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Paul Parks 1945

B17s Taxie Out For Mission

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Street:  P.O. Box 337 City & State: ECKERT, CO E-Mail:  romoc@juno.com
Zip: 81418 Phone:  970 835-3423 Spouse: Nell
Conflict: WWII Service Branch: Army Air Corp Unit: 381st Bomb Goup 533 Squardron
Theater: ETO Where Captured: FRANKFURT, GERMANY Date Captured: 9/09/44
Camps Held In: STALAG LUFF4 IV, camp 357, Dachau How Long Interned: 218 days
liberated / repatriated: Escaped Date Liberated: 4/15/45 Age at Capture: 18
Medals Received: Purple Heart, Air Medal 2 clusters, French Normady, POW medal
Military Job: FLIGHT ENGINEER B17 Company: SELF EMPLOYED - Marine Electronics
Occupation after War:  Student

Military Bio:

I enlisted in the Army in June of 1943 with the promise that if I passed the Army Air Corp exam I would be assigned to the Army Air Corp. I passed, and reported to Amarillo TX. for basic training. Our class then completed aircraft mechanic school also in Amarillo moved on to Kingman, Arizona for gunnery school. Here I receive my wings (a proud day and my life).

Then it was on to Ardmore, Oklahoma to pick up a crew. We did some practice close formation flying and Bomb runs at 29,000 feet. From there I went to Lincoln Nebraska for bombardier training on the secrete Norton Bomb sight. As a Flight Engineer we were crossed trained to take over other jobs on the ship in case of injuries. From Lincoln, Nebraska we picked up a new B17G and headed out for Eroupe. We refuled in New Hampshire and Bangor Maine and then on to Iceland via the Artic Circle route to our new home in England. We were attached is 381st bomb group, 533 squadron.

I flew my first mission with another crew that had lost there flight engeneer. We flew the Normandy invasion on June 3rd, 1944 and recieved the French campain medal for that flight.

Our plane was shot down over Franfort Germany on September 25th, 1944. I was wounded and taken prisoner of war and assigned to Stalag Luff IV near the Baltic Sea town of Stettin. Sometime in January 1945 were made to evacuate the camp because of the advancing Russians. We were forced to walk in minus 10 degree weather for more than 600 miles across Germany. We slept in snow, barns, under bridges, and woods. We were forced to forge off the land for food and clothing for rations were scarce. We stopped at camp 357 for a short time and then it was back on the road. We spent several days at Dachau, a concentration camp. It was grim to say the least but we could not see what Dachau was all about at the time. On or about April 10, 1945 were back on the road again.

On the morning of April 15, 1945 we heard rumbling tanks and heavy equipment and noticed all the guards were gone. We walked up to the road and saw the British 11th Armored Division and we were instantly repatriated. They had their Lancaster's flying and were backed up by trucks loaded with supplies in fields nearby. I picked up a flight to England the very next day. There I was hospitalized for about six weeks in preperation for our return via ship to the United States. Once back on US soil, I was sent to Fort George Wright Hospital and also spent some rehab time at a hospital in California. Was discharged on Nov. 30th, 1945 and fineally returned to civilian life.

The forced march in the middle of the winter of 600 miles crisscrossing Germany was a hardship that many did not surrive. We lost one out of five and sustain injuries that lasted for life. I still have feelings for those the did not make it, for the these are the real heros. Knowing the war would soon be over many of us would not give up just thinking that any day we might be going home. These thoughts saved many of us.

Paul Parks

My Message to Future Generations:

Don't Ever Give Up No Matter How Tough, It Might Be Better Tomorrow!
B17 in Flight Mural at Smithsonian Washington Air & Space Musum

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