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Elmer  D.  Risch

 

Personal Legacy
ELMER D. RISCH
66 Bomb Squadron, 44th Bomb Group

Secret - American
Most Secret - British

Headquarters
European Theater of Operations
P/W and X Detachment
Military Intelligence Service

30 March 1944

E&E REPORT NO. 498
EVASION IN FRANCE

30 March 1944
(Wounded When Ship is Hit) - I was busy working on the voltage regulators from take-off until after we had crossed the French coast line. Five minutes after reporting into my turret, I heard an explosion and my leg went numb. Our ship peeled off to the right and then I heard the pilot give "Prepare to bail out." I went to the radio room. The operator was trying to open the bomb bays. I opened them for him. I put on my chute and went to the catwalk. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw two chutes pass under the bomb bays. I waited until the pilot started to leave his seat and jumped at 22,000 feet.

(Delay Jump) - I delayed my jump until I reached cloud cover. My harness was tight and there was no jerk. I landed easily in a plowed field, tumbled a few times and spilled my chute. As I was coming down, I had noticed that a man on horseback was following me. As I hobbled across the field, he spoke to me, but I could not understand him. Blood was now showing on my leg. (Broken Arm - Signal means Run) - I pointed to it and then quickly buried my chute. He kept giving the broken arm signal to run, but I did not know at the time what it meant.

(Ditch) - I went over to the railroad tracks and lay down between the banks parallel to the line. The banks curved so that I could not be seen from the tracks. The horseman rode off and returned on foot with several friends. They took off my flying gear, and bandaged my leg and foot with the aid of my parachute First Aid kit. A scout plane had started sweeping low over the countryside five minutes after I reached the ditch. It scouted nearby the whole time I was being bandaged, and I was thankful I had delayed my jump. I broke open my escape kit to locate myself, but my helpers motioned to me to lie low and remain silent. Two hours later, a man returned with cognac and a sandwich. As I ate, I watched our formations returning to England and felt very lonely.

(Denim VE) - At nightfall, two farmers collected me in a cart and drove me off to a cave. My leg was now stiff and I could hardly touch my toes to the ground. I spent the night and the next day in the cave on a bale of straw. I was given food, wine, and a blanket. On the night of 3 December, the horseman returned with an English-speaking friend. I told them that I wanted to go to Spain. The friend said this was impossible as I could not walk. He added that people would come to work in the cave in another day and then I would have no place to hide. He advised me to turn myself over to the German medical authorities. He kept insisting on this last point, and I was equally firm in maintaining that I would be able to walk and that I would not surrender. He finally shrugged his shoulders and left.

The farmer with the cart returned and gave me a sack full of excellent food and wines. He also brought me a hunting jacket and breeches. That night I was picked up in a car and driven away. The shell fragments were removed from my foot, leg, and thigh. I was given good care and the rest of my journey was arranged.

Compiled by Dorothy A. Smith, Capt. WAC
and approved by W. S. Holt, Lt. Col., AC Commanding

How French Underground Saved Chicago Boy
Patriots Rescue Chuting Flier Under Nazi Nose
By Elgar Brown

Lying in his muddy uniform amid the folds of a silken 'chute, the Chicago boy who had survived a 23,000-foot bailout from a crippled Liberator shook his muddled head and began cautiously to reconnoiter.

He was in a gloom-shrouded forest near Juvigny, northern France. Peering through the fog, he studied a cemetery to his left. A hated symbol adorned every grave. It was a Nazi boneyard.

Voices, excited and guttural, cut the dank air to his right. His heart raced; he was trapped. Almost at arms length was a pillbox. The voices spoke German. These ghostly figures were soldiers of the Reich.

Lt. Adolph Zielenkiewicz, 24 shrugged in a fatalistic gesture. This was his 13th mission on the 13th of December, 1943. His number was up.

But the former Herzl Junior College student, once an aerial photographer and later a bombardier, failed to reckon with the soul of France - the patriots of the French Forces of the Interior, the civilians who would not be enslaved.

He didn't know it, but Lt. Z. was beginning a matchless war yarn of adventure and intrigue - Escape by Underground - a yarn to be spun only when, as now, its locale was purged of the Hun beyond peradventure.

In Nazi-occupied Paris, as the multi-clad escort of a brave French girl, he was to rub elbows with loud and boorish officers of the Luftwaffe in a glittering caf known, oddly, as The Mikado.

In a cave near Toulouse he was to huddle for days until the furtive band had increased to 13 (that number again!) and trusted guides broke the way to the Spanish border.

In frigid weather on the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees, he and his companions were to suffer and roam for more unforgettable days till they emerged in a fertile valley and knew that success was within their grasp.

Then Barcelona, Madrid, Casablanca, London - each with its increasing safety, its diminishing need for stealth. And through it all, the efficient, friendly, dauntless hand of the blessed, magnificent Underground.

Adolph Zielenkiewicz, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Zielenkiewicz, 1742 Crystal St., Chicago, left Herzl Junior College in June, 1939, and went to war. He was commissioned at Kirtland, AAF, Albuquerque, NM, in January 1943.

He was a veteran sky cameraman and armorer, seasoned under fire, when he began that 13th mission in a B-24 bound for a daylight raid on Ludwigshaven, Germany. Its interruption, four plus miles up, was drenched in drama, says Lt. Z.:

"A 20-mm cannon shell exploded right in front of the greenhouse, and besides knocking out the Plexiglas, cut off the oxygen supply. The No. 1 engine was out and No. 2 was on fire.

"The pilot gave orders to bail out. But I found I was trapped in the turret, which was set at 1 o'clock

"I've been told since that it's impossible to get out through an opening so small. But when you HAVE to get out ..."

He was shaken but unhurt in landing, according to the version Lt. Z recently gave the CAAF Bomb Blast at Childress Army Air Field in Texas. But with a sinking heart he was quickly apprised that he had fallen into a Nazi fortified zone.

There was just one course to follow. Speedily he hid his chute in nearby brush, crawled into the cemetery to await darkness, and prayed.

At nightfall, he stumbled aimlessly forth into the Soissanier countryside. He had advanced five kilometers, he believes, when he encountered a group of French farmers.

These men were patriots; they inspected his uniform, recognized it, and made friendly overtures. They led him to a priest in a tiny village. The priest, welcoming him into his home, provided food, civilian clothing and - most important - direction to Paris and members of the underground there.

On the hazardous journey, of course, the bombardier was saved by his civvies. The patriots to whom he'd been directed turned out to be a valorous woman and her daughter.

For six weeks, filled with anxiety but in physical comfort, Lt. Z was lodged in their modest home, awaiting underground plans for his removal.

On one pulse-quickening day the underground spoke: Prepare to leave Paris! But a few short hours later came the disappointing word from the FFI:

"Gestapo too close; abandon secret getaway plans."

Soon afterward though it seemed an interminable period, the way was cleared. A rail ticket to Toulouse was mysteriously produced for Lt. Z. His loyal hostess whispered that five other allied airmen were in the shipment.

Directions were explicit and foolproof. The Yanks spotted each other without difficulty en route, but gave no sign of recognition. In Toulouse they scattered, each making his way to a lonely cave on the city's outskirts.

During three days of huddling in the cave, with the friendly French bringing adequate supplies, the number of fugitives grew to 13. Then they were ready; then began an unforgettable 15-day trek over the formidable Pyrenees.

Suddenly the ordeal ended and the weary group walked into a beautiful valley. In neat little homes the airmen found rest, food, shelter. And just across the Spanish border waited, of all things, two taxicabs!

Barcelona was entered in style. This was neutral country; the longtime fugitives breathed freely at last.

Easy sailing lay ahead. As guests of the British government, the 13 airmen entrained for Madrid went on to Gibraltar, left The Rock for Casablanca, an American base at last.

Flown by way of London, Lt. Z. reached America four months and a week after the day he landed in the Nazi cemetery near Juvigny.
 
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