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unmanned transport
26th Feb 2005, 05:09
ON THE MISSION OF 14 MARCH 1945, the Fifteenth Air Force dispatched 848 bombers against targets in Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia. The 301st and 97th Bomb Groups used visual aiming to drop 193 tons of bombs on the marshaling yards in Komaron, Hungary, 20 miles from German lines. The 32nd Bomb Squadron was assigned this mission and I was the tail gunner on "Miss BeHaven" plane number 44-6407. Early that morning, after a light breakfast and briefing we departed Italy on our bombing mission to Komaron Hungary. We encountered heavy flak before reaching the target and were forced to drop our bombs prematurely due to our loss of power. With one engine out and two others with reduced power we were forced to attempt reaching Russian held territory in Poland. Keeping altitude was our immediate concern in reaching the front lines between the German and Russian ground forces. Somewhere near Myslenice south of Cracow our situation became serious and at an altitude of approximately 1500 feet Lieutenant Walter Podasek, the pilot put our plane on auto pilot and we bailed out. Due to ground fire, believed to be from the Russians, we were forced to ocillate in our chutes to avoid ground fire. Luckily, no one was hit, however the ocillating made the landings difficult. Knees were dislocated and some landings were in trees, steeples and rooftops. Russian forces believing we were paratroopers captured and jailed us even though I had an 18 inch square American flag with me and called out that we were "Amerikanza." Jailing lasted a couple of days however our Pilot, Lieutenant Walter Podasek spoke Polish and helped to arrange our release. We were then on our own, using bicycles, truck or on foot to Odessa Russia. Odessa was a collection point for downed Air Personnel. We arrived back at the 32nd Squadron's base in Lucera, north of Foggia Italy by ocean freighter via the straits of Bosphorus, Crete to fly another day. It was the crew's belief that Miss BeHaven had been destroyed in the crash. Fifty two years later in 1997 information was received from Michal Mucha and Szymon Serwatka of Poland that our plane had continued to fly crewless for 300 kilometers. It had belly-landed in a field in a manner a real pilot could not have handled better. The landing location was between Krotoszyn and Ostrow south east of Poznan. (Michal and Szymon are conducting a WWII Aircraft MIA project in Poland) Their Home Page Internet address is http://www.samoloty.ip.pl/amiap/