberton Reunion) use:
lawpemb@cox.net
**********************

WALTER "TEX" LAWRENCE
World War II
Memories and Biography
29 June 1944

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

Dear Mr. Lundy:

Thanks so much for your letter, addresses and information and especially the testimonies of Tom Conzoner and Frank Rinaldo. I did not get to know them as we went to different camps. I have just this past year located Fred DuBose, the radio operator on our crew. Have not had the opportunity to see him yet, but we have corresponded.

When the AXPOW Conv. Was in Colorado Springs a couple of years ago, my wife and I attended and we were in Houston at the same time of the 8th AFHS Convention so attended some of it, but did not locate any 44th'ers.

Joe Morris and I were quite close, but he changed considerably after his POW experience. He and Fred DuBose were in the same compound at Luft IV. I came later due to my injury, being detained along the way, but wound up in B Compound then C. when it was opened. Being in another compound there was no communication between us. I have not seen Joe since. We corresponded after the war for a few years but he evidently lost interest and I have not been able to contact him again. His letters are not returned. I was in Philadelphia about four years ago and tried to locate him to no avail.

When I wrote Pete Henry, asking for the film according to choice, the only one he had available was "The Men Who Flew the Liberators." As we were showing that film, about halfway through it, two ground crew were working on an engine and the next clip showed a good view of My Ever lovin' Gal. I could not believe my eyes, so stopped the film and ran it back for a second look. That was quite a surprise!

I cannot verify which squadron Landahl was in, but it does seem that he was in the 68th. [506th] Due to frostbite, I missed a couple of missions with my crew, so put in for a spare to get caught up. The two extra missions were with Landahl, whether it was his crew or he was doing the same thing to catch up, I do not know.

Our mission was to Magdeburg, 29 June 1944. We were on the bomb run and flak was very heavy. I was flying left waist. The bombs were dropped and we received some damage from a close one. Pilot Westcott called me to check the damage in the bomb bay. As I opened the door, fluid from the hydraulic reservoir was pouring out and the bomb bay doors were still open and the bombs had all cleared. (I learned later that Fred DuBose was on the cabin side of the bomb bay to close the doors when fire began in the bomb bay. He jumped from that position before the explosion). The last I remember was closing the door to the bomb bay from the tail section, and talking with Westcott on the intercom about what I had seen. I had returned to the left waist position when the explosion occurred throwing me out and the heat was terrific. My first thought was to pull the ripcord and somehow the chute did not catch fire or hit any debris.

On the way down, I counted chutes and supposed we all got out. At this point I did not know about the collision with Landahl's plane. My only injury was a broken collarbone, pulled muscles in left arm, and sprained ankle when landing. Fred DuBose and I landed within about 200 feet of each other. After getting out of the chute harness and putting on those G.I. shoes strapped to the harness, Fred and I went to help Landahl about 100 yards from us.

It was around ten a.m. A land watch farmer was coming for us as we approached Landahl. He quickly saw we were trying to help, so went on searching for the others. Landahl was in great pain from wounds in thighs and legs. Neither of our first aid kits had any morphine, but we found some in his so gave him a shot. When the others began to gather, the Germans had us move Landahl to the cart trail about 100 yards away. (I had landed on the trail). We used a piece of bomb bay door as a stretcher to carry him. He died soon after. Those survivors of his crew were there at the time. One of his crew could understand some German and when we had opportunity, he would help us know what to do.

We had hoped to go to the Worlds Fair in New Orleans in a couple of weeks. I have written Fred DuBose hoping to see him while we were that close to Biloxi, Miss. Our trip was to be by bus, and just received word the trip was canceled. I will be corresponding with Fred about that and will ask if he would write his view. I can send copies of the information you sent to me along with what I have written hoping that may inspire him to add his version, or to correct mine.

Thanks again for your help. Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,

Walter "Tex" Lawrence




BIO FOR WALTER V. (aka Tex & Bud) LAWRENCE

Walter Stephen & Emma Diana "Gordy" Lawrence's 6th and last child was named Walter Vernon Lawrence. He arrived at home, on May 30, 1924. He grew up in the Kemah, Texas area on a truck farm, in Galveston County, graduated from Friendswood High School in 1941, entered the National Youth Adm. at the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, TX. Was discharged from Civil Service and joined the A.A.F. Sept. 26, 1942, and stationed at Ellington A.F.B. TX. as aircraft mechanic. Later was sent to Keesler Field MS. For Aerial Engineer Training on B-24 Bombers, then to Aerial Gunnery training at Harlingen A.F.B. in the AT 6's. Crew Training began in B-24 bombers at Davis Monthan Field, AZ. and then Blythe A.F.B. CA. Christmas Day 1943 was spent on a troop train to Will Rogers Fld.. OK & on to Forbes A.F.B. Topeka, Ks. one month later.

We received a new B-24, which the crew named "LYNDY" then headed for duty overseas the last of Feb. 1944, via South America, Africa and on to England, where we were replacements in the 506 Bomb Sq. of the 44th Bomb GP. (2nd Air Div. of the 8th Air Force) On his 21st mission (to Magdeburg Germany), the Gerald S. Westcott and Howard K. Landahl crew's were shot down, 29th of June 1944. He was a Prisoner of War for 10 months, at Stalag IXC & Stalag Luft IV. Marched for 52 days (Feb & Mar/44) to Stalag 357 near Fallingbostel Ger., where liberated by an English Armored Div. on Apr. 16th 1945. On the 21st was flown to London and hospitalized at Oxford until May 6th. Arrived in London for VE Day celebrations then left South Hampton Eng. on the H.M.S. John Ericksen to N.Y. City N.Y. arriving on his 21st birthday, May 30, 1944. The first day after the blackout was lifted.

He attended Friends Bible College, Haviland, Ks. and worked at several odd jobs while attending College. Married Letha Brooks, Oct. 19, 1947, in Emporia KS., and they have 3 daughters and 7 grand children, also 2 great grandchildren. He worked as auto mechanic, carpenter, plumber, and electrician for several years in preparation that led to operating a Church Camp, at Arkansas City, KS., retiring in 1986 after 30 enjoyable years. He manages to keep busy with Church work, Amateur Radio, carpentry, genealogy, family and computers, .


Walter 'Bud' & Letha Lawrence
wlawrence3@cox.net
(for Lawrence/Pemberton Reunion) use:
lawpemb@cox.net





WALTER V. LAWRENCE
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Pete Henry)

R.R. No. 4, Box 323
Arkansas City, KS 67005

16 September 1984

Dear Pete:

It is always a pleasure to read your column in 2ADA Journal. I read it first then go to the others. Keep up the good work.

Lt. Landall's crew went down with my crew "Lt. G. S. Westcott," and neither one made it. I think six out of Landall's and three of ours made it to POW promotion. I do not recall any of Landall's crew's names, nor is he listed in 44th Libs over Europe. Do you know of any records listing pilots and crews of the 44th so that I might be able to contact some of them and compare accounts? (By the way, I was at the 8th Air Force Reunion in Houston hoping to see some 44th'rs but found none.) I hope to make it to the 8th AFHS Reunion in Wichita, KS in 1985. I would appreciate any direction you can give me on Landall's crew.

The other reason for writing is to request a film for showing at our next Amateur Radio Club meeting, 4 October. Several are veterans and expressed a desire to view some of the Big Birds of the 40's.

Many thanks.

Walter V. Lawrence

*******************************************************************************


OUR LAST MISSION-A VERY LONG DAY
1 st Lt. Gerald Westcott & crew of "My EverIovin' Gal"
As recaned by WaIter "Tex"Lawrence

On Thursday morning, June 29, 1944 the 44th Bomb Group & 506 Bomb Squadron was sent on a mission (sortie) to bomb the Krupp Aircraft Factory near Magdeburg, . Germany. This was my 21st mission. I missed two missions due to frostbite on my face, thus it was the 23rd for the rest of the crew. It was the 179th mission flown by the 44th Bomb Group, assigned to the 2nd Aid Division of the 8th Air Force. Our B-24 bomber was aircraft # 41-28829 known as "My Ever Lovin' Gal". I was assistant engineer gunner flying in the left waist position. We had flown most of our missions in this plane and she had served us well. Our crew Chief that looked after the "Gal" when we came home all shot up, was Jim Boyer from Dayton Ohio. He was a good crew chief that was able to keep the old "Gal" patched up and flying. For a while my memory recalls the name of Jorgensen and Dixon who may have worked with Boyer or on another ship we flew when the "Gal" was being repaired. We always appreciated the work of the entire ground crews, worked long, hard and often cold hours to repair, refuel, load bombs, check armament, parachutes, oxygen etc., and then sweated us out until we returned. If they forgot something it would not be well for us, and we could not do our job if they failed to do theirs. Our lives depended on their skills.

First, just a bit about our crew and training. All of us had gone through training for our own specialty and position on the crew. The crew was brought together & formed in September of 1943, at the 402nd Bomb Sq. of the 39th Bomb Group at Davis Monthan Army Air Base, Tucson, AZ. Most of the crew had been training in their specialty approximately a year, we flew together on training missions getting acquainted and learning to work together. Upon completing our first phase of training we were sent to the 34th Combat Training Squadron at Blythe Army Air Base CA. the 31st of October.

At Blythe, for unknown reasons our Pilot, Lt. Whittmore & Radio Operator, S/Sgt. Floyd Streeper, were reassigned, and we received a new pilot, Lt. Gerald S. Westcott, & S/Sgt. Fred Dubose to replace Lt. Whittmore and S/Sgt. Floyd Streeper. Floyd joined another crew & was assigned to the So. Pacific. We never heard anymore of Lt. Whittmore. We knew he was a graduate from West Point so assumed he received a greater offer due to his previous training.

We left Blythe, Ca. Dec. 24, 1943 on a troop train, arriving in Oklahoma the day after Christmas during a beautiful snow. Our training continued in Aerial Mapping at Will Rogers Field, Okla. City, OK. This seemed to us to be mainly a delay in the route to overseas, which lasted for about a month. We had some spare time and were in need of some flight time in order to receive flight pay. Co-Pilot, Lt. Robert (Bob) Reeves checked out on a twin engine English bomber trainer, & happily made arrangements to check Lt. Westcott out so he could fly it also. Somehow the whole crew was able to pack into that flying machine; that was made of plywood, and also had two wooden props. Bob wanted to fly fighters, and any time he was at the controls it was not hard to tell who was flying the airplane. We did all sorts of fun things that day, like buzzing a herd of cattle, trying this and that just to see what the airplane would do. We were a bit shaken up when Bob decided to buzz a small lake. That was great except the ducks seemed to be a bit alarmed and flew up right in front of us, and all we could think of was those wood props as we flew through their formation. Somehow we managed to escape with our lives and theirs. That experience gave us many memories to recall from time to time.

The next trip was to Topeka Army Air Base the last of January. We were fortunate to be given ten day's furlough arriving back at Topeka the middle of February. We received more schooling as well as a new B-24 Bomber. We agreed to name the bomber "L YNDY" after our pilot's wife. Each of the crew pitched in for the painting job on the nose of the bomber, and we were pleased. We then took off for our next station February 27, 1944, which was North Palm Beach, Fl. We were finally flying rather than going by troop train. This was our last base in the USA on our way to overseas. It was here the bomber had a final check up and refueled with 100 octane for the long haul overseas via the southern route, Trinidad, B,elem, Fotrtaleza, S.A. across the Atlantic to Dakar and Merakesch, Africa then Newquay, England. Our new B-24 was taken out of our care, for modification for combat and we never knew what happened to "OUR" LYNDY.

Now about that last mission. As usual we were rudely awakened early in the morning. The orderly was not very kind in doing so. He had a few choice phrases he used such as "grab your socks etc. etc., these crews are flying today, Westcott, Landahl, etc." We dressed, headed for the trucks waiting for us to go to breakfast. After breakfast we went to briefing.

The briefing room is hard to describe. It commanded it's own veil of mystery, anxiety, fear & respect. It was here the mission for the day was revealed. The room was not a large one, but sufficient for the crews involved on each mission. At the front was a large map that could not be viewed until the briefing officer pulled the curtain to reveal the mission for the day. There would be a red ribbon showing the route we would-fly to the target and back. We were briefed on what to expect on the mission as to areas of enemy fighters, flak, type of weather on the way in and out, information about the target and any alternates.
We were briefed on visibility over the target, when to expect friendly fighter escorts etc. Today when the curtain was pulled it stretched quite a ways, as Magdeburg is located just south west of Berlin. It was not a pleasing sight.
'
I do not recall any fighter attack on the way to the target. The flak was light until we were on the IP (Initial Point for the bomb run) when it was very evident they had our range. Here is the reason why! In Oct. of 1986, in the 8th Air Force News, there was an article written by Friedrich J. Kowalke. He was a teenage schoolboy at the time, living in Magdeburg, Germany. When the sirens sounded pe along with others were dispatched from school, to one of the flak batteries as "Luftwaffenhelfer". The battery leaders were elderly. WW I veterans usually hearing and sight impaired with difficulty in decision making, especially in aircraft identification and seeing how-well the shells were being fired. This made Kowalke's job as observer (flugmelder) all the more important. (The Anti Aircraft guns were changed from 88mm to 105 mm just before this time.) His instrument was a moveable telescope mounted on a stativ, supported by a four-meter, base optical range finder, a part of the ballistic director. This job gave him the chance to observe the bombing which happened in the Magdeburg area, especially those of the 8th Air Force. He evidently also kept good records, and had followed up on it in recent years. He states, "All of my correspondents have reported the intense flak barrage they met over Magdeburg on this mission. No wonder, you passed over flak-avenue because your bomb run started at an IP in the southwest and continued to the target on the north side of the city. You can see that the formation would "take A. A. fire of all the flak batteries from south to north. Our tracking on this day was visual. In this case, the lead plane of the leading element would be fixed by the range finder. It may be seen that the 44th BG must have taken the bulk of the AA-fire. The 44th was the first over the target. We observed that one 44th BG aircraft was hit. (Lt: Landahl Crew) That plane then had a collision with a second one (Lt. Westcott Crew) and both aircraft fell down. The tail of one B-24 (Westcott's) came down in the village of Gerwisch."

After finding that article, I wrote to the editor who sent my letter directly to Mr. Kowalslci and we then corresponded. He sent me a copy of his findings & concluded, " I send this to you in hope that such a waste of human resources will be prevented by future generations. "

It was a strange feeling corresponding with one who was responsible for such a tragedy, but 'such is the futility of war. He was kind enough to not mention what damage was inflicted upon his people or their resources at the aircraft factory on that day, nor how many of his mends or family may have lost their lives on other occasions because of our actions, on this or other missions. I appreciated his response & cordiality in spite of our mutual responsibilities of that difficult time in our lives.

We were hit just before & over the target. The line up was the lead bomber first heading the group, (I do not recall but it may have been Lt. Hruby's crew as he reported on the incident) then Lt. Landhal's crew to the left and a bit above us, flying deputy lead. OUf pilot Lt. Westcott was flying in the slot below and to the right side ofLt. Landahl. I do not know how many were in the 506th squadron that day, probably 12 - 15 planes. We were all flying in close formation over the bomb run. We had just dropped the bombs and we were hit again, this time we took a hit in the bomb bay area. Fred Dubose, radio operator was on the cockpit side of the bomb bay getting ready to close the bomb bay doors. Lt. Westcott called me on the intercom at my position in the waist to see ifI could check the damage in the bomb bay. I opened the door into the bomb bay compartment and noted that the hydraulic reservoir had been hit and fluid was lealcing so bad I could not see to get into the bomb bay with the wind coming in through the open bomb bay doors. Oxygen & oil do not mix & our oxygen tanks were above the bomb bay, beside that we aU were wearing our oxygen masks as we were above 21,000' altitude. I reported to our pilot Lt. Westcott that as soon as the doors were closed I would try to get in there to do what I could even without oxygen. That is the last thing I heard, as Lt. Landahl's ship was now out of control and his right wing tip hit our ship about at the top gun turret & crashed on top Qfus causing the gal to explode & disintegrate. Six men escaped from Landahl's ship_'__Cape Cod Special" # 42-51181 and 3 from Lt. Westcott's "My Everlovin' Gal". # 41-28829.

All our officers: Pilot, 1 st Lt. Gerald Westcott: Co-Pilot, 1 st Lt. Robert H. Reeves: Navigatror, 1st Lt. Tommy Hine: Bombadier, IstLt. Arthur Toepel. Enlj$tedmen: 1st Engineer, T/sgt. Edward I. Thompson: & right waist gunner, S/Sgt. Frank Artym If. were all killed in action.

The following escaped by parachute: Radio Operator, T/Sgt. Fred Dubose jumped as the ship caught fire just before impact. Tail gunner S/Sgt. Joseph I. Morris (normally in the ball turret position) was in the tail turret on this mission. As the ship broke apart at the waist windows, the weakest point, he had difficulty getting out of the tail section, being separated from the rest of the ship and drifting crazily alone. Since I was in the waist section and that is where the ship broke appart, I was blown clear of most of the trash and even though the heat was terrific was able to open the parachute even with a broken collarbone and left arm injury. (S/Sgt. Joe Gorski was on assignment to tape a radio broadcast with Beebe Damels in London, along with others ftom the 44th Bomb Group, so we were grateful he was not with us.) We were a 9 man crew that day.

At approximately 10:30 am, Fred Dubose & I landed within a few hundred feet of each other, about a mile south of the autobahn (highway) between Gerwisch & Berg, NE of Magdeburg. Fred was in a cleared sugar beet field, I landed on a wagon trail at the edge of a wheat stubble field about 200 feet east of Fred. A slight breeze made it easier to collapse the chute, remove the harness and some outer clothing that was designed for the extreme cold at high altitude. It was a hot sunny June day. I had strapped my GI boots to the parachute harness, so. had to remove the flying boots and put on my GI boots. Lt. Landahl had landed further west of Frrd & was mortally wounded. Soon as we could pull ourselves together we ran toward Lt. Landahl to try to help him. On our way we were met by a German Land Watch person (Civil Defense) who carried a double barrel gun with a rifle mounted underneath. (an over under arrangement that looked like our 410 and 22 combination) "Actually it looked more like a cannon when pointed at us." I had no control of my left arm so had to raise it over my head with my right one, as we heard the words "ands opp" Then came the all too familiar words spoken to all POW's, "for you der var ist ofer"! The war was over in a sense. We soon discovered we were fighting a different kind of war, one of survival at the mercy of our captors.

A few civilians soon gathered, the women were interested in the silk ITom the parachutes, and there were some children among them including some Hitler Youth dressed in their uniform of the day. A small boy was standing close to me. I was aware that our possessions would be taken ITom us so I took out my pocketknife, laid it on top of my hand & extended it to him. He would not take it until the land watchman indicated it was OK. I often wondered what happened to that lad, and my good knife. The civilians were soon disbursed.

Lt. Landahl was in great pain & we were allowed to go to his side to try to assist as we were in an open field and the others had not been brought in yet. Most ofLandahl's crew landed in the wheat field east of us and were able to hide a bit longer. Fred & I had stayed with Lt. Landahl and tried to make him comfortable as possible. I checked my first aid kit & had no morphine, neither did Fred's, but did find some in Lt. Landahl's and we gave him a shot that helped him some.

When the land watch came back we were Qrdered to bring Lt. Landahl to the wagon trail where I discarded my parachute, as there was"a small tree there. We found a piece of bomb bay door and laid him on that & pulled him over to the area by !he trail where the others were gathering. By this time a civilian policeman and a Dr. hadamved on motorbikes and were there when Joe Morris and the others were brought in. Joe had landed near a sman airport South West of where we landed. Joe was not a happy POW and when he came up to the civilian policeman he gave him a big "Heil Hitler" salute which almost cost him his life. Fortunately, some soldiers had gathered by this time and they prevented him ITom being shot, by a very angry Civilian Policeman, who was in full umform with double beaked helmet that had some sort of ornament on top.

I think it was 1 st Lt. Smith that took care ofLt. LandahJ and the Dr. gave him another shot probably more morphine. Lt. Landahl passed away around 1300 hrs. comforted in the arms of Lt. Randolph Smith.

There were 10 men on Landahl's crew. Those killed in action: Pilot 1st. Lt. Howard K. Landahl: Navigator, 1st Lt. Nels William Pedersen: Engineer, T/Sgt. Robert L. Staples: Ball Gunner S/Sgt. Charles F. Schiess: The survivors were:
Co-Pilot 1 st Lt. Randolph K. Smith: Bombadier 1 st Lt. Thomas C. Conzoner: Radio Operator T/Sgt. Walter K. Yount: Right Waist Gunner S/Sgt. Jack Davis: Left Waist gunner: S/Sgt. Underwood Coleman: Tail Gunner S/Sgt. Frank A Rinaldo:
KIA: Westcott's Crew 6. POW: 3 # on crew that day 9.
KIA: ;Landahl's Crew 4. POW: 6 # on crew that day 10.

At around 1500 hrs. (3:00 PM.), an ox cart appeared and Lt. Landahl's body was placed on the cart. By this time Fred Dubose & I had sprained ankles ITom the rough landing and had swelled to where we could not walk, so were allowed to be on the tailgate of the wagon. The others walked behind as we crossed over the autobahti and were gathered in a farmyard near the town of Berg. I recall there was a pile of sand there, so some of us decided to sit on the sand. Injust a few moments we were covered with ants and there was some very active POW's for a while trying to get rid of the critters. A farmer was guarding us with his shotgun, & this experience seemed to amuse him. I mused that he may have known about
the ants. Our Captors had entrusted us in his care & left.
.
Perhaps we were there an hour or so when we noticed a German Army truck coming. It had pieces of our airplanes piled on it and we were ordered to get in the truck with the junk and an armed guard. We drove for some time and picked up some other POW's from a B-1? crew that had been shot down a couple days before and had been hiding out in the woods. They were badly beaten by civilians as they were marched into town. We were perhaps in the town of Berg in front of the 'Rat Haus" which was their city hall, jail etc. and the civilians began to gather around the truck. Soon we began to see what the other crew meant as the civilians demonstrated their contempt for us as "Terror Fleigers". It was no consolation but we could certainly see what bombing had done to the population and we were the ones responsible for those bombs. Again, such is the tragedy of war creating death, hate & destruction for all concerned.

We were very grateful to be moving again/and by this time it was dusk. We were hungry, thirsty, exhausted, emotionally drained, hurting and sick at heart, as we reviewed all that had happened in a rather short space oftime. Soon we approached a Luftwaffe Base and were taken to a building that seemed to be a first aid station. We were taken into a room and seated in a circle. After a while a German officer came into the room. In_.{rery good English he said "What kind of military people are you, don't you recognize officers in your military? I am a German Dr. an Officer of the Luftwaffe,-don't you even appreciate the fact that I have come to look at your wounds? You are prisoners!" Well we knew that, but did not think we should salute, so reluctantly we did get up, which wasn't very easy, and saluted him as respectfully as we could. He then proceeded to dress our wounds and helped as much as he could. He could do nothing for my collarbone & arm except to tell me to poke it in my shirt & eventually it would heal. He wrapped my ankle & that made it possible for me to walk some without so much pain. After this we were taken to a basement for the night. There was loose straw on the floor where other prisoners had been before us. We were given a slice of black bread and a bowl of some kind of watery soup. It was rather hot & stuffy in the basement and straw on a concrete floor was not a very comfortable way to try to rest, much less sleep.

"As I tried to sleep, the events of1he day quickly raced through my mind. Ten close companions had given their lives today, for God & country and no way to pay our respects, or provide a decent burial. Yet there are 9 of us very grateful to be alive, but not knowing anything about what tomorrow will bring, as we were at the mercy of our captors. We realized that this mission is not finished. Little did we know how long it would take to complete, nor what lay ahead for each of us. That is indeed another story that took almost 10 months to m]fbld before we could return and report back to HQ of what happened on this day. (For me the I1'!!_sion was completed on April 21 st, 1945 when I arrived at the Army Hospital in Oxford England, and was able to call HQ & give a report.)"

One version of the words to "Taps" at the ending of day seemed appropriate:
"Day is done, Gone the sun,
From the hills, From the lake,
From the skies. All is well,
Safely rest, God is nigh. . . "

"We are grateful God is nigh because it is only through His providence, mercy and unmerited favor that we made it through this long day and the days that have followed:"

**********************************************************************

WALTER V. LAWRENCE
WAIST GUNNER
WORLD II

NOTES FROM MY POW DIARY

Shot down June 29, 1944 at about 10:00 A.M. (Two B-24's were hit by flak over target Magdeburg, at 21,000 ft. altitude. Our B-24 exploded upon impact by our left wingman at about the top turret). Our ship was already on fire. I landed by parachute SW of Berg near Sherwin, Germany and was captured immediately, taken to Luftwaffe Air Base for the night, the next day placed on a train for Frankfurt and Dulag Left at Wetzlar for interrogation. I was in solitary confinement on the 4th of July, then taken by ambulance to Hohemark hospital around the 6 or 7th of July. I spent 7 days there and was transferred by bus to Obermassfeldt Hospital around the 14th of July.

A group of us left Obermasfelt about Aug. 18 via train. Spent a miserable night in Berlin Marshaling yards (siding) during an English Air Raid on Berlin. Arrived on Aug. 21st at Stalag Left IV and placed in B. Lager, (Compound) at Kiefhide, near Gross Tychow, no Pordboski, Poland. Stalag Luft IV is about 20 Kilometers south of Kolberg on the Baltic sea. The barracks were all full so we were placed in small doghouses built of plywood with dirt floor. The peak was about 5' high and the sides about 4'. They were about 8' wide and probably 16' long. On Sept 28, 1944 we moved to D Lager (Compound) and slept on straw on the floor until Jan. 11, 1944 when we graduated to bunks. Three men wide and 2 bunks high, 26 men in the room.

We evacuated Luft IV, Feb. 6, 1945 on forced march. As we passed through the Vorlager each one received a Red Cross Food Parcel. We walked 21 Kilo's the first day. The longest day was toward the last of the first week out. We started early morning and walked all day until past midnight, some 52 kilometers. There were no barns to be found to get us in out of the rain, sleet and cold, so we were left in an open cleared area with some cut brush available for some little protection from the cold wind. We grouped together as best we could for protection and heat like a herd of cattle. A very cold miserable night, indeed.

Our next Red Cross issue was 1/3 parcels each on the 21st of Feb. I got G.I.'s (diarrhea) at TJ's Barn. Received a full Red Cross Parcel on 6th of March. I am very weak. No medication available. Dr. Caplan told us to eat charcoal to help alleviate the stomach and bowel problems. There was not access to good water or food except what we could scrounge. Most evenings we were furnished some sort of food, in the way of a watery soup, or potatoes, colorabies (turnip like) or sugar beets that looked like white carrots.
I lost weight and some clothes with diarrhea. Missed out on Red Cross Parcel a couple weeks after the last issue. 250 men went with A Lager from C Lager group of which I was one, on the 26th we were put on a train in boxcars (cattle cars with slats for sides) at Ebsdorf on the 28th. We had 2 buckets of water for 60 men in the car and nothing to eat. There was no room to sit, no facilities and it was cold and wet. We finally began moving by early morning and went about 50 Kilo's arriving at the station about noon. We marched another few kilos to Stalag 357 at Fallingbostel arriving there on 29th of March 1945. I found Carl Tepe in the big tent waiting delousing. We had trained together in the states. I was in tent A until 2nd of April, when I went to hospital with rectal bleeding from dysentery or diarrhea. The rest of the Americans including Carl Tepe left Camp again 6th of April.

On 8th of April, I am still very weak. Sweating out Allied Forces! We received the sad news of President Roosevelt's death and that Harry Truman would become the new President. We heard gunfire and activity all around us. At last came the big day when 3 British Tanks rolled in at 11:30 AM April 16, 1945. A sight I will never forget. Guards are now behind the wire. (The following was not in my diary: Soon had some white bread and food furnished by the British, also discovered we could not eat much as stomachs had shrunk. We did not have shower facilities at this point nor clean clothes to ear, if we did, I was too weak to care but very happy. The next few days included being deloused by pumping DDT powder in our, up our sleeves, down our trousers and up our trouser legs and in our socks and shoes while still on us. By the 20th it was moving time and on the 21st we left camp in English Lorries headed for the airport ( I think it was Hanover). The ravages of war were clearly visible through the embattled countryside. Bodies were lying everywhere with helmets placed on bayoneted guns stuck in the soil to identify the bodies. There were fires still burning and the fields showed signs of heavy battles with complete devastation of foliage and buildings.

We were the first group to leave camp probably about 30 of us from the hospital. We were taken to a British C47 and loaded with no parachutes. We assumed we would be going to France according to the pilots, but after we were in the Air a few minutes the question was asked, would you like to go direct to England? I guess they radioed ahead after seeing us and persuaded the authorities to get us to a hospital. We went directly to London, arriving on the afternoon of the 21st of April 1945 and were taken to the American Hospital in Oxford, and back in American hands. It is impossible to put in words my feelings on that day, it was like all the holiday's I had ever experienced all rolled up in one big package, but it did not measure up to the feeling when I actually arrived home the first part of June 1945. I was so grateful that somehow God had seen fit to spare my life and it was unbelievable to be home with family and friends!
 
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