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by Sebastian L. Vogel
the assistance of the French underground, and his eventual return to England.
Copyright © Vogel Family, all rights reserved, used by permission.
I am writing this for those of you that would like to share with me a few months of my life a very long time ago. DAD.
After checking them out we flew to Gander, Newfoundland. When we left Gander we flew to Prestwick, Scotland. After arriving in the British Islands we were sent to Molesworth up in the Midlands of England. We arrived at our English base in late September of 1942. By October we were flying raids on occupied France, where the Krauts had their submarine bases, St. Nazaire, Brest, and Lorient.
On January 23, 1943 we were called to make a raid on the Base at Lorient. Submarine Pens. After the briefing we were told that we would have to take another airplane because our ship was having supercharger problems. This was a bad omen to start with, I guess we didn't put much stock in omens anyway, but it was a little upsetting having to move our gear to another plane in a hurry. We took off just a little after daylight and headed for Lands End, the southwestern most part of England where we were to rendezvous with several other squadrons of B17s. After the rendezvous we headed for Lorient, France. We were carrying two 2000 pound armor piercing bombs. The sky was overcast but I could see the ocean now and then. When we were on a raid we would receive a message from Wing Headquarters, the station was called PG3. They broadcast a message on the hour and on the half hour. It was my responsibility to receive the message and decode it and copy it into the ship's log. Just as I sat down to copy the message for the fifth time I heard the Kraut flack burst and then they were coming pretty fast. I looked out both sides and I could see the black puffs of smoke from the shell explosions. Now it was time take position behind the top hatch gun. It was terribly cold up there that day, actually it was 70 degrees below zero. In order to put the top hatch gun in firing position I had to take the top hatch cover off. I turned the current up on my electric suit because I had to stand under the open hatch to fire the gun. The wind would blow right down on me in that position.
Now we were in Kraut territory so we had to keep watch for the Kraut fighters which would dive on us from out of the cloud cover.
As we neared the target at Lorient the flack was getting thicker, in fact as I looked out to the rear through the top hatch it looked like you could walk on it. At that time I saw one of our B17s go down. I still remember the sick feeling as It watched her go down because I did not see any of the crew bail out. Then I saw a Falkwolf (Kraut Fighter) blow up and saw the pilot bail out and disappear below. Every gun on the. ship was firing at fighters, they were all over us like flies. The side gunner and I were both firing at one fighter coming in on us at nine o'clock high, as we were firing I could see his wings smoke which meant he was also firing his guns, but apparently not at us. I could see our tracer bullets bouncing off the cowling of his engine. We must have damaged his ship because the last I saw of him his ship was disintegrating. Shortly after that encounter I heard a loud thump on the side of our ship, then I heard the pilot feather the prop on one of the engines. As I looked out to rear of the ship through the top hatch, I could see that the vertical stabilizer (the big fin that sticks up on the back of the tail of the ship) was gone. Then the ship stated to climb, it kept on climbing, the engines roared as it climbed then it stalled out and went into a dive. I started for the bomb bay where I was to bail out. Just as I opened the door to the bomb bay to go out on to the cat walk the extra gunner fell on me. I did not know if he had been shot. I was so concerned with getting out myself I did not try to be the hero and see if I could get him out or at least see if he had been wounded. It has bothered me over the years when I think of it that I should have tried to help him get out with me. I maybe could have saved his life if he were still alive when he fell. He went down with the ship. That's what I thought.
We did the bombing at 27000 feet, which was high enough so that we needed oxygen to exist. When I went to the bomb bay I should have taken the emergency oxygen bottle, which was strapped on my leg, and opened it and put the tube in my mouth, but I forgot. When I got into the bomb bay I was having difficulty moving because of lack of oxygen. When I finally got on the bomb bay catwalk the crew chief had just come down out of the upper turret and was pulling the release on the bomb bay doors. The doors opened up when he pulled the release, but blew back shut. As I was trying to pry the doors open I looked up and saw the copilot come down off the flight deck and go out through the front trap door. A few seconds latter the skipper came down off the flight deck and went out the same way as the copilot. I knew then that it was up to us to get ourselves out of the ship. I was getting weaker form lack of oxygen, so I was having trouble just moving. As I recall I thought I was going to go down with the ship. I thought that I had it.
A strange feeling of peace came over me and the thought that it was not going to be so bad after all. I figured I wouldn't feel anything when we hit the ground. My thoughts wandered to back home. It bothered me that Kathie would probably feel bad and Mother and Dad and the rest would hear that I didn't make it and it would be like a funeral around home. Then the crew chief remembered how to release the doors from the mechanical screws that powered the doors open when the bombardier was ready to drop the bombs. As he pulled this release mechanism the doors dropped open. As soon as the doors dropped open he went out. All I can remember about getting out was the wind hitting me in the face and I could see that I was hanging out of the ship and my foot was caught in the door. The next thing I recall is that I was hanging in mid air, the ship was making a hell of a noise and heading for the ground. I knew that I had to pull the rip chord to get the chute open but I couldn't get my hand on the ring. My parachute harness was pulled around off to one side. Kathleen and sister Roseann came to visit me while I was stationed in Battle Creek. We had a lot of fun when I could get away from the base. Their visit was great. After they left I had to go back to the base and get ready to leave with the squadron. While I was packing my gear I found one of Kathleen's white handkerchiefs in my blouse pocket. ‘Blouse" is what they called the uniform coat that went with the class A uniform. Evidently she gave it to me to put in my pocket one evening while we were at a dance. I was going to send it to her in a letter but I guess I thought why not keep it. One day when I was getting ready to go on a flight I tied the handkerchief to the ring on the parachute. Now back to where I was trying to find the rip chord ring with my harness pulled around so that the rip chord ring was actually almost around in back. When I tried to cram my neck around to see where the ring was I saw the white handkerchief I grabbed it. I pulled it so hard that I ripped it clear out and I could see it flying off in the distance with the ring. My chute opened with a big bang like popping a paper back full of wind. At first I was swinging back and forth making a big arc. As I was swinging I could see our ship heading for the ground and it looked like it was about to hit. I didn't see it hit the ground because I looked the other way. I knew some of the crew were still in it. Just as the ship crashed into the ground a Kraut fighter came so close to me I could smell the exhaust from the engine. He didn't bother me but he came in on the skipper (Robey) whom I could make out quite a ways below me. The Kraut fired a burst into the Skipper's chute then disappeared. As I remember the ride down in the chute it was fascinating even though I was very scared and worried about the fighter. By this time I was down where it was much warmer and everything was quiet except for the wind whistling through the chute shroud line. When I got down to a few hundred feet from the ground the ground seemed to be coming up to me at a pretty fast rate. When I got to tree top height the earth seemed to come up and hit me.
Châteaulin, Finistère, France area
When I hit I flexed my knees to reduce the impact as much as possible. My left leg was damaged in the ship before I got out. I tried to land as much as I could on my right leg but I still managed to break a bone in the mortise of my ankle. I landed in a small plowed field with a thick hedge around it on all sides. No one was near me in this field but I could see a crowd heading for the field across the hedge. I could also see that a parachute was being collapsed in the field across the hedge from where I came down. When I managed to crawl through the hedge over to that field I recognized the guy that just landed, it was the crew chief. He landed just a few minutes before me. The ladies were all taking turns hugging and kissing him as he was pulling in his chute. He was pale as a ghost and air sick, the swinging in the chute when it popped open as he pulled the ripe chord got to him. He looked at me and said, "where are we in Ireland?" I have no idea why he thought we were in Ireland. Three Frenchmen began to help me replace my flying clothes with some of their civilian clothes. This was done to make it easier for them to help hide me if the Krauts happened to show up on the scene. We suspected that they knew where we landed and would soon show up around there. Fortunately for us the Krauts did not show up, but we got out of the area as soon as we could.
It appeared to me that we were about 10 kilometers northeast of the city of Brest. One of the Frenchmen who seemed to be sort of a head man got rid of the people who had come over to look at us. We then walked for about a mile, my leg was getting worse and beginning to swell in the old boot that one of the guys had given me earlier. We stopped at a barn house unit that seemed to be vacant. We went into the barn part and I laid down on some straw in one of the horse stalls. It was beginning to get dark and I dozed off. When I woke up there were three of us in the stall, the crew chief, the copilot and myself. The copilot came down in the same general area as we did but we did not see him, he was about a mile from us. Some of the natives told him about us so they loaded him on a horse and brought him over to the barn where we were. His leg was in bad shape and he could not walk. We found out later that he had a twisted cartilage in his knee. About an hour later we heard a knock at the door, naturally we thought it was the Krauts who would have had us dead to rights, we had no weapons. The crew chief finally opened the door at first all we could see was a horses head then we saw that there was a man on the horse which we soon recognized as our ball turret machine gunner. I was really glad to see him because I was sure that he had gone down with the ship. I did not see him come up from the ball turret when I was trying to get out of the ship. Now there were four of us in the barn.
A little later a Frenchman came back to the barn and indicated to us that they had found one our fellows and that they had laid him out on a slab in the small funeral parlor near the local church. He conveyed the idea that he wanted one of us to come over there and see him and identify him. The crew chief and the ball turret man went with the Frenchman. They saw that it was our skipper he had a bullet enter his temple and come out at the lower part of his neck. We judged from this that he must have been killed instantly. When I was coming down in my parachute the skipper was not very far away from me when the Kraut fighter came by me, then fired a few rounds at the skipper, which apparently got him in his chute before he ever hit the ground. The next morning the French people gave him a funeral mass and buried him near the church. They kept his wedding ring and watch which they said they would send to his family after the war if possible. The skipper's name was Robey. His home was near Salt Lake City, so I guess he was a Mormon. I am sure the Catholic funeral was ok anyway.
After the guys came back from funeral we talked for a while trying to put the whole thing back together from the time we got hit until we ended up in this horse barn house thing. A few of the French people mostly women and girls had come by to see us and look us over. I am sure we were quite a novelty in this community and no doubt everybody knew about us coming down there. None. of the folks could speak English but they all shook hands with us.
I finally went to sleep, cold as I was I suppose I was so bushed. My bum leg seemed to be getting worse. So I did have some difficulty getting to sleep. I woke up about daylight the next morning. At that time a lady and a man came in with some coffee and some of their great bread. Real homemade wheat bread. They didn't slice the bread they just broke off chunks and put some butter on it and dipped it into the coffee. When it was light enough so I could see fairly good I rolled up my pants leg and looked at my leg. It looked like a big stick of summer sausage. The woman came over and looked at my leg, she seemed to be some sort of practical nurse. She had a plate with something that looked like butter on it. She spent about an half hour rubbing my leg with this butter like stuff and tried to tell me that my ankle bone was cracked, by using a stick to demonstrate.
On the second day a man who was somewhat better dressed than the average native came in and looked at my leg. I believe he was. a real doctor. He wrapped my ankle and foot with a long stretch bandage which held my foot and ankle rigid. I got the notion from him that my leg was not as bad as I thought it was. Although I was much relieved about the seriousness of my injury, I still had much difficulty walking on it.
On the third day a man came in and told us that two strangers were seen in the little village asking the youngsters if they had seen any American soldiers around there. This fellow could manage some English and sort of conveyed the idea that it might not be too safe to hang around there too long. We looked at the map for a while and somebody came up with the idea that we could go to Châteaulin and get a boat and try to get back across the channel. We knew that we had to leave as soon as possible, the Krauts were asking too many questions of the natives, especially the kids. Our copilot was in no condition to be moved very far, he could not walk without a great deal of help. His name was McDermott his home was Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was not part of our regular crew. Burma, our regular copilot, was grounded when we took off on this raid because a throat infection. The crew chief, the ball turret gunner and I were going to try for Châteaulin. The Frenchmen were going to try to get Mac into a local hospital. I walked a little ways with the guys, but it didn't take long to figure out that I was not going to make it, the bum leg wouldn't hold out. The guys tried to help me walk and insisted that I go along with them but I decided it was no use. My leg couldn't take it even with their help. They left without me after much discussion. Now I was alone and began to feel it. It was very cold and getting dark, but I managed to head back to the barn on my own, taking it very slow. Before I got near the barn, it was almost dark and I could see several people with lanterns and flashlights walking around the small farmstead at the house barn we had just left.
I thought they might be Krauts so I headed for the hedge row. These hedges seemed to be hundreds of years old and spread out quite wide. I had not gone too far until my leg gave out so I crawled under the hedge hoping that if the Krauts were looking for me they might not find me because I was pretty well covered up by the top of the hedge which was sort of like an umbrella. My heart was pounding so hard I figured the if these were Krauts and anywhere near they could hear it. I was beginning to feel a chill coming on, I still had my electric flying suit on under my French civilian clothes. of course there was no place to plug it in, but it was like a very heavy underwear union suit and it helped a lot even without electricity. I laid under the hedge for maybe an hour, my old pump was beginning to settle down, but I was getting the shivers. Then I heard a noise which seemed to be someone crawling along the hedge row behind me. It was getting close and I was sure it must be a Kraut. Then I heard a female voice she spoke the words that sounded like "Mon Cheiri." She came along side of me she had a thermos bottle in her hand. It was filled with wine that had been heated. She gave me a couple of cups of it which I drank. This hot wine took the shivers away, boy how I needed that! She said a word or two which sounded like "soldier" and something else she gave me a kiss (the usual French routine on one side then the other) and left. It was so dark I really never saw her face very clear, I know she was quite young and I like to think she was pretty. I have relived this tender moment many times. I was so cold and so scared and she helped me. What a gal!
Sometime before daylight I managed to get back to the barn. Mac was still there with a Frenchman. Mac could speak a little of the French language, he had studied a couple of years of French in high school. The next morning a fellow came by the barn with a couple of horses. Mac and I climbed on the horses and the Frenchman lead the horses down the road. We came to the town of Pleyben in Finistère. I have no idea how far we rode these horses, but we were on them for more than an hour. This was the kind of a town where a lot of farmers lived. They lived in the town and walked out to their farms to do their work. There was no main street like you would find in a North Dakota town, just a street and houses. We stopped at a small house with a slate roof owned by Madam and Monsieur Bernard Gilberte. They were an elderly couple. The man was a slim little man with a moustache, his wife was very pleasant looking and rather heavy. She seemed to be handicapped. She had a brace on one of her legs. She spoke some English words along with her French. It was almost dark again we sat by their fireplace and talked. The lady tried to tell me about when she was a young girl during WW1, she met an American officer. I don't really know what she was telling me, but Bernard was shooting some pretty heavy glances at her while she was telling me about it.
They had a fairly large chicken tied up by one foot in their entrance shed. They said we could stay up in their attic. They helped us up through the hatch into the attic. There were no windows up there, but there was a piece of glass laid in with the slate shingles so light came in and we could see down on the street. They had stored some potatoes up there and quite a lot of hedge clippings which they used for fire wood in the fireplace. Bernard would come up and bring some bread and some coffee for us.
Whenever the chicken laid and egg they cooked it and brought it up to us. The days up in the attic were long and very boring. The first night we stayed with the Gilbertes we could hear the English bombing the sea port on the French coast about 5 miles away. We knew there was a raid on because we could hear the Kraut anti-aircraft guns before we could hear the engines on the planes. During the days I spent a lot of time looking out through glass onto the street below. Once in a while I would see the Krauts moving troops and equipment along the road.
A young lady from the town came up to see us on the third day. She was a nice looking blonde lady who lived in Pleyben. Her husband had been taken by the Krauts and put in a labor camp. The first day that she came up she brought a small steak, sort of Au jus, so to speak. This was the first real food, meat that is, that we had since we landed. They were all very good about giving us bread and plenty of wine, but I am sure they were very short on food for themselves. Marie, the girl that I just referred to, came to visit us several times. She had an English to French dictionary, which we used to communicate with. We would spend an hour or so talking in this manner with her when she came to visit us. It was always good to see her, she helped pass time. One day we were approached by a farmer from a few miles inland who supposedly had several acres of land and most of the labor was used up by the Krauts so he wanted us to come and stay with him until after the war and help him run the farm. He said it would be impossible for us to get back to England anyway. Neither Mac nor I were in any position to do anything but try to get healed up so we could at least walk. Mac's leg was not improving. On mine, the swelling and the sausage color had gone away and I could hobble around on it enough to get down by the fireplace with Bernard and his wife. As little as we could talk to each other we still became good friends. I am sure that if the Krauts would have caught us in their house they would have gave them the firing squad. This didn't seem to bother them. At least they didn't show it. It most certainly did bother Mac and I.
During our stay with the Gilbertes, in their seventies, several local people came up in the attic and talked with us, including a fellow who seemed to be a medical doctor. One day after dark a fellow came up and spent some time with us, I noticed that Bernard was very nervous that evening while this fellow was there.
After the fellow had left I found why he was concerned. This fellow was the village barber, a nice guy and most likely not a Kraut sympathizer, but he talked too much. Most of the people that came up to see us assured us that they were tying to keep it quiet that we were up there in Bernard's attic.
The next night after dark we prepared to leave the Gilbertes. After much goodbying and the usual kissing and tears, we left and started to walk down towards out of town. This was a sad time. I had grown to like Bernard and his wife and really appreciated what a chance they took looking after us. They were such nice people. Marie had come over to the Gilbertes to help us get out of the town After we got out to the road Marie was helping me walk and a couple of the Frenchmen were helping Mac. Just as we got started, some trucks and equipment came rolling down the road. I think it was Krauts, but I really don't know. The Frenchmen must have thought so because they took Mac off the road into the bushes and Marie and I continued down the road. We must have looked like a couple of lovers. she had her arm around my shoulder trying to help me walk so that I wasn't limping. Anyway, the trucks never stopped and were soon out of sight. A little farther down the road we met a small truck that looked very much like a Model-A Ford. It was pulling a small trailer type charcoal generator behind it. The charcoal gas that the trailer unit produced, was used to run the truck engine. We got in the truck after the usual goodbye routine with both the men and the women, we left Pleyben in the truck. I will always remember Marie for her very strong like personality and her courage. She was a nice lady. In my correspondence after the war with these people I asked about Marie. Some time after we left the Gilbertes, perhaps at least a year after, she apparently got crosswise with the Krauts. The folks seemed reluctant to tell me what had happened to her.
Le Cloitre, France
We traveled a few miles in the truck without incident to the town of Le Cloitre, a much larger town than Pleyben. We stopped at an apartment type building about three stories high.
We were taken into a basement room which was a commercial bakery. There were many large loaves of bread that had just been taken out of the oven and laid out on a long table. The baker was working with several ovens, he had a long pole with a large flat end which he used to reach way back into these large ovens and bring the loaves out. The place brought back memories of home because of the smell of the newly baked bread. It reminded me of when we would come into the house on a cold winters day after we had been in the woods most of the day cutting logs or some other cold job and smell the fresh bread my Mother was baking. The baker could speak fairly good English and when he would speak to us in English he would talk very loud, when he spoke French to the others he talked very quiet like.
We were told that there were some tenants in the place that were Kraut sympathizers and they preferred that they did not know that we were there. So it scared me a little when he was speaking English so loud. His bread was terrific, he had cut into one of the large loaves which he shared with us. The Frenchmen were great on coffee dipping. After the visit with the baker a very nice lady took Mac and I up to a room on probably the second floor of the building. We had to move very quietly through the narrow halls especially when we passed the room where one elderly woman was sleeping. She was a Kraut who had been married to a Frenchman. We never saw her but we managed not to disturb her. The room they took Mac and I to had a large double bed with a very large feather pillow laying on it. The pillow covered the foot end of the bed, laying so that it covered about half of the bed. The linens smelled fresh like they had been washed in some kind of cologne water. This was the first time Mac and I had a chance to sleep in a bed since we landed in France, a real treat.
I slept most of the next day. When I got up the lady brought up a basin of hot water and a straight edge razor. It was no problem for me to shave with a straight edge razor because I had learned to shave with a straight razor when I first started to shave. My Dad used to keep it sharpened for me when I was home, but in the service I shaved with it until it got too dull to shave with then, I changed to a safety razor and blades. It sure felt good to get cleaned up again. Then after having a good nights sleep, things looked a lot better than they had for some time.
The next morning I was awakened by what sounded like ten head of cattle running down the street, the noise was being made by fifteen or twenty kids heading for school. The people in this part of the France wore wooden shoes. The streets in this town were not smooth concrete, they seemed to be made from fairly flat rocks laid in the concrete or mortar. Maybe these streets were cobblestone streets. Anyway, the kids sure made a racket on it with there wooden shoes. That same day, in the afternoon the kids were returning home and they were singing some French song that was slightly familiar. Also they were making the same clattering sound on the street. I have forgotten how long we stayed at this house. I know I got pretty bored and tried to find my way down to the bakery, but before I got very far someone shoved me back into the room. The old lady who was supposed to be an Ex-kraut was already getting suspicious. About 10:00 o'clock one night the people came into the room and told us we were going to have to get out of this town because two strangers were in the town asking the kids if they had seen any Americans.
Apparently the kids who were asked about us just got scared and ran. The young lady that was with the guy who seemed to be running the show tried to convey the notion that the kids didn't tell on us. I really don't think the kids knew we were there.
We got ready to leave and waited for them to come up to get us. This place had several women tenants who were wives of men that the Krauts had taken to labor camps or some other forced labor situation. Before we left they took us into a room where there was a bed-ridden elderly woman (very old) who was probably the Grandmother of many of the women that were staying in the house. She had a very impressive little Blessed Virgin shrine on the table next to her bed. She spoke very good English and she had a rosary in her hand. She said she was praying for safe journey. The younger women, four or five, were standing by the bed. The French custom saying goodbye by kissing on each cheek was practiced by both men and women, so Mac and I both said goodbye to the elderly women by bending over while she said goodbye. She had tears in her eyes when she said goodbye to me which moved me a lot. We repeated the same goodbye procedure with the others in the room who also seemed concerned for us. After this very emotional goodbye we left the through the bakery. It was a clear night, but rather dark (no moon). Outside they had a two wheel cart hitched to one horse, they laid a canvas tarp on the bed of the cart and Mac and I crawled up and laid on the tarp then they folded the other end of the tarp up so that it covered us up head and all. Then they pulled the cart over under the hay loft door and tossed several forks full of clean straw on top of us. Before they left the old Frenchman that seemed to be directing the operations came over to the cart and pulled the tarp over to uncover my head and said goodbye with the usual double kiss ceremony, he hadn't shaved for a couple of days. He wished us luck on our journey.
The cart and us, under the straw, left the town of Le Cloitre. The cart had no springs, so it was a rough ride over the cobble stones. I remember being scared as we rumbled along, because I expected the Krauts to pull us out from under the straw at any moment. We managed to get out of town without any trouble. About a mile or so out of the town we met a truck. I thought it was strange that they took us out of the town under the straw in the cart at that time of the night. Who would be hauling straw at that time of the night? Perhaps they were mostly concerned that none of the towns people knew about us being there rather than concern for the Kraut Gestapo.
We crawled out from under the straw and transferred to the truck. The truck was a canvas covered type loaded with a lot of oyster baskets. These baskets were a 2' x 3' rectangle frame made of 2" x 6" lumber nailed together with a mesh screen nailed on the bottom. They had these baskets stacked across the rear of the truck bed so that they completely filled the back of the truck box. From the rear it looked like the truck was completely loaded with the baskets. When they loaded the truck they left space in front of the truck box for us. They removed some of the baskets and Mac and I crawled into the front part and laid down on the floor of the truck box. They then piled the baskets back so again the truck looked like it was completely loaded. After some conversation which I didn't understand, the driver took off down the road. We were headed for the coastal town of Carantec. We had not gone far when we were stopped by Kraut patrols, the driver had conversation with the guard or what ever he was. My heart was hammering so loud I'm surprised the Kraut didn't hear it. After a few minutes we took off down the road apparently the driver knew what to tell the Kraut. Every few miles after that incident we were stopped and went the same routine and each time I thought we had had it. Once the Kraut walked around the truck and lifted up the canvas and shined his light in, but was far enough to the rear so that all he saw was oyster baskets. So he let us continue on.
Carantec, France on the English Channel
We finally arrived at Carantec very cold and very scared. After the war I corresponded for a time with the French people that helped us escape. In one of the letters I received from Monsieur George Leustic, he made reference to that trip to Carantec quote: "Your journey from here to Carantec was surely extremely uncomfortable among those empty boxes, but it was necessary to throw enemy suspicion off the track, I hope you did not suffer too much from your wounds." I didn't suffer too much from my bum leg, I was too scared to even remember it was bothering me. We stopped at a house in the town which seemed to be lived in but was empty when we got there. The door had a small window at the top just like we had at the old farm house at home. They stuffed some old clothes above the door in the window so that no one could climb up there and look in nor could the light from inside be seen from outside. The shades were all pulled so that the house looked dark from the outside. I suspect black out was enforced there the same as in England. When were inside we turned on the lights. The guy who seemed to be the owner was named George. He was a very good host. He gave us a small pile of shrimp that had been cooked but were cold. Mac and I started to eat the shrimp but I had a tough time getting them down Mac did alright with them.
After George (pronounced Jorz Jay) gave us the shrimp he left the house by the back door. There was a bed on the second floor so Mac and I finished the shrimp and went up there and were about to hit the sack when George came back with two bottles of champagne. He talked with us a little, then left. We opened the champagne, it was really good stuff. No off flavors just plain good and smooth. We ended up drinking the two quarts before we hit the sack. I slept very good that night but the next morning I got up and wanted very much for a drink of water. Boy I was thirsty and the French do not drink very much water, in fact I don't think I ever saw anyone over there take a drink of water.
George came back the next morning with his girl friend, a very pretty blonde girl about 35 years old (that's a wild guess). She could speak English very well. In fact, she was the first person that could carry on a conversation. She made some comment when she came into the room about me being just a boy. I was laying in the bed with my clothes on at the time she came in, so I expect maybe I did look a little young for my age even at 25 years old. After some conversation we all went down to the kitchen and made some coffee and had some of their terrific bread which she had brought.
I don't recall how many days we stayed in this house. We saw a great deal of George and his girlfriend while we were there. We talked of many things, how the Krauts had taken most of the food, how they used up much of there cattle, how hard it was to find such things as cigarettes and tobacco. She told how they saved their cigarette butts and would take them to a tobacconist and have them re-rolled into cigarettes and repackaged. She gave me one of these recycled cigarettes, I lighted it and one drag on it just about put me under. She also showed us a little pipe that she carried in her purse. She would save cigarette butts then put them in this little pipe and finish smoking them.
I managed to get the thing all the way to England. Several times I had made up my mind to toss the thing in the channel but I didn't get around to it. When I left England several weeks after getting out of France I still had the doll so I figured I might as well keep it after all it had been through. When I got home I gave it to your Mother and she has kept it on the shelf.
George was an oyster fisherman he was going to sail us across the channel to England. He had obtained a 7-meter sail boat I don't know where he got it or if somebody in the underground furnished it.
We left George's house in daylight and went to a house down very close to the sea. This was a two story structure that looked very much like one would expect an oyster fisherman's place to look. There was lots of sea-going gear and oyster baskets and other equipment in the back yard. Inside the house several men were sitting around a table drinking wine, as we came in a lady came in the room from the kitchen with a big platter loaded with oysters in the shell. There were some sea weeds still hanging on the shells. I was very hungry, so when we were invited to sit down with them I thought I would try to eat some of the raw oysters, but I could not get these to go down, so I took a big gulp of wine and got rid of one of them.
I drank some of the wine and left the oysters alone, but I almost got tight drinking on a very empty stomach. The Frenchmen would pry the shell open with their jackknife then hold the half shell up to their mouth and scoop the oyster in then drink the juice that was left in the shell. Mac did alright with the oysters, be seemed to be able to eat them and like them. One old Frenchman that could speak some English said to me when he saw that I was not eating the oysters, "Eat lots the fish will be hungry tonight."
The tide was out and we were not going to be able to leave until the tide came back in, which would happen just before dark. They took Mac and I upstairs to a room where we were supposed to wait until it was time to leave.
I laid for a while and was almost asleep when I heard some loud talking downstairs. The voice was loud and harsh like the Krauts, not like the French who seem to let the words slip out. I was sure the Krauts had found us and would soon be up the stairs to get us. I crawled under the bed hoping on an outside chance they would not find me and take off without me. When they came up to the room it turned out to be an RAF radio operator who had been shot down some months before and was going to go back to England with us. The two guys that sounded like Krauts turned out to be a couple of French ex-soldiers who were also trying to get out of France. They had served on the Maginot Line but managed to escape when the Krauts took over. I have no idea why they were trying to get to England
The Englishman's name was Jerry Smith, he was a fellow about 25 years old. He went down a raid about six or eight months before and had been hiding out with the French for all that time. He was going to go back to England with us. The party now consisted of Mac and I, the two ex-soldiers, the RAF radio operator and George Costa. I am not sure of the spelling on George's last name
Just about the time it was starting to gut dark a couple of guys came up to help Mac down the stairs then to a small dock. The Englishman and the two French soldiers and I followed. There was a boat just about floating, the tide was coming in. As soon as the boat was completely floating they pulled it up to the dock and put Mac in it. Then a big six foot three French guy with a crew hair cut picked me up and sat me down in the boat with Mac. My bum lug was still bad enough, so I had trouble hobbling along the dock, when the big guy saw me having trouble walking on the dock he came to my aid. The boat was a seven meter long sail boat with a main sail and a jib. There was a small four cylinder gasoline engine hooked to a car transmission which was connected to the propeller. I think the engine was not a marine engine, but some kind of car or truck engine. After everybody was on board (Mac and I, the two ex-soldiers, the Englishman George), another Frenchman fellow on the dock handed us several bottles of their homemade wine and some cognac. Also a couple of loaves of bread and some salt pork. We stashed these supplies up in the bow of the boat. The extra Frenchman that came aboard was a rather elderly fisherman. The ex-soldiers spoke fairly good English so they were able to explain that the old fisherman was going to sail us out of the harbor then he would return by the small row boat that he had tied behind the sail boat.
After a lot of goodbyes we took off with jib and the main sail for power. There were many huge rocks sticking out of the water in the harbor so the old fisherman had to pick our way through them. This is why we left just a little before dark. The wind was beginning to pick up and the surf was rolling in. When we got past the rocks after about an hour of sailing the old fisherman got in the small boat and headed back through the rocks. The ex-soldier. explained that he planned to spend the night on one of the big rocks and head into shore at daylight. The Krauts had ordered all boats to be in by dark so the oyster fisherman would go out during the day then head back in before dark. If they were late gutting in the Krauts would take their boats away from them. So it was a little hairy how we got away without being picked up. The ex-soldier explained about the Krauts and the boat curfew. He was nervous as we left the shore. As soon as we were at sea out of the harbor George took over, he pulled the main sail down then asked me to start the engine. so we ran with the engine and the jib. The wind had picked up a lot by now and really gutting rough. I felt some sea sickness for a while but, it left me which I was glad for. I stayed by the engine because it was warm there.
The Krauts must have found out that we were out there because they started to shoot up star shells that would light up the sky. It had started to rain fairly heavy so I expect this offered some help to hide us from the shore. We pulled the jib down right after the first shell burst, this was done to give us a lower profile on the water. After the second burst we shut down engine on account of the noise which George thought they might pick up on the shore. It was raining a lot and the wind was blowing pretty hard, which is probably why the Krauts did not send a patrol boat out to find us. I think we might have been hard to find out there among those high waves and darkness. I don't recall just how long the search lights and star shells continued but it must not have been very long.
When things really got dark and the Krauts seemed to have given up on us we raised jib and I started to work on the engine to get it started again. The engine did not want to start. One of the ex-soldiers come over to help me get the engine to run. The boat was taking a beating from the waves. The waves would hit the bow of the boat so hard that I thought it was going to be split in half. With all the bouncing around and water splashing in the boat we did manage to get engine going. Every so often a wave would splash over into the boat and we would bail her out. There was a long oar in the boat which we laid on the top of the cockpit parallel to the keel, we nailed it down to the bow then tied the other end back at the rear of the cockpit. We laid the main sail which we were not using over the oar and nailed the side down to the sides of the boat. This made a kind of cable roof over the cockpit now we had mostly a closed sort of cabin,this really cut down the amount of water that would splash in. We still had to bail some but nothing like when the boat was wide open. It was pretty wet and cold but much better now. The engine quit after about two hours of running, some water had splashed over it cutting out the ignition and some got into the fuel. I took the spark plugs out and put them into a small can and poured some fuel over them and lighted it to dry the points. Then I tried to dry up the distributor with my scarf. When I finally got the thing dried up a little and put back together the ex-soldier helped me crank her up again and it ran for about another hour. Another big wave hit the bow again sending a large amount of water back over the engine which shut her down again. I took the distributor off again and started to wipe it dry but the center contact point in the distributor cap jumped out and fell into the engine cooling pit. The contact point was a small round piece of carbon about a half inch long mounted so that it was spring loaded. I spent a long time feeling around the water in the cooling pit but I could not find the thing and I knew the engine would not run without it.
We decided to forget the engine and depend on the jib to pull us along. There was a strong south wind doing its best to wreck our small boat on this big sea. The jib seemed to be moving us along at a pretty good rate.
It was a long night but daylight finally came and we had a look at the sea we were riding on. I couldn't believe what I saw the waves were so high and the troughs were so deep it was unreal. We kept busy bailing water out of the boat and watching for anything that might be out there on this big sea besides use. The day was very cloudy and cold and often raining. Time seemed to stand still, it seemed like we had been on this boat forever. My nerves were pretty much on edge and upset from the Krauts following us back in France and this boat and rough sea were not helping me to improve. George was hanging on to the tiller, it seemed to be most difficult to keep the bow into the waves and keep the compass on due north. The sea water was creating a large black ulcer in his hand. His hands looked like they had been in soapy water for about week. I felt sorry for him until I looked at my own hands and they looked the same, the large black pockets (ulcers) were showing up between my fingers. They seemed to be going deep into the skin.
The first night on the water was a long one and the second night was just as long as the first with the endless sea banging away at the bow of the sail boat. None of us felt like eating anything and it was good we didn't because the bread was soaked up with sea water. The salt pork looked alright but no one ate any of it. We did break out the wine and managed to get rid of most of it before the end of the trip. Most of the stuff was real dry homemade kind.
Rough waters of the English Channel
I guess the second night on the sea was even longer than the first night. I tried to lie down up in the bow between bailings that was the only dry spot on the boat. The guys must have let me sleep for and hour or two before waking me to help bail water. All night the waves were banging away at the boat and some were big enough to get water into the boat under our make shift roof. During the night George and one of the ex-soldiers were talking, first one would say a few words which I did not understand then the other would utter a verse or two then repeat this cycle over again and kept on doing it. I was sure something had gone wrong until I figured out they were saying the rosary in French. Then I really got worried, I asked Mac if he knew what was going on, he thought they were just saying the Rosary. I was frightened enough so I joined in. I couldn't tell which one was leading so I just chimed in with one of them, they were saying the prayers in French and I was answering in English. We must have really shook up the RAF guy, because I heard him telling the guys about it when we were in England. Quote "the guys were saying one of those Catholic things half the night, boy was that weird."
The next morning when we could. see daylight the sea had let up a little, the waves didn't seem quite as high as they were the day before but it was wet and very cold and the splashes of sea water didn't help. I think the worst thing about being cold and wet was that there was no place to go to get warm and no prospect of ever reaching a warm place again. I remember getting terrible chills that I couldn't shake, I would shiver a lot then seem to have needles going through my mouth. Even now when I happen to get into cold water and get chilled I experience that same chill feeling and it doesn't leave until I get warm. I had rubber bag in which I had put some French tobacco, I tried to smoke my pipe a few times but I had much difficulty getting it lighted up. The smoke made me somewhat sick to the stomach and when I leaned over the side to feed the fish I dropped the pipe into the sea, that was the end of any more smoking for the rest of the trip.
Just about the time it started to get dark we could see land a way off in the distance. There were no lights on the shore because of the wartime blackouts, but we could make out the shoreline. There was an old electric sea lamp stashed in the bow of the boat. I got the light out it was a very heavy thing but I managed to get it out on the bow of the boat where I tried to send out SOS by turning the light off and on. I was the radio operator so I knew Morse Code. I continued to send SOS's until I used up the batteries I got no response from the shore. As soon as it got dark we lost sight of the land. The thought crossed my mind to jump out and swim for it.
Another long night passed, the sea was somewhat more calm and we had less splashes coming in the boat so when we got it bailed out it stayed that way for awhile. The next morning as soon as we could see, the land that we saw the night before was no longer visible. There was nothing but sea as far as we could see. This was a very disappointing change in that I think I gave up hope of ever seeing land again. It was still cloudy but not raining. Off in the distance we could see some blue sky which raised our moral about 100 degrees. If must have been about 10:00 o'clock AM when the sun finally came out, the warming effect of the sun on the cold body was a real delight. Not long after the sun came out I thought I heard an engine, the others agreed that they also heard it. It wasn't long until we saw the fighter plane heading directly towards us, I could not tell what kind of plane it was (Kraut or friendly). I was sure it was a Folkwolf 190. I experienced the same total fright that I had when the Kraut flew by me when I was in the chute coming down. When the plane got really close I expected the pilot to start firing on us. He did not fire but just flew over us and disappeared into the horizon. I believe it was a British Spitfire.
I have no idea where he came from or where he was going. It took several minutes for me to settle down, the rest of the guys did not seem to be half as scared as I was. We talked about the incident and discussed the possibility if he opened fire on us. George thought we might have drifted off course and the land we saw the night before could have been one of the Guernsey Islands and not England.
About noon the sea had calmed down and we began to see land again. After about an hour we could make out houses and other structures on the shore. The coast line was cliff like with fairly high banks. I thought we should be seeing some rescue boats coming out to get us but we sailed for a very long time towards the shore. It seems the ebb was moving off shore and there was a fairly stiff current that would not let our boat sail in only so far. It was a good thing that we were not able to sail into the harbor because except for sea lanes the harbor was mined and we might well have hit one if we had sailed in any closer than we did.
After sailing back and forth across the outside of the harbor we saw a motor launch heading our way. We were not sure that we were on the English coast or in friendly territory. When the launch approached our boat there were three sailors aboard and one of them had a louis gun pointed at us the other two had rifles. We identified ourselves hoping they were Englishmen and not Krauts. As the boat pulled up along side of us their stern swung around so that I could see the British flag on the back of their boat. That was a relief to say the least. As soon as their bow was next to our boat, I jumped, bum leg and all out of the sail boat into their boat. It was equipped with a closed cabin. As I hit their deck one of the British sailors said, "You can't get on here." I was already on so I asked, "Has one of you guys got a cigarette?" The sailor who told me I could not come on their boat dug out a cigarette and lighted for me and told me to go into their cabin. The cigarette tasted good after not having a smoke for several days, even though it was one of those English jobs. I had not shaved for several days and the black pox in my hands were hard to keep from showing so I am sure I must have looked like some sort of refugee to them. They threw a line over to George he snubbed it to the bow and they took our boat in tow. The English RAF guy made some point of the fact that he was an airmen, so the RAF Air Sea rescue boat which had come on the scene shortly after the launch should be taking us in. For some reason the Navy launch gave the line to the Air Sea rescue boat. I stayed on the Navy launch, but the RAF Air Sea rescue boat towed the sail boat with the rest of the guys into port. We proceeded on into the shore. When we got closer to the shore I could see that the British Naval base we were heading for was some kind of fancy summer resort built into the cliff.
There were stairways and railings winding down the cliffs. The British Navy took over the place when the war stated according to the sailors on the launch. To see land so close was a most pleasant sight and the thought of getting off the sea was even more gratifying. When the launch got within a few yards of the shore they stopped for some reason they were held up. I was so anxious to get to land I jumped off the launch into the water and swam ashore. I was all wet anyway from the sail boat. When I crawled out on the bank there were two sailors with rifles with fixed bayonets right in my face. They were very nice, but were not about to let me go anywhere. I told them I was an American Airman. They assured me that they thought I was too, but there was no way they could take my word for it. They escorted me up through the stairways leading up to the Navy Headquarters and into the orderly room. The commanding officer came out of his office to greet us. I saluted and he returned the salute and then talked to the guards and told them they were dismissed. By this time the rest of the guys were brought into the orderly room. There was a little gas fireplace in the room so I headed for it and proceeded to thaw out. As soon as I got to feeling the warmth of the fire the salt water soaked clothes caused me to itch. The other guys were experiencing the same discomfort. The Commander knew what we were experiencing, so he took us up to his own quarters and placed a guard at the door and apologized for doing so. We assured him that we understood. This was still war. As soon as the door was closed we took off all the itchy clothes. The Commander had told us that he would have someone bring us some dry clothes as soon as possible. We were standing by the fireplace in the raw feeling much relieved from the itching when the door opened and in walked a WREN (a member of the British Women's Auxiliary Navy). She was carrying a tray with a tea pot and some chocolate bars on it. The four of us were standing next to the gas fireplace trying very hard to be less exposed. She never batted an eye, just came in saying "I have some tea and chocolate for you, this will warm you up." She turned around and left the room as nonchalantly as she came in. I suspect we were not the first guys that this navy outfit had fished out of the sea and brought up there to the commander's quarters. I noticed as the Wren went out the door that there were two guards with rifles and fixed bayonets standing by the door.
We drank the tea and ate the chocolate bars, they really hit the spot because by this time I was beginning to realize I had not eaten anything for about the better part of three days. Soon after the tea someone came in room with some clothing, a bathrobe for me. The salt scum was beginning to get unbearable, so I was pleased when one of the medics lead me into a bathroom where there was a bath tube big enough for a horse watering trough about half full of very hot water. I got into the tub and stayed there for about a half hour. The salt that had soaked into my skin was coming out.
Two of the medics came in with large Turkish towels and asked me to get up on the examining table. They just about rubbed the hide off me. I felt much better after this treatment. They gave me some clothes and my old electric suit still rolled up with the ceramic doll inside. The Commander gave me a big heavy white sweater which I wore for a shirt. I still have the old sweater hanging up in the attic somewhere you kids probably wondered where it came from. Now it was about super time. I was invited to eat in the non-commissioned officers mess. The men were given strict orders not to talk to me anymore than to say pass the bread etc. Security rules prevailed. They were having roast beef for dinner, English Style, that night so being very hungry I piled on lots of beef. After I had eaten a few bits I had a very filled up feeling and could eat no more. With the war time shortage of food the English were more than a bit touchy about wasting food. It was a little embarrassing to turn in my plate with a lot of food on it, especially that good roast beef. They must have understood because no one said anything. After super one of the Navy guys loaned me his razor so I went into the bathroom to shave before going to bed. I could hardly believe how skinny I had become when I looked into the mirror. My hair which was sort of reddish had turned almost white. The Navy Medic said it was the sea water that bleached it out.
The next day I left the Navy base after a very hardy goodbye from the staff there. The Commander shook hands with me and wished me luck. He was a real nice sort of guy, regular fellow even if he was British brass. This place where we landed was near the town of Salcombe which was not far from Lands End.
We boarded a train with a British Intelligence Officer who was assigned to accompany us to the American Headquarters in London. I did not see Mac after we landed at the Naval base dock. Apparently they took him directly to a hospital.
When we arrived in London I was taken to a British Infantry outfit where I was to meet an American Counter Intelligence Officer by the name of Captain Nelson of the American 8th Air Force. Captain Nelson took me up to a large conference room type place with a large fireplace and all. He started to write while I talked. He wanted to know every detail from the time we went down in France until right now. This took all day. During this conversation and interrogation I pulled the biggest boo boo of my life. The Captain being the fatherly type tried to break the news to me very gently that I would. not be able to fly on raids over occupied France with the 8th Air force again. It seems that the US Air Force had an agreement with the French that went something like this:
If an American Airmen went down in French Territory and escaped from the Krauts they would not send him over on a raid again. The reason being that he may get shot down again and if the Krauts got a hold of him they would try to find out how he got out assuming that they might that he escaped the first time. This was a precaution to protect the French people that were so involved in helping soldiers escape. Captain Nelson did not know how happy I was to hear this but, I guess tried to make out like I was a little disappointed. I had a belly full of war by this time.Now for my big Boo Boo. The Captain tried to soften the blow about the no flying routine by telling me that General Eaker, then Commander of the 8th Air Force, had ordered that. I be increased one grade in rank. I was a Staff Sergeant. The Captain said,"now lets see your next rank will be Second Lieutenant." He is writing this down in his report. I said, "no my next rank would be Tech Sergeant." Just as I said this I knew I should have kept my big mouth shut and not said anything, or at least agreed with him. I would have gotten a field commission with about $100.00 increase in pay. The Captain would have put it in his report recommending me for a field commission, and since this was an intelligence report no one else except Intelligence personnel would have been allowed to read it or had an opportunity to see why I was recommended. Anyway I did get an increase in rank to Tech Sergeant with some increase in pay. That is the second highest non-commissioned officers rank, the highest is Master Sergeant .
After leaving this headquarters I was sent over to US Army Headquarters where I was to re-enlist back into the Air Force and given a complete physical and issued a uniform. The Army guys treated me like a bum or deserter and I could not tell them otherwise, because I was told not to tell anybody that I had been over to the other side. I had strict orders not to tell anybody where I had been and why I was there.
They gave me a bunk in the barracks and I spent one night with these army headquarters guys. The next morning our Flight Adjutant from my outfit had come to London to identify me. Then a, car with the General's flag on it drove up to the, Army Headquarters It seems General Eaker had heard that me, an Air Force guy, had been sent to the Army and he was not happy about it. He wanted Air Force personnel to be brought back to the Air Force directly. It was a moral victory for me to walk past these meat heads who had given me such a bad time with the General's Aide and then get into the Generals car with the two star flag on the front. I was taken to the 8th Air Force Headquarters just outside of London. The Air Force guys had figured it out that I was a flier and had been shot down and really treated me nice. They assigned me to one of the Non-coms Quonsets with four other Air Force guys. They had managed to shoot a deer in the Kings Park which was called the Royal Hunting Grounds. They were cooking some of the venison in a helmet on the stove. We had a few snorts of their booze and some of the meat.
The next day a Major Lindquist, a fellow-about fifty years old came over to the Quonset and got me out of bed. He said I should put on a class A uniform because we were going to see the General. I just about flipped. I had never even seen a General before, even at a distance, and now I was going to have to report to one. I got together a class A uniform by the help of the guys I was staying with. They were good about helping me get fixed up. I went over to the big office with the Major. Major Lindquist had been assigned to look after me while I was at the Headquarters and while I would be in London. I think they were afraid that I might talk too much about getting away from the Krauts. The Major and I waited in the front office for a few minutes then a General's Aide, a chicken colonel, came over and said the General would see me now. I gulped a couple of times and followed the Colonel into the big office.
General Eaker was a very personable guy not at all like I had expected a General to be. He shook hands after returning my salute and told me to make myself at ease and asked me if there was anything he could get me. I said, No sir nothing, I am just fine." That's ok he said if we can get you anything just say so. "Well," I said "it has been a long time since I had a good scotch and soda." He said, "George get us that bottle of scotch." George was the Colonel who came to the outer office to usher me into the General's office, he was an elderly fellow about 60 I guess. He was part of the General's staff and personal friend. The colonel left and came back with a seltzer bottle and the bottle of scotch and we all had one drink.
The General asked me about many things in connection with getting out of the ship and what happened on the ground. I had been instructed to tell the General if he asked how I got out of France to tell him that Intelligence had told me not to talk about it with anyone. I told the General how I had been instructed by the Intelligence people, he understood and did not press me on it. He said,"Sergeant you should be wearing silver wings on your blouse why haven't you got them on?" I explained that I had mostly a borrowed uniform, so he went and got me a set of the wings and pinned them on my borrowed blouse. Then with a few long and uneasy minutes with the General and his Aide, three Air Force officers were ushered into the office. They were fighter pilots that had. been shot down and had come back through Spain. The General read off some Citations and pinned the Air Medal on each of us, then he read off another Citation and pinned The Order of the Purple Heart on me. These were very proud moments for me. When we walked out of the General's office there were several high rank officers standing around in the outer office, they all congratulated us which, made me feel good and believing these guys were almost human too.
Major Lindquist, whom I met shortly after the decorating, asked me where I wanted to go. He was assigned to ride herd on me while I was in London. I told him that I would just as soon stay at the Red Cross Club in London rather than at the quonset because I knew some of the guys from the squadron who were on leave would be staying there. We all stayed there when we came to London on a three day pass. He agreed that it would be ok so we went down to London and I got a room at the club.
The first night in the club three of the guys from my squadron came in. It was good seeing somebody I knew again. They had a million questions, most of which I had been coached not to answer and guys understood. The next few days were spent with Major Lindquist. We went to the American Embassy a few times for lunch. In the evenings we went to several stage plays and during the days I went with the Major where ever he went to take care of his own duties. Several times we went to the 8th Air Force Headquarters and finally got my orders to go back to the squadron at Molesworth. But first, I had go to the 2nd General American Army Hospital located at Oxford. I said goodbye the Major. One of the General's young lady drivers drove me to Oxford in one of the General's cars with the two star flag on the front. It took most of the day to get from the headquarters to Oxford. The young lady and I went into the town of Oxford where all the Universities are located. We had lunch at one of the University's cafeteria.
When we arrived at the hospital and entered the orderly room, everybody was standing at attention. They received word from the gate MPs that a General was coming in. When I came in they were surprised and I guess somewhat relieved to find out it was just an enlisted man. They had a million questions about why I came in a General's car. I spent about a week at the hospital where they worked on my bum leg. When I left I had a cast up to my knee and a walking iron on the bottom so I could walk without crutches.
The General and his staff made it clear that they wanted me to go back to the Squadron as soon as possible. It seems that of all the guys that went down over occupied territory, I was the first non-commissioned officer to get back (that is of the American Airmen). Three officers had come back before me – they were the guys who got decorated with me in the General's office. The Major told me that they thought it would be good for the troops' moral if they saw that someone else besides officers could get back from the other side. So back to the 427 Heavy Bombardment Squadron I went with the cast on my leg. The guys back at the combat barracks were all very helpful getting my bunk and clothes back.
The second morning that I was back they called a raid so I got up and went to the briefing with the crews and went out to the ships with them and watched them take off. I was glad that I didn't have to go with them. I stayed at the Squadron for about a week then I got orders to go to the states. The orders were marked secret, I really do not know why.
The orders read as follows:
T.Sgt. Sebastian L. Vogel, 17026583 will proceed by rail, surface vessel, belligerent vessel and /or air military or commercial aircraft from the United Kingdom to Washington, DC on temporary duty reporting upon arrival to the Commanding General Army Air Forces, for the purpose of training units. TDN. If travel is performed by commercial Aircraft, a maximum baggage allowance of 55 pounds is authorized. Upon completion of this temporary duty he will return to his proper station. FD 34 p434-02 03 a c425-23 QMT.I took a train from Northampton to Glasgow Scotland. At Glasgow I got on a small ship at the Glasgow harbor which took me out to sea. I was on this little tub for about two hours. I couldn't help but wonder how they were going to sail this little tub all the. way to the United States. Then, all at once, setting in the fog was the big hull of the Queen Elizabeth. I remember how big it looked setting there hidden in the thick fog. What a huge ship it was.
I boarded the Queen and was assigned to a state room that would accommodate two people in ordinary times but now it was rigged for 17. The other 16 guys in this room were good guys, some of them were Canadians and some were Americans. The trip was uneventful most of the way. We were called up on the decks because of aircraft and sub sightings, but they never really resulted in any action. I took part of four days to make it from Glasgow to Halifax where we landed. I had not expected to ever get back to America again the way the war was going, so it was quite a thrill for me to see the lights in the harbor as we approached Halifax. Even after I boarded the Queen at Glasgow, I was uneasy about the trip across the Atlantic because the Krauts had sunk an awful lot of shipping even up to our coast. When I saw the lights in Halifax harbor I knew I was going to make it.
We stayed on the ship several hours after they docked her. In fact, it took most of the next day to get processed off. I got on a train in Halifax and rode for three days to New York City. It was Saturday night when we arrived there, so I spent the weekend in New York before going to Washington DC.
After reporting to the Army Air Force Headquarters, I was assigned to a base in Ephrata Washington. For travel they gave me a 30 day delay enroute so I could have some leave at home.
I left DC on the train headed for Washington State. On the train, somewhere around Baltimore, I made conversation with a pleasant Lady, she happened to be acquainted with Fargo, when I told her that that was where. I was going. During the conversation I learned that she was an Aunt of one of my college friends, Melvin Berg. Small World. About a day or so later I arrived home a place I thought I would never see again.