John H. Anderson
home: Mexico Beach, FL 32410-3753
388 BG 561 BS
August 6, 1944
Enlisted men of crew of Robert Rave, pilot, substitut pilot: Donald Kluth, 388th BG 561st BS
Radio Operator TSgt John H. Anderson
Engineer TSgt August W. Maurer
Ball Turret SSgt Don Nelson deceased in 97
Tail Gunner SSgt Ernest Crawford deceased in 97
Waist Gunner SSgt Robert McIntyre no contact
1. Berlin, August 6, 1944, 12:35 p.m. Some landed in city, I landed in the country and was taken into Grossbeeren (?) for interview
2. took seven hrs and a bit to arrive at jail in Berlin. The next day, August 7, four of the crew plus 2 other Americans were taken by 2 guards to train station where we took train to Frankfurt. Walked across town, then on train and streetcar to interrogation center at Oberursel. On Aug 10 we went by train to Wetzlar (Dulag Luft). Left there on Aug 14 on train.
3. Rode all day on Aug 15 except for stopin station. American bombers bombed Frankfurt while we weree there. Saw planes get shot down. Arrived at St. Wendel in first contingent to arrive. Walked through town to camp.
4. I have no recollection of the town or the distance involved
5. from Aug 16 til we left Sept 5 on box cars ==> 20 days
6. I would judge 400 to 450 prisoners there
7. all American as far as I know
8. we were in a long sorrow building like a garage. On one side was the new camp which was still being built. Barbed wire was around the building. An open space for roll call and walking was in front of building.
9. box car hold 46 men + 7 guards, each end was fenced off with barbed wire. Shoes were placed in middle with guards.
10. got to use modern toilet facilities on Sept 4th. I picked up coffee for breakfast and bread in the afternoon that day also
11. never have
12. it wasn't until I was at Luft IV that I began to take more notes.
Dear Mr. Geiger,
Your letter to Leonard Rose was read at a reunion of the Stalag Luft IV American Ex-POWs held in Tacoma, Washington, on Friday, September 16, 1997. Leonard said that he had given your letter to Charles Hartney of Wichita Falls, Texas, who was to write an answer. Since I was one of the first contingent of POWs to arrive at St. Wendel I thought I would also write and tell you a bit about the camp as I remember it. I was there from August 16 to September 5, 1944 which was only a total of 20 days. I kept a diary and I thought you might be interested in reading what I wrote while I was at St. Wendel.
In 1991 my crew had their first reunion for which I wrote up our experiences during training and our flying missions in Europe. When we had another reunion in 1994 I did the same for the days we spent as POWs. I gave copies to each member of my crew and each of my children. This year two of my crew members have died. Three others had passed away earlier. Thus not many people have read of my personal thoughts and reactions to events mainly beyond my control.
In my case, I was a radio operator on a B-17 assigned to the 388th Bomb Group, 561st Squadron, stationed at Knettishall, England. My crew and I were shot down on our 24th mission over Berlin on August 6, 1944. After one night in a jail in Berlin I was sent by train to Frankfurt the next day. I stayed a while at Oberursel, just north of Frankfurt, for interrogation and then took a train to Dulag Luft at Wetzlar on August 10. On the 14th a group of close to 100 men left Wetzlar on a train and went back to Frankfurt where we witnessed an American bombing raid. We arrived at St. Wendel on the 16th and marched through town to get to the camp.
The camp was not yet completed. We were placed in a large garage-like building just outside the camp. The Germans opened all the canned goods we had so we had to eat the food immediately. My diary was kept on a sheet of paper which I hid in the binding of the New Testament I had with me. I will give you a summary of what I wrote:
Finished up Red Cross food. Helped unload beds from truck. The weather is rather hot. Bread for breakfast, soup for lunch and bread for supper.
Three enlisted men of my crew arrived and joined two of us in camp. Helped them eat their parcels. It is good to have friends. Things could be worse.
Didn't do much all day long. The soup for lunch and supper was quite poor. Washed and shaved. Washed clothes. Need a haircut. A lot of extra time on my hands. Camp going better. New latrine tomorrow.
Up at 6:30. Was on detail making beds. Missed part of church service. Had better dinner. Potatoes in soup. A little more soup for supper.
Up at 6:00. Read New Testament some more. Had fair lunch. Played cards. After dinner I helped peel potatoes. Ate a couple of raw potatoes and felt better.
Worked outside of camp shoveling dirt into a hole. Feld weak. Wrote letter home. Slept a little while. Quite hot. Took a cold water bath. Food fair. Cabbage in soup. Played cards.
Just a short distance from camp was a tremendous hole, probably dug for an air raid shelter and then abandoned. According to the Genevan Conventions sergeants who are prisoners of war do not have to work but may be made to supervise work. All the POWs at the camp were sergeants from the Air Force. We talked it over among ourselves and decided to protest the work assignment. The Germans cut us of meal saying, "no work, no eat". We met again and decided it would be wise to work, or, at least, give the appearance of working. A work detail was out filling up the hole most of the daylight hours, but we didn't work hard. It would have taken months to fill up that hole.
Had to go on detail shoveling dirt again. Worked harder this time. Had jam on bread for both breakfast and supper. Soup not so good. Didn't do much afterwards. Helped make a deck of cards. Hot today.
Stayed in bed most of morning. Went on detail putting beds together. Not hard. Took cold water bath. Got Red Cross parcel. Had 2 bowls of soup for supper and salmon. Morale much higher. Feld good.
Up early. Played cards during morning. Rained. Chow was late. Soup was good. Had a couple of air raid alerts during day. Last one during supper. Food is plentiful now. Talked with fellows. Good fellows. Had haircut.
Had air raid during night. Bombs fairly close. After roll call I washed clothes. Another air raid. Slept part of afternoon. Another alert at supper. Food like oatmeal (barley) today. Tomorrow we eat good.
Stayed in bed late. Roll call at 9:00. Went to church. Could be better. Ate a lot of food for dinner. Slept in afternoon. Air raid twice.
I should accomplish more. I would feel better. Got another Red Cross parcel. Still had some cheese left from last one. Played cards with crew.
Cooler. Ate breakfast. Had jam on bread and coffee. Roll call. Had soup and milk for lunch. Soup and milk and corn beef for dinner. Rained some. Not enough to do.
I believe this was the only time we were given some milk. It probably came from powdered milk in the Red Cross parcel. Evidently, the food was being prepared in the kitchen inside the camp. At the next camp each kriegie received 14 can of powdered milk a week to do with as he pleased. Except for Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks were on half-rations of Red Cross food. Food was more plentiful at St. Wendel
Cloudy and cooler all day. Stayed in bed most of morning. Maurer sick. Took a nap in the afternoon. Started to think of music. Wrote to my sister Vivian. Had air raid as usual.
Cold and cloudy all day. Played cards. Slept. Meals fair. Hope we aren't here too long. Talked as usual.
Air raids off and on all day. Six raids althogether. No bread for lunch and not much for supper. Laid in bed and thought a lot. I wish I had something to do to take up time.
Rained all day long. Got two slices of bread for breakfast. Soup no good for lunch. Opened up can of salmon. Had spinach for dinner. Slept in afternoon. Washed. Quite cool. Talked a lot.
Cold night. Windy and cold but finally warmed up in afternoon. Air raid lasted all morning. Talked with Maurer. Dinner was late. Read Testament. Had two cups of coffee for supper. Sat in sun awhile.
Sun came out and it got warmer. Soup was terrible for dinner. Shaved. Got headache and laid down. Couldn't eat supper. Nelson gave me aspirin. Felt a little better. Walked around. Went after coffee for breakfast and bread in afternoon.
This was the day we got to use the latrine in the new camp. I remember the toilets were different from ours at home but a lot better than the outdoor facilities we had been using. It was the last time I got to use a mechanical toilet for the next 8 months.
In the distance we could see a highway, and a number of tanks and trucks were moving toward the interior. We heard that the Allies had rushed across France. Information was scarce, but we did hear a lot of rumors. Actually, DeGaulle entered Paris on Aug. 26th, British amoured columns entered Brussels on Sept. 23rd, Antwerp on the 4th and then penetrated into Holland.
Each of us felt that the war was nearly over. In Worl War I the Germans had capitulated rather than fight on their own soil. It looked like they were rushing back home. There would probably be one more big battle and then Germany would surrender. Everyone took a date for the end of the war. Many picked dates in late September or October. I picked October 4th. The most pessimistic fellow picked November 11th for obvious reasons. We talked about a mass escape but it did not seem feasible. I would judge that there were about 400 to 450 prisoners at our camp.
Air raid lasted all morning. Went after potatoes for dinner. Had plenty to eat. Tanks getting close so they evacuated camp. Marched down to railroad. Got in box car. Quite crowded 46 men & 7 guards. Plenty of bread and butter. Played cards.
We were not surprised to have to leave camp. We must have had a minimum of 15 air raids while we were there during which we had to remain under cover. There were a number of Italians around camp who were workers, but they did not work very hard. If we had ever been able to get into the camp it would have been a nice set-up, but this was not to be.
It took us 5 days to arrive at Kiefheide where we got our shoes back and walked 40 minutes to Stalag Luft IV, where we were processed and searched again. My diary, inside the binding of my Testament, was not found. I was placed in a tent in A Lager and moved to C Lager when they opened it up on Sept. 26th. Camp life was fairly enjoyable with two roll calls a day our only required duty. I taught music theory to a number of fellows, directed the church choir and glee club, attended Bible study every week., morning devotion every morning, and conducted an hour meeting every evening in the barracks after we were locked up for the night. We stayed in camp until Feb. 6th when we evacuated camp and walked across Germany for the next 53 days. We arrived at Stalag XIB at Fallingbostel on March 29, 1945. I was liberated by the British at that camp on April 16th at 8:37 in the morning. Other crew members had to march on until they were liberated around May 3rd.
This is probably more information than you wanted. While I was at St. Wendel I wrote 3 cards and a letter home which I still have. St. Wendel was called Stalag Luft VI. An earlier camp at Heydekrug, near Lithuania, had been named Stalag Luft VI, but when the Russians threatened to overrun the area in early July, 1944 the 3200 men evacuated the camp on July 14th. They marched to the seaport town of Memel on the Baltic Sea. They were placed in the hold of two ships. Three days later they arrived at Schweinemünde. Boxcars then took them to Luft IV near the train station of Kiefheide. This group of prisoners were mal-treated by the guards as they ran from the station to the camp.
In April of 1994 I returned with a group of Ex-POWs to Kiefheide, which is now called Podborsko and situated in Poland. The Luft IV camp is covered with trees, but I was able to locate my barracks. I was unable to find the spot where I landed by parachute just outside of Grossbeeren, a suburb of Berlin. Chuck Hartney, whom I met on the trip in '94, said he had visited St. Wendel but was unable to locate the camp. As I recall your letter you were having trouble also. I assure you that we were there somewhere.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
John H. Anderson
In a book I have called "The 388th at War" it lists number 44-6088 and calls it "Fortress Nine". The report of the Operations Officer to the commanding officer about the mission on Aug 6, 1944, states that the only plane lost that day was 44-6098. The only record have about the plane only lists the last 3 numbers 098 which I thought was named "Little Donna". My crew flew that plane on July 19, 25, 27, 28 as well as on the last mission Aug 6.