Technical Sergeant Eugene Van Loozenoord
Unit : 729th Squadron, 452nd Bomb Group.
Served : Britain, Europe, Russia, Italy.
Service No. : 36183813
Our crew's rigorous and extensive training was now complete and we were ready for combat missions. So we headed for Savannah, Georgia to pick up our big, new 4-engine B-17 G Boeing bomber in July 1943. The crew of 9 men were anxious and ready. We flew from Savannah to Bangor, Maine for a stopover, then a stop at Newfoundland where we were greeted by some Husky dogs. Then on the way to Iceland we were informed a C-54 hospital plane had gone down off the coast of Greenland, so we circled for a while looking for survivors, but observed nothing so we proceeded to Iceland.
We finally landed at Iceland and found we had engine problems and that's where we worked on the engines. We found some missing bolts and worked on the engines all night until 3 AM. We were really tired, but the Arctic sun helped us by keeping us in daylight so long. The next day we took off and were barely in the air and noticed our airspeed gauge was giving us a dangerously low speed, so the pilot dove the plane in order to pick up airspeed. In so doing we just missed some rocks while objects (oranges, etc.) were flying around in the cabin. We surmised the pitot tube cover hadn't been removed so we landed, removed the cover and took off again (the pitot tube was like the speedometer for the plane and was covered each time the plane landed).
This time we landed in Scotland and the local ground crews came aboard and removed all the loose items, including the fancy tool boxes and tools.
The next day we went by boat to Liverpool. In Liverpool they asked us if we wanted to stay on the boat or help with the work party off-loading the baggage. We said we would help. Our Division Commander, Captain Brice, who was a West Point type and disgustingly proud, accidentally had his baggage dropped overboard. Good for many laughs afterwards.
On the Liverpool docks, as we were standing around, we observed that railcars were being moved about by horses. I had some sugar cubes in my pocket so I fed some to the horses which upset the locals. After telling us they couldn't get any sugar for themselves we gave the sugar to them instead of the horses.
We left Liverpool by train, bound for Stone, England which was a big depot where they made up aircrews to replace the ones who had losses. We were there 3-4 days. Adjacent to the depot was a woman's prison for those who didn't want to go in the service or didn't want to work for the government (in factories). The enlisted men could go over there, but not the officers, so the officers would borrow the E/M (enlisted man) jackets to make a visit ( The women were not allowed out unless they had a visitor so some men would go over and take them out, but they wouldn't go out with officers so officers borrowed jackets from the enlisted to men to get a date).
We then got shipped out to the 452nd Bomb Group located at Deopham Green, then after 5 practice missions we went on our first mission near Hamburg, Germany. Flak hit us, it came through the upper turret and bounced around. I still have at home a souvenir piece of that flak.
The next day we had our 2nd mission to Ruhland, Germany flying across Denmark at 14,000 to 25,000 ft. over to Stettin to hit this oil refinery. That was another max effort mission. We were flying along when #3 and then #1 engines got knocked out. Then #2 engine got hit, but we still managed to drop our bombs over the target.
Now we were having serious trouble maintaining altitude and were at a real low level over the North Sea heading back to England. At that time we heard one of our planes call in that they were having trouble and they said, "See you later" and they turned and headed for Sweden. We limped back to our home base.
After 7 more missions a special mission named "Operation Frantic" took place on Sept. 11 1944. This meant a one way bombing mission to Russia. The 100th Bomb group would join us. Our crew contained a flight surgeon, while other planes carried extra ground crew personnel. Flying over enemy territory the flight surgeon manned the 50mm guns and enjoyed all the excitement. The bombing run was over Dresden.
Suddenly hundreds of enemy fighters appeared and tore into the 100th BG planes and decimated them, but barely touched us. We then went on to Poltava, Russia where we stayed for several days. The planes were secured, because the Russians lacked security. Soon after, we went into town to get something to eat and all that remained were walls of the demolished that the retreating Germans blew up. An American military liaison officer approached us to ask us if we were interested in a chicken dinner. We said, "Yes, but how much will it cost?" "Oh", he said, "Maybe a candy bar or a pack of cigarettes." So we had a lovely dinner and afterwards sold some extra candy bars for $15 and a pack of cigarettes for $25. We next went to the local market place in town where sun flower seeds seemed to be the active commodity. While in Russia we could buy champagne real cheap so we purchased several cases and stored it in the radio compartment on the plane. I slept on the plane for security purposes while the others slept in the Russian barracks.
After the 2nd day we were getting prepared to take off and bomb Dysogyr, Hungary. The Russians loaded their bombs on our planes and fueled us up with gasoline. However, one of their workers forgot to replace the cover on the wing fuel tank and he was immediately shot. They remarked, "One doesn't make mistakes like this!"
We took off and our fighter escort which was to join us never did as they were 15 minutes behind us. The target was bombed with no fighter opposition and flak was light due to the fact that they hadn't been previously bombed. From there we headed for Foggia, Italy which was a big 15th AF base. The RAF also stationed there flew B-24s. This was our first landing on steel mats and a time of anxiety as it was very rough and noisy. The base was a mud hole and everyone slept in tents and used mess kits for chow. Our tent was the one previously used by a crew that did not return from that day's mission. We drank their left over American beer which was very interesting because in England we only had English beer. Later on, I met that same overdue crew in prison camp and told them that I drank their beer... that shocked them.
We were to fly back to England, but with no mission on the way. We took off, but the weather was bad over Rome so we returned to base. On the next day we tried again to depart and once airborne the pilot got sick with both the trots (diarrhea) and the heaves. The pilot left his seat, which I now occupied, and went forward down to the bombardier compartment. He then crapped into his flak helmet and dumped it outside and then just stretched out. A bit later the ball turret man reported that someone had pooped all over his turret ... some of the fallout. We finally returned to England okay and had a little celebration with our champagne bottles, but the corks in the bottle had leaked so the fizz was gone. No zip ... flat like used soft drinks.
We then flew several more missions one being Meersburg, Germany on Sept. 28 1944. The target was a synthetic oil refinery that was well defended. Just as we went past the I.P. of the target, #1 engine started running away so we feathered it and let it windmill, but then we started losing altitude. This was also the day in history noted for the big air battles and many planes were lost. Yet, we never saw one enemy fighter and we kept calling for help as we were still losing altitude. Then our #2 engine conked out, so we feathered that one also. We continued losing altitude and meanwhile we were tossing everything overboard. Trying to release the ball turret wasn't easy, but finally it let go while we were flying low over the Rhine River. As the turret plunged toward the barges in the river, we could see people jumping over the sides thinking the ball turret was a big bomb heading their way.
Now we were low enough for ground fire to hit us and the inside of the plane was pretty much tore up. Suddenly #3 engine was hit and it started running rough and throwing oil all over. The pilot said, "We'll try and keep going. How are the life rafts?" I answered, "They're gone as we threw everything out minutes ago!"
So the pilot struggled to gain a bit more altitude and then put the plane on auto-pilot and told everyone to prepare to bail out. Everyone gathered at the open bomb bay, but none wanted to go first. Finally someone pushed out the tail gunner and others followed. The pilot encouraged the reluctant navigator to go and then I jumped out. My free fall was intended to go as far as possible before opening the chute in order to evade enemy ground fire. I landed in some trees and then proceeded to cut the shrouds and drop to the ground.
Once I touched the ground an elderly Belgium woman on a bicycle approached me and I could see that she was loaded down with all sorts of weapons. She obviously hated the Germans. It appeared we had landed in Luxembourg and all of us crew members gathered that night in a small town named St. Vith which later made history in the Battle of the Bulge story. The town residents treated us to a nice dinner featuring deer meat before bedding down for the night.
After another night in St. Vith they took us to Vervier, Belgium where the enlisted men were put up in private homes and officers went into local hotels. We stayed there another night and the next day several other crews joined us along with a weapons carrier and then we all moved out. As we proceeded through other villages the people would shove bottles in your face until the truck was loaded with bottles. Some of the stuff we called "white lightning" because it would really hit you. The bombardier really liked all that liquor and he would finish off the bottles ... quite a drinker.
Finally we got into Paris and were put up in a hotel where we could do the town that night and the next day. Our stay was short and we eventually departed the Paris LeBourget airfield and a flight to London, England. We took off that night to go into London and has the misfortune of being picked up by the MPs for being out of uniform. The MPs locked us up and after lengthy questioning and a call to Group Headquarters, they finally believed our story and released us. We had initially told them that we rather welcomed being locked up to the alternative of going back into air combat. After a few days we managed to get a train ride and return to our home base.
The 452nd Bomb Group then gave us Flak Leave (R & R) at a spot similar to Atlantic City (near Liverpool) called Blackpool for a week. It was a place where they had G.I. rations for eating and where one could relax, ride horseback, roller skate, and at night one could go into Liverpool. On one of the returns from town we stopped at a eating place and were given a Spam sandwich ... the one and only Spam of my overseas jaunt.
Returning to the 452nd BG our same crew was assigned to take a rebuilt B-17 up for a slow time run. The plane got up to 1500 ft and it started to overheat along with other problems, plus it now seemed like we were lower than the local church steeple. The pilot was getting nervous and he said, "Let's put her down." So we did.
We then flew some practice missions followed by some uneventful combat missions like the one over Kassel, Germany where we suffered no damage, although some planes alongside us were hit by flak.
One mission we flew down to some oil refineries between Mannheim and Ludwigshaven in the middle of the river. Planes alongside of us were hit and we wound up in 1st position after starting in 5th position. When we got back, there were no holes at all in our plane.
The next mission in October of 1944 was to Berlin and our plane was a real gas hog. We were at 25,000 ft, but even climbing to 31,000 ft the cirrus clouds persisted. The bombs were dropped and after landing in England we discovered the plane had holes all over it. Yet we had heard or seen nothing, and luckily, there was no damage to the plane's functioning parts.
After the normal debriefing, like always, they gave us a shot of liquor. The drink was always potent and almost knocked you out because you had been on oxygen for such a long time.
It was customary to check the orderly room, daily, to see if the red ball was flying, which meant there was a mission the next day. You checked the list for your name and if it was on there, you went back to your quarters to get some sleep to prepare for the rigorous next day.
The next day at 5AM they would wake you up and bring you down to mess which was usually very adequate with ham and eggs and sometimes candy or fruit, like an orange, which you took along on the mission. From there one went to a briefing where a big covered up map was positioned. Once the meeting had started the map was uncovered and the route and target displayed. This invariably caused groans. At that time we were told of the major flak areas and what routes should be flown. From there we would go to the parachute room where sometimes we would take two chutes since one chute might be heavily damaged or hit during combat conditions.
Next we would go out to the planes and install the guns and ammo for that type of mission condition. Each gun had about 600 rounds so one checked for short or missing rounds. At this time someone usually would send a short burst accidentally, which would cause the troops to hit the deck.
Then a thorough check was made of the plane and the fuel tank was topped off. Nothing was left to chance and you didn't take anybody's word for anything. This was followed by a brief period of relaxation and a smoke while waiting for the signal to start the engines. At this time one of our mess hall cooks would even bring out some fried eggs for us to enjoy.
Finally a rocket flare of a designated color would be fired which meant to fire up the engines. The engines then came to life and while they were warming up, everything was checked and closely monitored. We then taxied one after another to our takeoff spot. Full power was applied, the mags were closely watched, and at 30 second intervals we took off. At 90 mph we would pull her up real slow and make it over the trees and try to avoid the church steeple. This church steeple was a common concern for all the crews and yet at the 1992 reunion, notice was made that the church steeple was still standing.
Our bomb load usually consisted of 500 pounders making it about 2 tons of general purpose type. Sometimes we were given delayed action type bombs with their timing set for anywhere from 1/2 hour to 5 hours. Or else we would carry a load of incendiaries. On a mission possibly one squadron of planes would drop general purpose bombs, followed by the next squadron in line dropping fire bombs, and the following squadron dropping demolition bombs.
Before approaching the IP the bombardier would go back and arm the bombs. At the IP, the bomb bays would open up and the flight path was now steady, no more using evasive action to avoid flak, and the bombardier now took over. Not all planes at the end of the war had bombardiers, but enlisted men called targetiers. The lead plane would have smoke bombs under the wings and when that signal was observed, all bombs were dropped by everyone. The lead plane had a bomb sight and usually the deputy leader was also aboard.
From time to time you were granted short leaves according to your mission record. Usually this meant a trip to London because there wasn't much to do in the small towns around the base. Even in London food was scarce except for the underground spots. One item of note was similar looking to our American hot dog, but it seemed to be half-filled with sawdust.
So we carried a little knapsack with us and filled it with candy bars and oranges. On one train trip to London some English people befriended us on the train and said they were going to a children's hospital and they invited us along. The children were mostly from bombed out locations. When they saw the oranges they were amazed because this was entirely a new item for them. Their interest was mainly gum so they too had a popular chant among English children which was, "gimme gum chum!"
Most of the Yanks had bicycles which they purchased from others or the locals, mostly single speed bikes, but some even had 3 speeds. The ground personnel got to know the locals and could also enjoy the local activities. Us fly boys weren't around long enough to participate.
The English locals didn't have much and life was hard for them. Our planes would fire up and send dirt and dust their way, making an already increased drudgery of washing clothes by hand more frequent. Soap was difficult to obtain and even as a POW I found out that soap has more trading power than candy or cigarettes.
My combat missions occurred between August and November 1944 and my crew was one of the longest surviving crews still flying. The longevity of crews flying combat was very short. After 30 missions you were rotated back to the States.
Our next to last mission was to Meersburg which was known to be a rough area with all the heavy flak. It was known to have one of the largest synthetic refineries in Germany. Our target was the waterworks and it covered a target area of 3 miles long and 2 miles wide. No fighters appeared although the flak was heavy. If we knocked out the waterworks they would be without water for 60 days. We hit the target, but our radio operator took flak in the leg which entered from the top of the plane. The bombardier went to the back and rendered medical assistance to his wounds and gave him a shot. Bombardiers were given medical training to help in these types of emergencies.
On our last mission, November 9, 1944 we were to help General Patton as he made his drive to Metz, France. On this mission we carried 1,000 lb. bombs on each wing which never happened before. Also we were to remove 1,000 gallons of gasoline out of the tanks which we didn't do because time ran out. This meant we took off way overloaded which was not unusual.
The target over Metz was fog covered and prevented us from seeing the flares and indicating just where the friendly troops were located. So we headed for our secondary target which was Saarbrucken, Germany which was loaded with flak. Soon there was a fire in #2 engine and #3 engine had already been knocked out. This was a new B-17 and it had electrical emergency systems instead of cable systems like the older B-17s. Since our electrical system was knocked out, we had to jettison the bombs by hand. We did drop the bombs over the target, but could not release the big bombs on the wings. We were at 27,000 feet and losing altitude besides being on fire, so the word was passed out to abandon ship. The navigator went out the escape hatch and some others went out the bomb bay. I followed the bombardier out the front escape hatch. The pilot and co-pilot jumped later. The plane crashed near Korscheid.
I was falling through a snowstorm and I landed on an open field which temporarily knocked me out. When I awoke I rolled up my chute and walked towards some nearby woods. Some women were passing by with a little cart. I yelled to them, but they ran away. Soon guys came by and they also ignored me. I headed for a nearby barn where the men were wearing French hats. We had been informed at the mission briefing that we would only be over enemy territory for 90 seconds, so I surmised that I had landed in France. I soon found out how wrong I was in thinking that way.
One of the workers called out Deutchland and I thought I was in Holland. Very soon one of them pulled a gun on me and directed me into the farmhouse. In the house they asked me if I was hungry and offered me some macaroni and in the process left the gun on the table. It seemed too obvious to me so I didn't make any move for the gun.
Later in talking to him in his halting English I asked to see the gun, a German Luger pistol. In looking it over I noticed that it was empty. He phoned the Gestapo and they came out and placed me in the car's back seat while holding my hand. The car trip was up into the local mountains and I could see the river with its castles below. I told myself, "I got to get out of here," after they had placed me in a barn. Unfortunately there were geese all around this barn and they were very noisy whenever I walked close to them. So this setting looked very dubious for fleeing. The barn where they placed me had bars that I could remove and the door could be easily picked. However, there were men sitting there with guns so a daytime escape was almost impossible.
Once it got dark I took off and I headed down the road. I slept someplace along the road that night and the next morning I headed out again and no one was in sight. Pillboxes (small dugout stations from WWII) were everywhere so this was probably part of the famous Seigfreid Line.
Someone was coming up the road so I hid in the bushes as this woman pulling a cart appeared. She stopped alongside the road and pulled up her dress to urinate. When she finished and was out of sight I heard some loud noises and soon some wild boars appeared which forced me up a tree as they snorted and carried on.
Finally these wild boars departed and shortly a slow moving truck, with a charcoal burner system in the rear, was trying to negotiate this small hill in low gear. I jumped aboard the back, thinking this was a good idea, but the driver could see me in his rear view mirror. He then motioned me to come up in front with him. He then explained to me that he was a slave laborer from the Netherlands. He offered me some food and when we reached the top of the hill he advised me to flee because some Germans would soon be stopping him.
I got out and maneuvered from pill box to pill box whenever I thought it was clear. Lots of German Army was noted and probably headed for the build-up and the forthcoming Battle of the Bulge. Finally a small town appeared and as I worked around it, some kids spotted me, so I hid in a cave. That's when the German military came out to get me and placed me in a cell of some German military compound. They told me to keep the shades drawn in my cell so the bombers couldn't see the light. My bed was a wooden affair with a pad of straw. The next night 2 men took me in a car and then for a train ride. They told me, "If you run, we shoot!" They also told me they were World War I veterans.
While in the train some P-47 fighter bombers bombed and shot up the adjacent town, bridges and part of our train. Shortly after, we got off and walked around town. The people were yelling things at me and they would've been happy to attack me. On the other side of town we then all got into a big charcoal burning transit bus that was going up these mountains early in the morning darkness.
So I said to myself, "The next time this bus stops I'm outta here....right out the back door."
It finally did stop and out I went.... right smack into a big German Army unit with their motorcycles, trucks and troops. Thus I was caught again.... placed back on the bus with all the passengers laughing and smiling. The guards weren't too happy with what had happened.
The bus proceeded up through the hills to the next town. It was still cold with some snow on the ground, and I was thankful for my flying boots, gloves and jacket. Our pistols (45s) had been turned in back in England some time ago to lessen the danger of being shot by German civilians or its military units.
Back on the bus, alone, without having seen any other members of my flight crew, I can now see the Rhine River to the east. At the next town the driver tells me to get off the bus and we walk around the bombed out town where the people were really upset. On the other side of town we get on a train and ride a short distance to a military compound to spend the night sleeping on a straw mattress. I was warned, again, to keep the shades drawn in order to keep the bombers away.
Next morning I was joined by some other flight crews (no one from our plane) and all of us then went to Wretzlar (Dulag Luft)1. At this place they interrogated us and that was when I met our pilot and waist gunner. The Germans fed us food mainly from Red Cross parcels. The German Catholic Chaplin stationed there would go into town for us to buy food or other articles. We also learned then, that all our crew members got out of the plane safely.
We spent several days at this POW camp doing various jobs while watching the B-26s come over to bomb the town. A very active scene.
Then they transferred us to Stalag Luft IV, in Pomerania where flying crews were interned. Stalag Luft IV was located near Grosstychow, Pomerania in East Germany. This area now belongs to Poland and the town has since been renamed Tychowo. We arrived by closed box cars with Red Cross markings painted on the roof, but it didn't mean much. At that time we could see captured P-51s and P-38s flying around without firing.
Our train was headed for Berlin and in the Berlin marshalling yards sirens started blowing and the guards fled from the stopped trains. It was an air raid and they left us in the locked box cars. It was dark and the RAF came over dropping flares and lighting up the entire area. Then the bombs started dropping, but we lucked out because we were not in the prime bombing area. The guards returned and after the area was cleaned up and no tracks damaged, we pulled out for Stalag Luft IV (Grosstychow, Pomerania, Germany) located at 53 degrees 55 min. N. latitude and 16 degrees 16 min. E. longitude which is approximately 80 miles inside present day Poland. This camp contained only airmen, the majority of whom were American, approximately 8,000 American airmen.
Leaving the train we were marched to the camp, but no dogs were used on us as reported by other groups. We were separated into different compounds, mine being "C" compound. My other crew members were assigned to other compounds and I never did see them again until after the War.
The prisoner of war camp was the normal drudgery: roll call, exercises, waiting, and talking about food. The food was rather pathetic and we relied mostly on Red Cross parcels (1/4 lb a week). Red Cross food parcels were slow in coming because of the air raid bombings and German thefts. All cans and packages had to be immediately opened because of suspect items so food had to be rapidly consumed or it would spoil. Even the 5 cigarettes in a pack were slit or cut open to ensure no contraband got through. Cigarettes were good trading items. Some of the American parcels had peanut butter and spam. Parcels from other countries contained items particular to that country.
In February 1945 we were told to get ready to move because the Russians were advancing from the east. On Feb. 6, 1945 we moved out. You took what you had which wasn't much, but it included an eratz German blanket (made of wool, thin and didn't keep you warm).
Then we were given 3 Red Cross parcels as we lined up and went through the gate. We then realized how much the Germans were holding back of the Red Cross parcels. Physically you could only carry one package because of their weight and bulk. Everyone's poor physical condition made it even more difficult.
After the first day out some individuals were making sleds out of their packages and pulling them through the snow. Others stuffed their shirts with cigarettes, soap, toilet paper and coffee. As the days passed many items were left by the wayside because they were too difficult to carry.
The march lasted 86 days and covered over 540 miles (900 km) during one of the coldest winters on record. The march has been referred to as the "Shoe Leather Express". The guards were either WW I vets and thus older or otherwise they were ones who were injured or wounded on the WWII front lines.
My shoes were US Army issue from the POW camp since my flight boots weren't very satisfactory (they took the heated flight boots at Dulag Luft and gave me shoes). Fortunately I didn't have any foot problems on this march, but my leg was festering from some flak we had taken before we bailed out. The big problems were the bugs and insects that covered our bodies and clothes. Bombing blasts or any loud noise would activate them even more.
At night we would take off our long underwear tops and then mash and kill the cooties and other bugs. Cold weather seemed to have no effect on them. During the march one would pal up with someone else to make it easier to scavenge for food. As a little boy on my grandparents' farm I learned about how potatoes were dug up and covered with straw while still in the field. This is what I saw on this forced march and realized those potatoes in those fields could be our survival goodies.
While the others distracted the guards with cigarettes and other bribes, I would crawl on my hands and knees picking up potatoes in my shirt and pants' pockets. We would then peel the potatoes and eat most of them raw while others were saved for cooking later. Other prisoners would offer to buy the peelings with cigarettes or soap.
Another time while in the barn I noticed some chickens in the back and after much effort I finally caught one. I tried to wring its neck like I had also learned on the farm, but no matter what I did, I just couldn't succeed. Finally the guards appeared and I had to release it. The chicken flew off in the barn making a lot of commotion. The guards chuckled and laughed, and finally walked away. Then I went and retrieved that same chicken and this time cut its head off. We couldn't have a fire so that prevented our cooking it so I took it along under my jacket as we marched, hoping that maybe tomorrow I could cook it. That opportunity never presented itself so the meat finally spoiled and it had to be thrown away.
The thousands of prisoners who marched from the prison camp were split into several groups and took different routes. Our march avoided the big towns, but even so, the Germans would give us a hard time and the kids would throw rocks at us.
One time at another barn we were sleeping and the horses came in from the outside and then started pissing all over us, what a mess. Later I attempted to get some rabbits out of a long cage outside a barn, but my arms weren't quite long enough. Then the farmer started shooting at me so I gave up that project and fled.
Food was our big problem and we were just like animals. One time at a farm someone located some beans in a big manure pile and it took only minutes to lower the pile as hundreds of men tore through that pile looking for more beans. Another time it was carrots in a manure pile. At another stop we trapped some geese in the barn and wiped them out. One time we separated a German Shepherd dog from one of the guards and that dog was part of the next day's meal. Good, too!
Our trip began with Russians all around us, but they aimed to route us through safe areas up to Stettin. There we saw some battleships upside down in the harbor. Then over to Stendal, a big locomotive works that was bombed out. The Germans kept us marching in different directions according to what the advancing Russian troops were doing.
Then we rode in some old railroad passenger cars with bars in the windows and up to Altengrabow and then up to another Stalag (might have been VIIIa, IV D/Z, or XIa, not sure which). This wasn't much of a camp... no roofs overhead... little food... and mostly prisoners from India who ate only their own prepared food.
After a few days at this camp we again began our forced march in going from barn to barn along the Elbe River. At one of the stops at a pottery factory, some A-26 bombers came over at 10,000 ft and we saw their bomb bays open up. Apparently there was an oil refinery plant close by, but most of us used the factory ovens as a bomb shelter. The Germans frantically ran for cover and the little village nearby was now deserted. Some of the POWs took advantage of this and picked up some food left by the fleeing Germans.
We marched a few more days and getting close to the American lines. In a German military barracks close by we could see the German soldiers removing their uniforms and putting on civilian clothes.
Now everything had changed, the Germans were suddenly very friendly and offered us extra food. We were now at the Elbe River with the 3rd Armored Division (American) on the west bank. Crossing was accomplished with boats and planks while the Germans, too, were trying to reach the safety of the other side by boat or swimming. The water was extremely cold and swimming was almost impossible. Shooting was still occurring.
My liberation was at Bietterfield. That night we ate at a British mess where they served breaded pork chops. This food was too rich for our weak stomachs and most of us got sick.
K-rations were offered to us and some of the men took bundles of them. The captain in charge was upset about all of this and then someone tried to explain to him that once we get rid of all the K-rations is when we go on C-rations. A big food improvement.
At that time we were placed on a soft diet, but I was having trouble with malnutrition along with my puffed and wounded right leg which was still carrying the embedded flak. The leg had big puss bulges, but this was true all during my POW period. If you complained about any of your wounds the German medics were quick to amputate, so one didn't complain.... everything was okay. That flak still remains in my leg to this day.
At a hospital in England, near Liverpool, we were placed on soft diet and all we wanted to do was eat and sleep. Finally the doctor relented and allowed us to eat in the mess hall where we could choose our own food.
Then I was given a pass, so I used this pass to go and see my old base (Deopham Green) and see what was happening. I found my old radio man who was part of the original crew, but didn't make that fatal flight with us. He was very surprised to see me and we had a nice conversation.
I was then placed aboard a hospital ship out of Bristol and found the ship taking a southern route to find calmer water. The food was terrific.... nothing was wasted and one just couldn't get enough milk. The ship landed in New York City. What a sight!
After several days in a Long Island medical hospital, at which time we had tours of the NY City night life, we went by train to General Hinds Hospital in Chicago where I stayed one month. I was given leave and a recuperation leave to Atlantic City with my wife.
About that time the atomic bomb was dropped over Japan and shortly World War II was over. My orders were then changed for me to head for San Antonio (Kelly Field) for discharge since I had enough points. This was November, 1945.
Note: K-rations contained a chocolate bar, some crackers, 2 cigarettes and some other dry small food stuffs. C-rations usually contained some canned food, peas or other vegetable, chocolate bar, coffee, corned beef hash, and overall better food stuffs than K-rations which were smaller and high carbohydrate, easily carried food. Red Cross parcels were even better, they contained oleo, powdered milk, sometimes peanut butter and jelly, canned salmon, cheese, 4 packs of cigarettes, dried prunes or raisins, and instant coffee and two bars of soap. The POWs used to make little cakes out of some powdered milk and the insides of the prune pits. No food was wasted by POWs. Eugene Van Loozenoord weighed something around 80 pounds when he was liberated.
Some 8th Air Force Facts
Eugene's B-17 729th Squadron was part of the 452nd Bomb Group (H) which included the 728th, 730th and the 731st Squadrons. The 452nd Bomb Group was officially formed in Jan. 1994 under the 3rd Air Division which in itself was under the 8th Air Force. The 452nd BG flew B-17 Gs and was stationed at Deopham Green #142 in East Anglia, England. The 452nd BG flew its first mission on Feb. 5, 1944, and its last mission on April 21, 1945 for a total of 250 missions. The 3rd Air Division, was headquartered at Norwich and commanded, for several months by General Curt LeMay. The 3rd AD had: 14 Bomb Groups, 5 Fighter Groups, and 1 Scouting Force. The 8th Air Force aircraft were: B-17, B-24, B-26, P-38, P-47, and P-51. The B-17 engine was the Wright Cyclone R-1820 which was also used in the C-47. The 8th AF lost 10,000 planes, 27,000 airmen killed, 26,000 airmen were POWs and 6,000 downed airmen evaded capture.
My thanks to Eugene Van Loozenoord and his granddaughter, Jayne Niemann, for this story.
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