A personal history of 1st Lt. Marvin Laufer -
Serial #0710281 - Kriegsgefangenan #6755
I was born on September 8,1923 in Long Island New York. My parents moved to
the East Bronx early in my life and it was there that I grew up. I attended
P.S.48 in my youth and graduated on time. I then attended Peter Stuyvesant
High School and graduated wish some scholastic honors. While in high school
I was a member of the honors society Arista and studied math and sciences,
as I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I came from a poor family. My
father was a cab driver and my mother worked as a seamstress in the garment
industry. She also worked as a cleaning woman in some private homes. I came
from a rather large family as my mother had two sisters and there were 7
children from the three marriages. My father had 10 or 11 brothers and
sisters who also were married and had many children. I was fairly close to
my cousins and my aunts and uncles as we all lived very close to each other.
During high school I played stickball handball baseball
and football. I then entered City College and was a student until I entered
military service in October of 1942 as an aviation cadet hoping to become an
army pilot. I took my basic training in Atlantic City and was stationed in
the Ritz Carlton Hotel. From Atlantic City I was sent to Geneva College for
ASTP training. While I was at Geneva College I had my preliminary bout with
a Piper Cub. From Geneva it was another long troop train ride to Nashville,
Tennessee for classification.
I qualified for pilot training and was assigned to pilot pre-flight at
Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama and on completion of pre-flight I was
sent to a flying school at Lafayette, Louisiana. After a short while I was
washed out of pilot training and given a choice of applying for navigation
or bombardier school for further training.
I was assigned to Selman Field in Monroe Louisiana. After completing
navigation pre-flight I was assigned to the Pan American School of
Navigation at Dinner Key base in Miami. We were stationed at the University
of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. I graduated on February 11, 1944 and was
commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps.
I was then assigned to Langley Field in Langley
Virginia. I studied the art of using a secret device called radar (radio
detection and ranging) for both navigation and dropping of bombs. After a
couple of months the big day arrived and I was finally going overseas and
Traveling on secret orders we flew a new B-17 overseas to Tunis, Africa by
way of the Azore Islands. Shortly after taking off from Goose Bay, Labrador
we lost our #4 engine to a fire. We were able to extinguish the blaze and
feather the prop. We flew back on 3 engines to Mitchell Field in New York
City I went looking for a date but was not successful. I and ended up with
a blind date who eventually became my wife and we are now married going into
our 57th year.
While in New York I had the run of the city and went to a doubleheader at
the Polo Grounds. During the third inning of the opener the Cardinals had
the bases loaded with one out and Stan Musial at bat, I was paged on the
loudspeaker and told to report to the field for briefing. After kissing my
date goodbye I headed for home to get my gear and proceed to the field with
many cheers from the fans in our area.
I arrived in Tunis and nobody knew we were coming.
After a day or two we flew to Italy landing at the main airport at Foggia.
Again because of our secret orders no one expected us. After many frantic
telephone calls a truck finally picked us up and took me to the 2nd Bomb
Group at Amendola. I flew several missions with both the 2nd BG and the 97
BG. I was finally assigned to the 97th BG, which shared the same field with
the 2nd BG.
My first mission was to fly as Deputy Group Lead to a well-known place
–Ploesti. The Group Lead aircraft blew up on the bomb run and our bird slid
over to take the lead position. I became responsible for aiming the bombs
thru the overcast. With my knees shaking, I was very nervous but able to get
a good bomb run and we did a lot of damage to the primary target.
I then completed more missions. These were to the best
of my memory as follows:
Ploesti still again
Some of the more memorable moments were the invasion of
southern France being awarded the Silver Star and DFC for the Blechhammer
raid for getting rid of four live 1000 pound bombs, which were hung up in
the bomb bay. Standing on a seven inch wide girder in an open bay without a
chute was pretty scary.
During my brief combat tour I ditched in the Mediterranean Sea, crash landed
four times at my home base and bailed out over Italy with my plane on fire.
On one of my missions I had four one thousand pound bombs hang up in the
bomb bay. I remember the arming wires having been pulled free and the tail
fuse fans were spinning off. I stood in an open bomb bay at 30,000 ft
without a chute on a beam that was about 7 inches wide with nothing but open
sky below me and only a small oxygen bottle to keep me going. After kicking
the live bombs out, I suffered from a lack of oxygen until the Radio
Operator broke the oxygen seal and gave me 100% oxygen and I regained my
After the invasion of southern France I was transferred to the 8th
Air Force to a brand new bomb group the 398th. After some
training on the new radar equipment I was sent on a mission to Merseburg,
This raid was a disaster. My squadron was flying in the
high position in the “Nutty Hussy” a B-17G radar ship. We went up to get
over the bad weather and the other two squadrons went down. We decided to go
to the target because our radios were out and the 8th was
recalled because of weather. Almost everything on the bird malfunctioned and
we were in deep stuff. Nine of the twelve ships were shot down by fighters
and the “Nutty Hussy” blew up at 32,000 feet. The squadron was decimated. I
was out cold until I came to at about 5,000 feet. I immediately opened the
I felt the pilot chute pop and then the main chute
opened and I hit the ground. The first thing I remember was an old German
soldier saying, “For you the war is over”. I will never forget that
Thanksgiving day (November 21, 1944) I guess that I could be thankful that I
was still alive but we did not get anything to eat or drink that day except
for a 4 AM breakfast.
My life as a prisoner was not very interesting. I was
kept in solitary confinement for 40 days because my flight jacket had
squadron insignia from both the 8th and 15th Air Forces. During this period
I was interrogated daily and finally released to my final camp, which I
reached on Christmas day. My ID# was 6755 and I ended up in Barth, Germany
and confined in North 3 compound Block 7 Room 5 with 23 other kriegies. The
room had one other bridge player Don Bennett and both of us taught the other
22 how to play the game. There were always 4 or 5 games always going on.
We froze during the coldest winter on record and were hungry for our entire
confinement. My weight dropped from 155 lbs. to slightly under 100. I guess
that I forced all of my memories during this period into limbo until 1997
when I attended a 398th reunion in San Diego, CA. I did not know it but my
bombardier and navigator were there. I had lost touch since 1945 and we all
cried when we were together. We were in the same room at Barth.
On the trip home from the POW camp I survived on candy
bars because the chow was horrible. On arriving in the USA we were
quarantined for 30 days at Camp Patrick Henry. I dug a little hole under the
fence and headed for Langley Field where I got a flight to New York City and
spent my quarantine on Broadway. Went back to Patrick Henry walked in the
front gate and nothing happened during my AWOL trip.
We were sent to Atlantic City after a
leave for R&R. Betty and I got married and spent our honeymoon in Atlantic
City at the Ritz Carleton Hotel. We had a ball. I was sent home on leave for
a month and then reported to Fort Dix in Trenton NJ for separation from
service. I went back to CCNY as finance major and graduated in February of