PAUL J. KRUSE|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
February 18, 1986
Sorry it took me so long to answer your letter. Everyone likes to receive compliments and I'm no exception. Thank you.
On the photos, I am sending more than what you want, so you may select the ones you can use, have them reproduced then send the originals back to me. There's no hurry, so if you can use these originals, go ahead and do it. I'll try to fill in on the pictures. You'll notice several pictures of "Pistol Packin' Mama" and how badly it was shot. Also a picture of "Flak Alley." This may be the one you referred to in your letter "Flak Alley" was a popular phrase during those days and I wouldn't be surprised if more than one plane had that name.
Maybe your spelling of Damico caused your unsuccessful attempt to reach him. You spelled Raymond J. D'Amico. All the right letters are there, but no apostrophe.
Jack Feinstein did get in touch with me about two years ago. Jack was the one from Brooklyn. We met several times and planned a reunion for our crew. But before those plans got off the ground, Jack died of a heart attack back in Brooklyn.
You asked if I kept a diary of our activities on and off the base. No, I didn't. We were on the base from January 1944 to April 9, 1944 and very seldom did we get off of that base. If we weren't flying a mission, we were on stand by and restricted to the base. If I had a diary, it would have been gone.
On the day we were reported missing, the camp vultures cleaned out all of our personal belongings. Disgusting, but true.
When you remember things, you mostly remember the good things and the good times, but once in awhile a bad memory comes through. For me that was one of them. Incidentally, our barracks was a very uncomfortable Quonset hut.
In picture number one (1) is our original crew. We flew 14 missions together. We trained as a crew at Clovis and Alamagardo, New Mexico. Our P.O.E. was Lincoln, Nebraska. We flew to Miami and then the "Southern Route" by the way of Trinidad, Natal, and Belem Brazil, Dakar, Africa, Marrakech, French Morroco to Wales. They took our plane away and by rail we were sent to Shipdham (on the wash) near Norwich to the 68th.
In the back row on picture one is Paul brown, radio operator from Missouri, Tom Hybarger, bombardier from Texas, Hiram C. Palmer, pilot from Missouri, Paul Kruse, flight maintenance engineer, gunner from Kentucky, Ray Long, assistant crew chief, waist gunner from Ohio.
Front row left to right, Norman Johnson, tail gunner from Oregon. Jim Gillespie, navigator from New Jersey. Ray Damico, waist gunner from Pennsylvania. Jack Feinstein, ball gunner from New York. Last is our copilot Lawton L. Sternbeck. I can't remember his first name or where he was from and I'm ashamed of myself for forgetting. Since that was 40 years ago, I guess I can be excused.
On picture number two (2) is the crew on the day we landed in Sweden. Since our bombardier and radio operator were selected for special training for "Lead Bombardier," and "Lead Radio Operator," Brown and Hybarger were replaced by Dave Putman, second row number one and Andy Babich, far right end, first row, nose gunner. The three officers in the back row were Swedish.
Insert: Almost all of the Swedish people could speak English, especially if they were officers or students. It was no trouble language-wise. The ones who didn't speak English could be understood and could understand. Most of our group was anxious to learn their language and that helped a lot. They all were willing to teach those who wanted to learn.
Picture three (3): A b-17 about to land at Bulltofta, Sweden's air field at Malmo. The small fighter plane is Sweden's Regiani 2001 made in Italy. They guided all the "in the trouble" planes to the field. There were no German or English planes in Sweden to my knowledge.
Picture four (4) to 13 speak for themselves. In pictures 5 and 6, if I remember, there were no casualties, but four was all casualties.
I can't remember the dates of these pictures, but they were after April 9, 1944 and before April 1945.
All the wounded were well cared for and the casualties received full Swedish Military Honors. The group of us who were sent from Rattvik back to Malmo, attended these military ceremonies, and the Swedes did everything well, even though they were a neutral country.
Pictures 14-18 are of Pistol Packin' Mama. Remember, it was a loaner to our crew for that day, Easter Sunday, 1944. This was our 15th mission. PPM had twice as many. Picture 17 is the hole in our left wing and 18 is the right wing after we were attacked by FW190s and ME109s. You can't see it too well in picture 14 but that nose was plenty beat up. We landed with the nose wheel up.
Picture 45 is a disabled B17 with Swedish guards. They kept the civilian public and souvenir hunters away from the planes. I don't remember any kind of trouble with our graveyard of planes. But since Sweden was neutral, the Germans used that country for their R&R and there were many of them everywhere we went. We ignored them. They ignored us.
Picture 59 shows not only bombers, but an occasional fighter got into trouble.
Picture 60. What we did and how we did it. Most of us were "hold and hand" crews. The real workers were U.S. mechanics slipped in from England. They had professional help from some Swedish mechanics, too.
My hand is tired, so if you have any questions, just ask.
March 21, 1986
Dear Will Lundy:
Here are some more photos that you may find useful.
Some of my war time memorabilia turns up in some of the damnedest places - cupboards, drawers, books, etc., etc. I'll continue the search and forward all that I think you're interested in to you. You can do the selecting.
The "Song of the Valiant Lady" in the March Readers Digest was very interesting. One of the reasons was that the B-17 was remolded at Bulltofta in Malmo while we were there. I had the chance to go through it while the work was in progress. The plane and the workers were in a restricted area (because the American G.I.s were too nosy and interrupted the Swedish workers a lot) so I didn't get to see the completed Shoo-Shoo (B17) baby. What I did see was a remarkable bit of workmanship by those Swedes.
That brings me to the names on the planes. Our original B-24 was named "Shoo-Shoo Baby" and I remember seeing the same name on several other planes - even fighters. Once in awhile an original idea for a name would show up and so I imagine that tracing a plane by its name would be an almost impossible task. Good luck, Will.
You can tell a worthy person, or a good guy rather easily, and I classify you as both of them. So, take your time with the pictures and use them whenever or wherever you need them. I know they're in good hands.
Several of our fellow 44th group have been sending me newsletters and bulletins, etc. I read them all and maybe I can muster up some of the enthusiasm that so easily shows up in these publications. I hope a bit of it rubs off on me. Let me know how things are going and if I can help ease your tremendous task in any way.