I, Charles C . "Tip" Clark, at the age of
82 years of age, am writing my memoirs as a former P.O.W. in Stalag Luft
One. My P.O.W. # was 7470. I was T/Sgt. in Charles R. Campbell's
crew on B-24 Liberator. Shortly after graduating from high school in
Matthews, Missouri, 1941, at the age of 17, I enrolled in Draughn's
Business College in Memphis, Tennessee, and worked part time at cafes
and shoe stores. Later I got a job at E. I. DUPONT Powder Plant in
Millington, Tennessee. While working there, Pearl Harbor was bombed. Not
long after that I was drafted, and was sworn in at Jefferson Barracks in
St. Louis, Missouri. Very quickly, I found myself on a troop train
heading south. A person in charge came through as we traveled a ways and
informed us that we were in the Air Force. We arrived at our destination
at St. Petersburg, Florida, to start basic training; then, went to
Gulfport, Mississippi, for air-plane mechanic training. When I finished
there, I was given a 17 day delay in route to Las Vegas, Nevada, for
gunnery schooling. I returned home during that time. Finishing gunnery
school gave me a buck sergeant rating.
From there I was sent to Fresno, CA, and then on to Muroc Air Force Base
for overseas training and assigned to a crew of 10 men listed as
|Charles R. "Chuck" Campbell; Ruport, Idaho; Pilot
Jack L. Ward; Los Angeles, California; Co-Pilot
David Davis; Columbus, Ohio (presently in Hollywood, Florida); Navigator
Kenneth Trimmer; Long Island, New York; Bombardier
C. C. "Tip" Clark; New Madrid, MO; Engineer and Gunner
William Devine; Pottsville, Pennsylvania; Radio Operator and Gunner
Vincen Daniels; New York, New York; Waist Gunner
Gilbert Fisher; Bethesda, Maryland; Nose Gunner
Andrew P. Kraynak; Pennsylvania; Ball Turret Gunner
Paul Butler; New York (later Connecticut); Tail Gunner
We were sent to San Francisco to be assigned to an airplane , which we
expected to be sent to the South Pacific. On waiting 30 days our orders
were changed. We boarded a troop train and traveled across the U.S. to
Patrick Henry, Virginia, and left there on Sept. 25,1944, on a French
Merchant Marine ship...arriving at Naples, Italy 14 days later. Our
menu, while on the ship going across, was boiled eggs and beans each
day. We were immediately loaded on a slow train to Foggia, Italy.
Traveling through wine country with orchards so plentiful, sometimes we
would jump off the train and pick some grapes, then jump back on. When
we arrived at Foggia about October 9th, 1944, was assigned our tent and
fed, we then began to get acquainted with our new surroundings. Our
bombing missions began pretty quick. We were never assigned a permanent
plane. It seems that we just got whatever plane that was ready.
Sometimes, we would have to change planes because the one assigned would
be red lined (grounded). I'll never forget our first mission.
We encountered pretty heavy flak (88 mm gunshots fired from the ground),
and when we landed back at Foggia, most of us jumped out and started
counting little places where we were hit. I think there were 57. We
never bothered anymore about looking. After flying 19 missions of which
several were double sorties, we began to get kinda flak happy (nerves).
Our pilot, Chuck, arranged for us to go to the "Isle of Capri" for one
week. It was the most beautiful place I ever did see -- except home!
On our first mission after returning to Foggia, which was our 20th
mission, we got a direct hit on December 11, 1944, over Vienna, Austria.
Our lead plane's controls were shot out and beyond his control, leading
us right back over the target after we had already released our bombs.
At this point the gun batteries on the ground had determined our range.
Being in the top turret, I saw the burst of flak coming. One, two,
three, and the fourth one got us, killing Chuck, our pilot; injuring
Jack, the co-pilot; and injuring the bombardier. No one else was hit.
Our plane was very much out of control. Jack was trying hard to bring it
around. At the same time, he gave me a hand motion to bail out. I got on
the catwalk and looked back; and he motioned me to come back. I got
about halfway back to the cockpit and he motioned me again to jump. I
didn't know that Chuck had been killed at this time. I looked back at
Jack again and he motioned for me to jump, which I did. Jack changed his
mind again and no one else bailed out. He turned on the automatic pilot
and gained control of the plane, which he couldn't do manually. We only
had one engine operating properly. One engine was running away, one was
feathered, and one was on fire. How long it was on fire, I don't know.
How far they flew before they had to jump, while high enough, is just a
guess. They caught up with me about five days later at Dulag Luft in
Frankford, Germany. In the meantime, I was in the dark. I had no idea
what had happened to them.
They informed me that on completion of everyone leaving the plane, it
was set to circle and plunge into the ground. Chuck, our pilot, went
down with the plane. As I said, our plane was hit on Dec. 11th, 1944,
and the 725th squadron was notified that our plane had been hit and the
plane had left formation and lost altitude. Only one parachute was seen
leaving the plane.
My parents were notified on Christmas Eve day that I was missing in
action. A telegram was delivered to my parents' home. My sister, Nadine,
went over to a small town nearby, Kewanee, Missouri, where my dad was
working on the roof of the Methodist Church, to let him know. My mother
had her hands full trying to calm my dad during this time. He took the
news so hard that he was having a lot of trouble handling it. She was
having to be strong for him, even with all her heart ache.
When I landed on the ground, I was greeted by 15 or 20 people I supposed
were slave laborers. They acted extremely nice, and one offered me an
American cigarette; but very shortly, four German soldiers, spread out,
came toward me. The people around me disappeared very quickly. I was
instructed to pick up my chute. We got into a convertible sedan and they
began trying to find out what to do with me. Not understanding German, I
had to guess about a lot of things. They took me to a brick school house
where they had an office. They made several phone calls trying to decide
what to do with me, "heiling" Hitler on the phone.
At sundown, two officers and a soldier ordered me to follow them. One
officer, I assumed, was a doctor. We marched down the street and
approached a high wall with many scars or peck marks, appeared to be
rifle marks; and I thought they were going to execute me. I considered
running, but knew if I did, they would certainly shoot me, so I kept
walking and waiting, expecting them to stop at any time; but we got to a
street corner and turned. I was quite relieved. Finally, they put me
upstairs in a room next to a patrol unit of about 8 or 10 soldiers. I
had a bunk with a little straw in it. They brought me a round loaf of
German bread, and gave me a knife with about a 4" blade to cut my bread
with and a bowl of soup. I only ate 2 or 3 bites. I just didn't have an
appetite. They changed the guards while I had this meal and didn't ask
for the knife back. I hid the knife on the bunk above me, thinking maybe
I might get a chance to escape that night. After considering my
treatment, thus far, I thought maybe they had planted the knife on
purpose to have an excuse to execute me, so I decided to turn the knife
over to the guard. He was quite surprised. I didn't sleep much that
night because he marched up and down beside my bed, clicking his heels
each time he'd turn around. They were always "heiling" Hitler whenever
they met anyone.
The next day, they put me on a 1 1/2 ton truck half loaded with tires
and about 6 soldiers; delivered me to a confinement in Vienna that had
18 American airmen who'd been shot down the same day as I had. They had
very little to do with me at first, thinking I might be a German planted
among them. The next day, being December 13, 1944, we were put on a
flatbed 1 1/2 ton truck, instructed to keep our head down, stay quiet
and still. I understood "why", right away. People along the way would
throw things at us, spit at us and, I assume, saying bad things to us.
Arriving at a train station, our guards had us to get in a corner, and
they kept their backs to us, facing the public to make them leave us
alone. Very soon, we were put on a train into two private rooms with one
guard in each room. We had no water or food; and needless to say, we got
very hungry and thirsty.
Where we went to, I have no idea. When we would get to a town, we
would have to unload, walk across town, load onto another train and
proceed, I think, to an interrogation center. I was put into solitary
and brought out at times for questioning at any time of night or day.
They threatened to stand me in the snow barefoot, turn me over to the
Gestapo or the SS if I didn't cooperate with them and tell them answers
to their questions.
Name, rank, and serial number is all I ever gave, which was by
regulations, all I was supposed to say. The questioning went on for
about two days. Our next stop was Dulag Luft at Frankfurt, Germany,
where all of my crew were reunited, with the exception of Jack and
Trimmer, who were sent to a hospital somewhere for treatment. I was
assigned to a room and upon my entrance, the first person I met was John
Payne of Memphis, Tennessee, (a personal friend I last saw in Memphis
before entering service). We spent the rest of our time together while
in prison, and we still stay in contact.
Dulag Luft in Frankfurt was a pool where prisoners were sent out to
different permanent camps. I had been there 3 or 4 days when someone
said they were gathering up a group to go to an officers' P.O.W. camp;
and that enlisted men could go. It was rumored that they had movies,
swimming pools, etc., which we didn't believe, but my crew figured it
would be better than here; so we signed up to go. Right away, we were
loaded into a prison car so full of P.O.W.'s that we had to stand
closely. I don't remember how many days we were on the trip, but as we
went to Berlin there was an air raid. The guards left us locked in and
they went to the air raid shelters. Thankfully, we were not bombed in
that area. We were so crowded , it was a miserable trip.
Arriving at Barth, Germany, we were ordered off the train and in
formation to march to Stalag Luft 1 near by. We had to march between two
mean dogs nipping at us. That was their introduction, I suppose. I'm not
exactly sure, but I think we were in the North compound. We watched them
train their dogs in the direction of the Baltic Sea. Incidentally, they
said we were only 60 miles from Sweden. There were around 10,000
kriegies (P.O.W.'s) at this camp. My stay at Stalag Luft 1 is pretty
well a story in itself. Colonel F.S. Gabreski and Colonel Hubert Zemke
were our commanding officers, and we thought very highly of them. They
had us organized in a very military manner. We were housed in barracks
with cracks in the floor. Sometimes a guard would crawl under our floor
at night and eavesdrop on us for information. A kriegie would heat some
water and pour it on him. I think you can guess what happened next. We
were always locked in at night. One or two guards with dogs would roam
around the barrack. Our windows were covered. No light was allowed
to shine through. If there was an air raid during the daytime, all
kriegies had to go inside and close all doors. I remember one kriegie
didn't know there was an air raid alarm and ran outside. A guard shot
and killed him. That was really upsetting to all of us.
We had a ration of potatoes and cabbage pretty regularly. We were
supposed to get one Red Cross parcel per person a week. The most I
remember ever getting was one parcel to four kriegies a week. Many times
we didn't receive any. The parcels contained many items: two packs of
cigarettes, one can jelly, D Bar (chocolate bar), powdered milk, salt,
pepper, prunes or raisins, and other items that I can't remember. The
pepper was confiscated because if we escaped we couldn't put pepper in
our tracks to keep the dogs from tracking us. All cans of food were
punctured with a hand axe, so we would not be able to pack an escape
There were details called out every so often to go just outside of
camp to get potatoes and/or coal to be distributed in our compound. Of
course, we would cheat and stuff our jackets with as much as we could.
Our barracks were made of wood with several rooms, with a hallway down
the middle. The bunks were built from wall to wall on one side three
bunks high; and slept 18 men. In a corner, another set, three high,
would sleep 6 men. In the other corner, we had a coal heating stove. In
our room we
elected two kriegies to prepare and distribute whatever food we had. As
you might guess, we watched them very closely to be sure some didn't get
more than others. We felt by preparing it all together, it would go
farther. Our loaves of bread would be brought in, unwrapped, in an open
wagon pulled by one horse. Malnutrition was common with all of us.
When we would first get up, we would black out for a few seconds.
After being locked in, we could go about inside our own barrack from
room to room as we pleased. If and when we would receive a news
bulletin, anyone in your room that didn't live there, had to leave. We
received bulletins from our secret radio often. Two kriegies would come
in and ask if our room was clear. We knew as soon as they came in who
they were, and we would tell anyone who didn't belong, to leave.
They would go to each room and do the same thing; so everyone would
get the news. They would tell us where the American, British, and
Russian fronts were, and how they were advancing, or other news such as
President Roosevelt dieing. At the front of our barrack was a room we
used as our restroom. It was equipped with a container for waste. The
next morning, two kriegies were detailed to carry the containers to a
designated place. These kriegies were called the "Honey Bucket Brigade."
Fortunately, we most always had plenty of soap and water. There were
quite a few paperback books; and we could play ball, box, pitch washers,
play cards; do lots of walking or creative things with what we could
find. We would flatten tin cans and make cooking pans. Some guys would
melt wrappers from food boxes, and pour into a wooden mold in the shape
of wings, etc. One kriegie made a clock out of tin cans and it worked.
There were men from about every professional background you could think
of: doctors, lawyers, ministers, accountants, etc. Men who played poker
and lost would pay off by writing a check. Were they good? Who knows?
Sometimes, a group of guards would storm our quarters, order everyone
out, and do a search: upsetting our beds, dumping boxes, really messing
up everything...trying to find our secret radio, weapons, or anything we
shouldn't have. They would also take whatever they wanted. If you
thought of an escape plan, you were to submit it to our escape
committee. They would decide if it was a good plan and who would be the
best to use it. If you wanted to try to escape, you were supposed to
submit your name, even if you had not submitted a plan. I don't know if
there was ever an attempt while I was there, but I don't think so.
Because it was nearing the end of the war could have been the reason.
Opportunities never cease. Some kriegies opened a business. They
assessed points on almost everything. There were so many points for a D
Bar, powdered milk, pack of cigarettes, a wristwatch, etc. We would
present our product for what they had and make our deal. One day a cat
got into our compound. The chase was quite interesting. The cat lost! I
didn't get any of it. There came times when we desperately needed a
shower. In order to accomplish this we would tell them we had lice. We
would have to gather up all our belongings, march down to a place where
we could put all our clothes in an oven; take a shower, then come out on
the other side, collect our clothes, and return to our quarters.
Sometimes, showers were available on request.
We would march down to the shower, get soaped up, and the guard would
turn off the water. For him to turn the water back on would require that
someone give him a cigarette. If we gave them more than one, they would
demand more the next time.
Some days it was extremely cold. Snow came down with the wind blowing it
crossways. You could depend on it; they would call out "roust" or roll
call. We would be in formation, and the guards could never count
right when it was cold; so we had to stand there in the cold until the
German soldiers sent for a list of everyone...then they could call us
out by name. After this we would be dismissed. On pretty days it was a
common practice for kriegies to pair off and walk around the compound
near the "warning wire", talking of home and everything imaginable until
it was time to go inside and lock up.
Along about April of 1944, news came that the fronts were moving fast.
We were told to dig trenches and prepare ourselves for protection. We
were also told that the Russians would be shooting from one side of the
camp and the Germans would be shooting from the other side. The night
fell and the Germans left about 10 p.m. to avoid capture by the
Russians. When daylight came, we were liberated by two drunk Russians in
a tank. Everyone seemed to know we were being freed. Orders were given
that everyone must stay put and not go outside the compound for fear of
stepping on mines and boobie traps. The two Russians were meeting with
Colonel Zemke, (who could speak Russian fluently), seemed unhappy that
we hadn't torn down the fences; so, the Colonel gave orders to tear them
down. Very shortly, several thousand kriegies were scattered out all
over the place, going into Barth and confiscating everything from milk
cows to motorcycles.
Late that afternoon, they began to come back to their quarters and build
little camp fires and cook things they'd found. A few of us thought it
best for us not go outside the compound until we could find out more of
what was really going on. After two days, Colonel Zemke appointed M.P.s
to get in towers and not allow anyone out. Our camp was on a small
peninsula and M.P.s were placed so no one could leave. About the 4th
day, Paul Butler... my tail gunner, Jim (somebody)...a friend, and I
decided to go out. We found a jon boat; paddled across to another
peninsula; and went into Barth.
We explored the town all day, just looking for anything. Late that
evening, a German with horses and wagon, hauling stray, came by; so we
just hopped on. We were tired. Shortly, a truck, with a cover over the
bed carrying several Russian soldiers passed us and stopped to remove
the wheels from a car that was parked. When they pulled out, we ran and
climbed in the truck with the soldiers. They were nice, and we swapped
some souvenirs. We must have traveled about 5 miles to a crossroad. The
truck turned to the left and after about 2 miles, the truck stopped. An
officer, I presume, got out of the cab, came back to the rear and began
talking to us in Russian. Not being able to communicate with him, we
decided to just get out. They pulled out and left us, and we started
back the way we came.
We noticed a group of about 50 people at a barn cooking something. We
were hungry so we just stopped and joined them. They fed us. Leaving
them, we began to walk and soon another truck passed us and was stopping
along the way to pick
up barrels. We ran and jumped on. A wild guess is that we rode it for
about 30 miles. It was getting dark. We got off the truck at the edge of
some rather large town. There was no one to be seen. It was deathly
quite. We didn't know what to think. A rooster crowed. Finally, we saw
someone a long ways off in front of us and standing in the middle of the
street. We approached him and informed him that we were American
P.O.W.'s and needed a place to sleep. He summoned someone, and he took
about 4 stories to a bedroom. We asked for some food, and it was brought
to us. We noticed that this was their headquarters for that area; and
the town was under curfew. We were lucky we didnít get shot at.
We got up the next morning, went down to the street, and headed in the
direction we thought might be some Americans. Somewhere, we found little
map, which was a big help in showing us the direction to go. I do
believe the Lord was with us. We also found a little book with English
and the equivalent word in German. This was extremely helpful. I wish I
could tell you the route we took, but I can't. We walked; rode buggies,
one plane, a bus or two, and whatever came by. In our walking we would
be in marches with lots of German people moving away from being caught
under Russian rule. We would see a dead horse, and a hunk of meat would
be cut out of him. When we became hungry, we would look for a farmstead
with chickens and cows. There would usually be a man and woman looking
after things. They would claim not to have anything to eat and we would
pound the table and say "essen, yah" (eat, yes). We would start opening
cabinets and drawers and whatever we found...we would demand them to
cook it. Sometimes, they would and sometimes, they wouldn't. We never
One evening, about sundown, we saw a good prospective looking
farmhouse, a little off the road, with some activity. We proceeded
toward the place, and just before we got to it, discovered it was a
Russian headquarters. We were a little puzzled as what to do. Talking
between ourselves, we decided to go on up to the house, identify
ourselves, and ask for some water, then leave. As we approached 3 or 4
soldiers, one was very drunk and said "halt." He pulled out his pistol;
began to lower it toward me; and another soldier near by jumped in and
grabbed him. I think he very likely saved my life. They let him keep his
pistol, but removed the clip and kept it from him. That introduction
being ended, we began to talk with them by means of broken English and
sign language. We were invited to their evening meal. We declined, but
they insisted; so we accepted. Inside their buildings, they had a long
table loaded with lots of food. There was plenty of meat, vegetables,
Of course, there was vodka. We felt it would be unsociable to them if
we didnít accept. We were not to hard to coax into it. They had German
civilians waiting on tables. As soon as we felt comfortable, we
excused ourselves, and told them we were anxious to go home. We found
a house on down the way. No one was home, so we just went in and spent
the night. Somewhere, on down the road, we entered a town, We
found out a bunch was gathering in someone's cellar, having a party, and
drinking up his stock of beverages; sooooo! we were ready to check it
out, since we were enjoying our freedom. Yep, we did it. We got
very "tipsey", which I'm not proud of, today.
Where we slept that night.....I do not remember. At some point, we
managed to be where there was some air traffic. We asked permission to
board, and told them we were trying to get into American occupation. We
were granted permission. Where we landed is beyond my memory; but we
were in American territory. Right after we departed the plane, it took
off. We asked if there was some way we could catch a plane to England.
They said, "Well, if you had stayed on the plane, that's where it's
headed." That was a little disappointing; so, we left there and
proceeded toward the English Channel.
Arriving at the English Channel, we discussed trying to board a ship, and
just go on home. After walking up and down the harbor, we decided that
might not be too good of an idea. We thought we might accidentally get
on a ship that was going to Japan. That idea was abandoned. We wondered
what to do next. We talked to people we met and asked questions, finding
out that all ex-P.O.W.'s were supposed to report to one of the camps
that was being set up for them.
There was Camp Lucky Strike, Camp Camel, etc. We agreed to go to Lucky
Strike about 3 to 5 miles out. As we walked, truck loads from our Stalag
Luft One began passing us. They had been flown in. Arriving at
Lucky Strike, we found much confusion. Someone said there was about
50,000 kriegies there. Spending about 24 hours there, we had a bowl of
soup after standing in a long line. We were supposed to erect our tent;
so instead, we decided to go to Paris.
The guard at the gate said we had to have a pass. We just laughed and
said, "No, no, we're free", and we went on by. Right away, we caught an
18 wheeler all the way to Paris. One rode in the cab, and two of us rode
inside where the refrigeration unit was...in the front of the trailer.
Paris was something else to us. Our eyes became tired from seeing so
much. That means we needed a pay day which was impossible. The Red Cross
was all we could come up with. They said, "Nothing doing." That wasnít
good enough for us. We tried other places and Red Cross finally loaned
us $50.00, which we did pay back later.
Cigarettes were just as good as money, usually better. Pigalle was
another part of Paris that was very familiar to all soldiers: German and
American alike. I don't think I'll say anything more about that.
We enjoyed about a week in Paris, and thoughts of home began to nag at
us. We read in the "Stars and Stripes", where they were asking all
former P.O.W.'s to report to camp, that a ship was waiting to carry us
home. We didn't believe it, but agreed to head back and get in line.
Back at Lucky Strike, we met our buddies from Stalag Luft that flew
back. We met up with Lt. Jack Ward, our co-pilot; and Lt. Kenneth
Trimmer, our bombardier. This was our first time to see them since
bailing out.....a very joyous meeting.
Our wait for a ship wasn't long.....not over a week. We boarded the USS
Admiral H. T. Mayo. Our captain, Roger Heime, USCG, did a magnificent
job of feeding us hospital rations; live entertainment, and putting us
safely across that big Atlantic in 7 days to New York. Immediately, they
transferred us to a troop train that didn't stop until it got to St.
Louis. We had a little briefing and was issued a 60-day recuperation
leave. I got on the Old Greyhound bus early and the next stop was in
front of my home at Matthews, Missouri, Hwy. 61. I was coming home so
fast I was afraid not to call first. Telephones were few and far
between. I called Mr. Al Daugherty about a mile from my home and asked
him to go over and tell my family that I would be home in a few hours.
As I write this, I can't help but cry.
I hadn't heard from home since our plane had been shot down, and didn't
know what to expect. I thank the Lord that everything was just fine. The
Greyhound stopped in front of my home. I got out and made a dash for the
front door. My mom, dad, and sisters: Evelyn, Nadine, and Ramell, were
there to greet me with open arms. My brother, Arlene, was still in
service in Alabama; brothers, Farris and Melvin, were at their home near
Cooter, Missouri. Home and family never looked so good.
As I write this on September 5, 2006, the rest of my crew have passed on
except David Davis and Gil Fisher. I pray this writing of my memoirs
will be accepted in the spirit that I have intended. I did no acts of a
heroic nature. I thank God for seeing me
through, that I might be a witness for Him.