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William  S.  Strange

 

Personal Legacy
William S. Strange
WW II Diary
27 June 1944

The report that Bob Foust gave you was very accurate (ROH book, page 270) except for one minor detail. The ship he referred to that was badly shot up and flew on our wing actually happened on our second Brunswick raid. On that raid our Combat Wing encountered heavy fighter attacks, with the 392nd and 492nd suffering heavy losses. The ship that was damaged flew a short time on our wing, caught fire, and peeled off, and went down. It apparently had no survivors.

I did say that under like circumstances, I would try to bail our rather than to get trapped. Prior to the Creil raid, I had been grounded for a week due to an ear problem I had suffered on a previous mission. So I didn't fly the June 25 mission as Faust thought. It is very hard for anyone to remember every little detail concerning another person, but see no need for you to change your records.

The Creil mission was, by far, the most accurate if not the heaviest flak I have ever seen. The flak explosions were like a cannon! The surroundings turned black from the smoke. Normally, this smoke was mostly brownish, but not this time, as it had the sun blotted out.

I was looking directly at Scudday's ship when it seemed to get a direct hit. I didn't think that anyone could survive, but later learned that three of them did. They were: Nose gunner Carl Tepe, and gunner Coyle Acuff and navigator Raymond McCormick.

Upon reading Lt. McCormick's report, it cleared up things pretty well for me. He said the lead ship veered off course and led us directly into the flak. Even after getting into the flak, it didn't try to get out. It is always good to have someone else to blame. I've always wondered what happened that day because we were briefed for only four flak guns!!

Back to what happened - a few seconds after Scudday got hit, we got hit. As Bob Foust gave a good account of the things that happened to us after the hit, I will only relate what happened to me after I bailed out.

After leaving the ship, it seemed like I was tumbling end over end, and I didn't like that feeling at all! So I decided to pull my ripcord - which was a mistake. I should have waited longer because I almost passed out from lack of oxygen. seemed like a long time to get to the ground - was about a four-mile drop.

As I was coming down, I looked out and could see smoke from where the bombs had been dropped - also could see three other parachutes in the air. (Scudday's crew?)

As I approached the ground, the wind caught my chute and carried me over a road that was approximately 300 feet below me. Then I was rapidly descending into some trees, so I put my feet together so I wouldn't straddle a limb. Then I felt the branches brushing against me - and hit the ground rather hard, harder than I thought I should. Just then my feet were jerked out from under me and my head hit, causing a few bright stars or whatever. I will always believe that my chute partially Collapsed at first, causing my fall to be faster there at the end The parachute and lines caught in the tree limbs, slowing my descent, but then jerking my feet, from under me. I had to pull myself upon the lines to unfasten the chute, as it was up in the treetop.

As soon as I got loose from the chute, I dropped to the ground and started running away from the road. Had run about 200 yards when a French girl ran to me shouting, "Americano!, Americano!" She was, I thought, very good looking. But someone was hollering at her to come back. I suspect that it was her mother. She took my helmet and hid it under her bosom, and then led me down a creek to some sort of cave or cellar. However, the door was nailed shut, and we couldn't get it open.

Now, here comes a German soldier with a rifle held across his chest. We saw him first before he saw us. But, unfortunately, he stopped on the creek bank and started looking around. We weren't hid very well so if he turned around, he could have seen us.

Across the creek there were trees where I could run into and, hopefully get away before he could possibly turn, see me, and get off a good shot.

Now, let me ask you a question. What would you have done??

I ran as fast as I could - and got away. However, the girl didn't follow me, or couldn't. I have always wondered what may or may not have happened to her. After the war, I should have gone back to France and tried to find out. But it just wasn't to be, I guess.

So, again, I was back running in the trees until I came to what looked like a small pond, about 15 feet in diameter. In the center was a mound, which was dry, and had grass growing fairly high. I climbed inside of it to hide. Surely there were more soldiers, etc. looking for me. By hiding here it would be difficult for them to see me except by having to go to the other side, away from the direction that I came.

Pretty soon I did hear footsteps and they came close. But as they were closing in, I circled around the wallow so as to be on the same side as they were. It could have been the girl following me but I didn't dare to show myself.

Now, everything got very quiet. I figured that all I had to do was to wait there until dark and then continue as I had been-instructed to do. However, I didn't like the prospect of trying to get out of this place at night. There were too many trees, too many creeks and gullies. So I decided to get out, walk very quietly - and hope that I saw those Germans first.

I worked my way to that road I saw earlier, which was about 400 yards. There was a fence made of medal, more like a chain-link fence, about eight feet high. It appeared to be quite difficult to climb over, and just then a car or truck came down the road, forcing me to move back into the woods.

Discourage by all of this, I decided to try the opposite way from the road, started walking again. After a bit I became a bit more confident because the trees were thinning out, and the ground was better to walk over, not so many obstacles. I could almost see "the light at the end of the tunnel" when, all of a sudden, a soldier dressed in a blue uniform appeared carrying his rifle.

I was within range of that gun! We seemed to see each other about the same time -and this time there were no trees to give me cover, no place to hide. He signaled with his hand for me to come to him, but never really pointed his gun at me. He had me walk in front of him for about a quarter of a mile to a truck. There were about five other soldiers waiting.

My captor was different from the first one who was searching for me. This one was about ten years younger. One of those soldiers waiting for us said something like a question as to where did he find me.

The group drove me to a small town, where they took my unopened escape kit and my watch. I spent the first night sleeping, or trying to sleep, at an office where about ten soldiers worked.

In looking back even yet, I feel that with a little more luck I could have avoided capture. I can't say what I should have done differently, because I wouldn't know if that would have worked, either. But I sure hated being caught.

About a week later, I was in Germany, taken to Frankfurt - but I wasn't interrogated. In fact, the only interrogation I faced was at Brussels, Belgium, where they wanted the names of my crew. At first I refused, but was advised by another American to go ahead, give it for identification purposes. So I did. But that was as far as my interrogation was concerned. At Frankfurt they searched me rather roughly once, but no questions.

From there I was sent to Stalag Luft IV, which was in eastern Germany, close to Staraagard, Poland. Carl Tepe, who was on Lt. Scudday's crew, was one of the ten men in my room at IV. Coyle Acuff was in our same compound, so we often got together and compared experiences.

We were liberated around May 1st, 1945 at a hospital north of Munich.

Thank you again,

William S. Strange
 
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