World War II prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft I


World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I 

A collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I


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If at First You Don't Succeed ...

By  Lt. Eugene L. Senfield -  North 1 Compound

Shot down 2/22/44  - 97th BG   341st BS

LT.  Milton H. CISCOE, Pilot  - KIA

LT.  Eugene L. SENFIELD, Co-Pilot

LT.  Robert S. TAYLOR, Navigator

LT.  Milton C. STANEK, Bombardier

T/SGT. Sam MOORE, Engineer

S/SGT.  George T. WATERS, Ass't Engineer

T/SGT.  Tom B. FOOTE, Radio - KIA

S/SGT.  John S. LABUDA, Ass't Radio  - KIA

S/SGT.  F. J. McCAFFERY, Gunner

S/SGT.  Richard L. MAJOR, Gunner - KIA

REGENSBURG, GERMANY, was a nemesis to us. Four consecutive mornings we were briefed for it, and each morning we left for the briefing room with a chill inside us. Regensburg was a tough nut to crack. The first two times the mission was cancelled; the third was begun, but weather necessitated our return. The fourth was it, and I oft times wish it, too, had been cancelled.

We had a circular route, flying from our B-17 Base in Italy via Jugoslavia, Croatia, and northern Italy to the aircraft plant at Regensburg. No flak or fighters were seen along our route, but, man, was it cold at 24,000 feet! The thermometer read 45 degrees below, and ice completely covered the plexiglas nose. Poor Taylor had an awful time navigating, for he could barely see the ground because of the ice and the heavy undercast. This was Tuesday, February 22, 1944, a day I'll never forget!

In addition to our regular crew of ten men, there was a cameraman aboard. Because of a malfunction of his camera, he went forward to act as nose gunner.

We flew along with the 30Ist Bomb Group (we were in the 97th) in a double-Group formation, but as we approached our target a complete undercast made the 301st decide to take on the secondary target. However, our Group Leader chose to bomb on his navigator's estimated time of arrival.

Heavy flak hit us over the target, and a brief break in the undercast gave us a look at our target; it was destroyed. Perfect bombing! As the flak burst around us we involuntarily dodged, and butterflies jumping up and down in my stomach had a heyday. Anyone who doesn't feel fear during a heavy barrage is too busy, void of emotion, or a cockeyed liar.

One of our left engines was hit, signaling us by the oil pressure gauge, and then by violent vibration. Before Ciscoe could feather the prop, the cowling came off, followed by vari­ous parts of the propeller assembly. Expecting the wing or the engine to leave the ship made me sweat. To make the situation complete, we started dropping back. Ciscoe couldn't feather the prop and its windmilling slowed us down. We then saw the fifteen enemy fighters (twin- and single-engined Messerschmitts) below-and coming up. Our other left engine went out just before the attack; with two engines inoperative we rapidly dropped back.

Two passes were made by fighters on the 301st as they pulled up to rejoin our outfit. We tried to join the 301st, but it was no go. When the fighters saw us, crippled and losing altitude, they came at us. The first attack was from our left, at the nose of our plane. To quote Lt. Taylor's story: "I had Stanek and the cameraman working frantically with three tri­angles [celluloid navigation instruments] trying to scrape ice off the windows. When fighters were called off by our gunners we didn't see them. The first thing I knew, the cameraman grabbed his face and dropped. I thought he was gone, and all I'd heard was a whine by my left ear. Stanek and I tried to help him, but it was then that we went into the spin. I've never been so scared in all my life. We were stuck, literally glued to the floor by centrifugal force, and I couldn't even move my fingers.  What a horrible feeling! I can promise you I left that ship in nothing flat when it momentarily came out of the spin at 16,000 feet. All three of us made it; the cameraman had been spattered with shell fragments and suffered only minor injuries."

Continuous attacks were being made on our tail, and a steady stream of tracers and 20-mm. shells made their way up to our compartment. Sgt. LaBuda, a steady veteran of twenty-two missions, began to call over the interphone, "Fighters at 0600!" in a strange, screaming yell. We could only conclude one thing: his guns had jammed! This tail attack cost us Sgts. Major, Foote, and LaBuda; the last was killed when our tail assembly broke off. The ship's controls refused to function, and our plane fell off to the right in a spin.

I shall never, to my dying day, forget those seconds. The only part of me that functioned was my heart; it beat in my ears in a terrific wail. The screaming of the plane as it wound up was like nothing earthly; no man-made noise could ever equal that sound. My every nerve was frozen and I couldn't even swallow. I was unable to break the spin. Ciscoe had pulled the bail-out alarm, but it did me no good at all. I figured, "This is it!" but with no comforting reaction.

At 16,000 we suddenly came out of the spin. The bomb bay doors were stuck, and the engineer led me in a spurt for the navigator's escape hatch; Lt. Ciscoe was behind us. As we hit the catwalk we saw Taylor, Stanek, and the cameraman leave the plane. Then the ship went off again into another spin! It was like a thing gone mad; we didn't know what it would do next-or when. Again that whining, screaming, pounding and the inability of my body to function. What a sensation!

At 10,000 the ship righted and started a long climb. The engineer and I were out in a very few seconds, but Ciscoe didn't make it. The plane, after another spin, crashed a few seconds later.

Upon landing I suffered a broken ankle, but even at that, old terra firma felt good. German home guards met us; and we learned the fate of the rest of the crew.


From ”Behind Barbed Wire” by Morris J. Roy



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