World War II prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft I



 

World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I 

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Lt. Randy Anderson - 8th Air Force Navigator during World War II Lt. Randy Anderson
Navigator - 398th Bomb Group - 600 Bomb Squadron

Stalag Luft I - North 3 Compound
Barracks 6, Room 6

Kriegie #6894
 

 

Click here to e-mail Randy

 

Randy Anderson was one of the navigators on our father's plane when it was shot down on November 26, 1944.  He had not known our father prior to that morning, but kindly offered to share his  experiences and memory of  their final flight on November 26, 1944 with us.  In addition he provided us with the technical details of the flight  found in the MACR (missing air crew report).  He also shared with us his experience of being captured and subsequent trip to the prisoner of war camp at Stalag Luft One.  The letter we received from him begins below:

 

Thank you for your kind letter of Aug. 9th requesting information about your late Dadís wartime experiences, especially that last life-changing flight of Nov.. 26th, 1944. (My 26th mission). Iím sorry to say that I didnít know your father very well - I only met him the morning of Nov. 26, 1944, and only briefly at that. In fact, I didnít know any of the crew that day with the exception of Capt. Gene Douglas, who was the commander of all aircraft from our 398th Bomb Group (flying in the right hand seat or co-pilotís seat as leader of the group (36 ships) that day and Capt. Harry Nelson, lead Navigator for the flight. Both were close buddies as well as Nissen hut mates of mine. Iíll try, as best I can from the best of memory of nearly 55 years ago, to put the details of the days mission in some sort of narrative form.

THE MISSION

Date of mission 26 Nov. 1944

Target assigned Misburg, Germany (Just beyond Hannover, I believe)

Target attacked Misburg, Germany (I believe it was an oil refinery)

Units Participating 37 aircraft (including 2 PFF  radar equipped lead A/C) formed the 1st "C" group of the CHG

A/C Returned early - One A/C # 42-97338

A/C Lost - A/C #97740 (our ship), and 42-102565, 43-37846

Mission #110 commenced with lead aircraft (Zimmer/Douglas) taking off successfully at 08:22 hrs and departing for the Debden Buncher (a radio beacon), around which the lead aircraft was to fly a rectangular pattern while each successive formed or latched on it. The last aircraft took off at 08:50. When the assembly was completed (09:44 hours) all A/C were in correct position in the formation i.e.. 600th squadron as lead squadron, 601st Squadron in the high position, and 602 Sq. in the low position. Entire assembly was as briefed and was considered good. Departed Debden on time and headed for Glaston (on English coast) to effect the 1st. Division Assembly.

The 1st Division (one of the 3 Divisions forming the 8th Air Force Heavy Bomber Force) was composed of 3 or more Combat Wings, each wing composed of 3 or more groups, thus the official designation of our 398th Bomb Group was - 398th Bomb Group, 1st Combat Wing, 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force. The 8th Air Force had as many as 38 to 40 Bomb Groups each consisting of usually 4 squadrons with each squadron having up to 18 combat crews (12 of which flew at any one time) unless the mission called for Maximum Effort, when all 4 squadrons instead of the usual 3 actually flew. The squad that rested was considered "Stood Down".

Back to the Division Assembly, 1st Division assembly was effected with only minor difficulty at 10:04 hrs and the Strike Force (1st. Div.) left the English coast shortly thereafter, about 2 minutes early. Had to "S" (zig-zag the Division) to kill a couple of minutes to effect proper position in the total strike force. Reached enemy coast at 10:55 hrs on time and on course. All other check points reached on time and on course.

As the group left the I.P. (Initial Point) and started on the Bomb Run we were at, 700 feet altitude on a Magnetic Compass leading of 250 degrees. The indicated air speed was 160 MPH and the air temp. was approx. - 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderate flak started coming up toward us. Very soon the moderate flak (anti-aircraft fire) became moderately heavy flak, tracking flak. The enemy gunners had their sights on us! About 20 seconds before "Bombs Away" we took our first near direct hit which took out #2 engine and damaged #1.

The shrapnel spray sent some jagged pieces of hot metal over the navigators head. Ten seconds later we took a hit on the left wing, destroying the control surfaces (aileron) and finishing off #1 engine. Almost simultaneously another hit blew out the pilots windshield, destroying many of the flight instruments and the super charger one of the right side engines. There was no panic - we just calmly went ahead and completed the bomb run as best we could - with 1 and 1/2 engines operating. (There was no time to hand the flight over to the deputy leader).

Immediately after the signal indicating "Bombs Away" we made a sharp diving turn to the left to get out of the way of the rest of the formation - with limited engine power there was no way to maintain altitude and air speed and to avoid a catastrophe it was the prudent thing to do. Armed with a new compass heading, we headed toward the nearest Allied front lines. Less than about 5 minutes later, I think every member of our crew realized it was not to be - we would not be sleeping in Nuthampstead, England, but would be Adolph Hitlerís guest instead.

We had done all we could - we had jettisoned everything we could, including our guns and map cases to lighten the ship, yet we were still losing altitude fast and now the wing was shaking rather badly. We were in the Minden, Germany area when the "Bail Out" bell was sounded. The time was approximately 12:55 hours, less than 10 to 15 minutes after we had dropped our bombs (12:24 hours).

Life as a Kreigsgefanger (P.O.W)

The Home Guard (old men, farmers and others unfit to serve in the Wehrmacht) quickly picked us up after the usual greetings of "American Gangsters", and the obligatory "For you die Var ist over."

Luftwaffe guards were summoned from a small base not far distanced. We were all in pretty good shape other than a sprained ankle or two and bruises and cuts suffered in rough landing. The guards were a welcome sight since we knew weíd be protected from any very angry citizens weíd encounter as we were marched (in our bulky flying boots and carrying our bulky, unfolded parachutes) about 10 to 15 kilometers to a guard house of the Luftwaffe base in Detmold. Stayed there overnight, tried to catch a little sleep, but the all wood beds and elevated pillow (wood too) wasnít conducive to much rest. No talking between prisoners was allowed during the march or train rides - only when we were in a permanent POW camp. One of the guards brought us a semblance of a meal (rutabagas and a piece of black, heavy bread which tasted as if it were half sawdust) along with water.

Next day we were on train to Frankfurt (it took 28 hours) to a large interrogation center. While being marched from the train station we came upon an unpleasant sight - three GIís strung up, hanging from a telephone pole. The guard muttered "civilians" (did it). We kept our eyes straight ahead and pointed to the ground after that. The stay at the interrogation center was usually 4 - 7 days and consisted of solitary confinement in a cell with only a bed and straw mattress for furnishings, and the routine was one or sometimes two interrogations per day and 2 or 3 meals(?) per day. Morning meal was some weak ersatz coffee and black bread - sometimes with a thin film of ersatz (imitation) jelly or jam. In the late afternoon we sometimes got a cup of thin, watery soup with cabbage leaf or two in it, a piece of black bread and coffee. On occasion we might get a mashed rutabagas, usually very dirty or rotten. The interrogators had book, chapter and verse on us - in fact they knew more about us than we ourselves knew. Then there was the harassment. The electric heater would be on so high at night that, even with your clothes all stripped off, youíd be sweating. Next minute the heat would be off and with every piece of clothing on plus your one blanked wrapped around youíd be freezing.

All of the crew was sent on to permanent camps within a week or less, with the exception me. (I found out later.) I had the misfortune of being kept in solitary until December 24th afternoon. They thought I knew something they were very interested in. I didnít!! To keep my sanity during that month, I ripped some of the thin copper wire from my heated flying jacket, broke it into uniform lengths and Iíd weave squares from them. Then Iíd break the squares apart and do it over again and again. Upon being sent to the (Dec. 24th) other part of the center run by the Americans but under German controls, where I was given a good meal, allowed to shower and shave (how good it felt), I found out they needed a baritone for a quartet to sing for the Christmas Day service. I volunteered and being the only volunteer I got the job. (along with a complete change of clothes - and I certainly did need it).

That kept me in the center until Dec. 27th when, along with four other Americans, we boarded a train for a scary trip (very angry German civilians) to Stalag Luft #1 - basically a permanent POW camp for American and British officers) at Barth, arriving on Jan. 1st or 2nd, 1945, where I found I was to be in the same large room with Capt. Douglas, Capt. Nelson and Lt. Kottke, and 20 other American officers. Room was 16íX24í.

Hereís where I got a big surprise from your letter of Aug. 9, 1999. For the last 54 years I had absolutely no idea that your father was at the same POW camp. I wonder if others of the crew were also in Luft #1. Please let me know of any that were. I do know that Lt. Kuptsow and Lt. Zimmer (being Jewish I believe) were segregated from the others when they arrived at Luft #1. Itís interesting to note that your father, Dick, had POW #6869, while mine was 6894 and Harry Nelsonís was 6617. Did Dick ever mention when he arrived at Luft #1? What Compound, Block # and Room # ?

Iíll not go into details concerning life at Luft #1, Dick, probably told you of the cold, lack of food, lice and boredom.

The section under the title "The Mission" is partly from the Missing Air Craft Crew Report residing in the National Archives of the U.S. and partly from the other records. It is quite detailed and reports the fact that three air craft from the 398th Bomb Group were shot down by flak Nov. 26th and that the Deputy Leader was also badly damaged, had to leave the formation, but was able to make it back to the base. The details are pretty factual.

The section under "Life as POW" was mostly from my memory and the memory of other crew members over time. As such, the details might be a mite fuzzy and possibly open to debate.

 

"The Mighty 8th was never turned back by the enemy, regardless of the terrible losses. In fact the 8th suffered the highest losses in men killed in action and POW of any numbered outfit or unit during World War II - higher losses by a factor of nearly two - approx. 29,000 KIA and 29,000 POW.  I am proud and honored to have been a member of the Mighty 8th and I am sure your Dad was too."   

 

2nd Lt. Erle Ford's crew.  Rapid City, South Dakota.
Ellsworth Air Force Base. March 1944. Operational Training Unit.

Randy Anderson's old crew

Back Row ( L to R):  E. Ford (Pilot), D. Skjod (Co-Pilot), R. Anderson (Navigator), M Gerloff (Bombardier).

Front Row (L to R): M. Paxton (Tail Gunner - Killed in action), C. Maloney (Waist Gunner), W. McMillin (Radio Operator), C. Derdarian ( Ball Turret Gunner), R. Goran (Waist Gunner), D. Butts (Engineer).
 
Randy Anderson Dulag Luft ID card from World War II   Back side of Dulag Luft POW ID card POW Identification card
Randy Anderson Dulag Luft POW ID photos Randy Anderson's Dulag Luft ID photos

Randy Anderson at Nuthampstead during World War II

Just Relaxing! 1st Lt. Randy Anderson enjoys a smoke outside his luxurious palatial summer home in Nuthampstead, England - Sept. 1944. Well maybe it was a Quonset hut, but it felt like home at the time.
Randy and Lorna Anderson -  1945 Randy and Lorna Anderson - 1999
Randy and Lorna Anderson - August 1945 Lorna and Randy Anderson - 1999
Randy Anderson in London - Summer 1944
Randy Anderson in London in the summer of 1944. Lorna and Randy Anderson around 1945.
Three Anderson Roommates - World War II

The Three Andersons. (L to R)  Charles Anderson (Bombardier of Jim Bestervelt's crew, Keith Anderson  (former Co-Pilot of Gene Douglas crew) and Randy Anderson (navigator).   Although not related they are good friends and were Nissen hutmates  in England.  Randy states it was quite a coincidence to have 1/4 of the men  in the hut (12 to a hut) named Anderson!

 

 

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This site created and maintained by Mary Smith and Barbara Freer, daughters of Dick Williams, Jr.