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Bombs, Booze, and Broads

Albert W. Boam, a former B-24 navigator, recalls his training, bombing the Reich, getting shot down, and surviving months in a German POW camp.

Albert W. Boam, a former B-24 navigator, recollects his coaching, bombing the Reich, getting shot down, and surviving months in a German POW camp.

By Glenn Barnett

The date of November 10, 1942, continues to be vivid within the thoughts of Albert Wayne Boam. That was the day that he enlisted within the Military Air Corps, hoping to turn out to be a fighter pilot. He by no means imagined that he would go off to conflict, solely to develop into a prisoner.

Manhattan born and bred, Albert grew up on the Higher East Aspect in a couple of totally different flats. “Throughout that point flats have been fairly priced,” he recalled. He attended Stuyvesant Excessive Faculty, whose alumni additionally included actors Jimmy Cagney and Robert Alda, father of Alan Alda.

He was activated for obligation in early March 1943 and took a practice from his native Manhattan to Nashville, Tennessee, and primary coaching.The practice to Nashville made a cease in Louisville, Kentucky, the place the younger recruits might get a chew to eat. Probably the most handy place close to the station was the Blue Boar Café. Albert and his mates, filled with New York bravado, kidded round with their waitress till, aggravated, she advised them to kiss her behind. “It was the primary time I had heard a lady swear,” he stated.

Arriving at Nashville, current rains compelled the brand new males to hike by means of the purple mud of Tennessee to their barracks. The purple mud was an uncommon sight for the younger Yankees. The barracks featured coal-burning stoves that have been provided with bituminous coal, which quickly brought on respiratory issues among the many recruits. The following coughing matches turned often known as the “Tennessee Hack.”

Whereas in Nashville, the lads got aptitude checks for the totally different positions on a bomber; Albert handed the exams for pilot, bombardier, and navigator. His goals of turning into a fighter pilot evaporated when he was assigned to take navigator coaching at Selman Subject outdoors Monroe, Louisiana, the place he was instructed in meteorology and different topics. He flew follow missions in a twin-engine aircraft studying to make use of a drift meter.

From there Albert was despatched to gunnery faculty in Florida for six weeks and discovered to shoot .45-caliber pistols after which to load and hearth .50-caliber machine weapons, which he needed to strip and reassemble whereas blindfolded. He additionally recalled one other troublesome coaching maneuver: “One in every of our drills was to take a shotgun behind a shifting bus and shoot skeet, which have been flung at totally different angles and altitudes.”

Boam subsequent flew within the rear seat of an AT-6 Texan plane for superior coaching in air-to-air gunnery; the trainees fired on targets being pulled by one other aircraft. A part of his coaching was to carry regular when the tow pilot made sudden maneuvers. In a single contest he gained third place amongst all gunners on the bottom.

In December 1943, he obtained his wings and the gold bars of a second lieutenant. The newly minted navigators got a 10-day depart for Christmas and informed to report back to Casper Military Air Subject at Casper, Wyoming, the place, after the warmth and humidity of Louisiana and Florida, it was freezing chilly that winter. Albert was assigned to the 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), commanded by Brig. Gen. Ezekiel W. Napier, for additional coaching. He was teamed with a crew of a Consolidated B-24D Liberator heavy bomber. One in every of his crewmates was pilot Sal Mauriello, a cousin of heavyweight boxer Tami Mauriello, who, in 1946, would have a title struggle with Joe Louis.

After a number of weeks, all of the navigators have been transferred and reassigned to totally different crews at Wendover Military Air Area in Wendover, Utah. On the time, Wendover was the army’s largest bombing and gunnery vary. Flying in B-24s, the navigators-in-training got navigating workouts. They needed to triangulate their positions on lengthy flights that would take them so far as Montana within the north and Las Vegas within the south.

2nd Lt. Al Boam on a sunny but cold day at Casper Army Air Field in Wyoming, January 1944.

2nd Lt. Al Boam on a sunny however chilly day at Casper Military Air Area in Wyoming, January 1944.

The one perk of this task in such a desolate place was that Wendover was situated on Utah’s border with Nevada. Boam and a number of other different males have been housed within the uniquely located State Line Lodge; one half of the lodge was in Utah and the opposite half was in Nevada. As Utah was a “dry” state and Nevada had extra permissive legal guidelines, a lot of the males spent their free time on the Nevada aspect of the lodge.

The closest massive metropolis was Salt Lake Metropolis. Males on depart would take a bus on an virtually straight line previous the Bonneville Salt Flats to get there. At the moment there have been no posted velocity limits, and the bus raced via the desert to its vacation spot.

By the spring of 1944, the assembly-line method for producing airplanes was in full swing, and a flood of B-24s constructed on the Ford Motor Firm facility in Willow Run, Michigan, rolled off the road. The newly educated crews discovered the planes straightforward to fly.

When the 489th had accomplished its unit formation and fight coaching, it acquired orders to depart Wendover on April three, 1944. Albert and the newly shaped squadron have been ordered to Kansas Metropolis after which on to Morrison Subject, the previous civilian airport for West Palm Seashore, Florida. The brand new arrivals, like troopers in all places, speculated about the place they might be assigned. Many thought they might go to Burma and India to battle the Japanese, however they quickly discovered that they might be assigned to the Eighth Air Drive based mostly in Nice Britain.

To succeed in England, most air crews flew by way of the northern route, which took them by way of Newfoundland; Albert and his squadron flew by way of the southern route. Their first cease was in Puerto Rico. The airmen have been delighted to seek out that this island cease featured 10-cent frozen daiquiris. The enterprising crews crammed their empty bomb bays with low cost rum after which flew on to Trinidad and Georgetown in Guyana. From there they headed to Fortaleza, Brazil.

Brazil had portions of that the majority necessary of commodities—nylon stockings—which, because of wartime rationing of silk, weren’t out there within the States. Albert purchased a number of pair and shipped them to his sisters, who have been delighted. That was not his most vivid reminiscence of the nation, nevertheless. “What I keep in mind most about Brazil was the flying cockroaches.”

The subsequent cease was Natal, the easternmost metropolis in Brazil and probably the most handy spot for the hop throughout the Atlantic to Africa. The flyboys made the bounce to Dakar in French West Africa (now Senegal), which on the time had just lately handed from Vichy to Free French management. “It was the one time that I used celestial navigation, which I had discovered in superior coaching,” Albert stated. From there the B-24s flew on to Marrakesh, Morocco, the place Albert remembered catching a experience on a donkey-powered taxi.

After Morocco, they flew on to Nice Britain. Whereas passing Portugal, nevertheless, an unidentified aircraft resembling a German fighter was seen within the distance; the B-24 pilot ducked into close by clouds to keep away from confrontation. As soon as previous Portugal, the remainder of the flight was uneventful till virtually the top. They have been assigned to land at RAF Halesworth, situated between Norwich and Ipswich in East Anglia, however so many airports now dotted the English countryside that they have been misplaced amongst all the brand new army air bases. They ended up touchdown in Wales, lots of of miles to the southwest.

Albert remembered, “The native individuals have been most hospitable and pleasant.” Every of the officers was assigned a “batman” who, within the British army, was a soldier who was assigned as a man-servant to a commissioned officer. Albert took benefit of his batman lengthy sufficient to get his boots polished earlier than his aircraft flew on to RAF Halesworth, the 489th’s new house. The 56th Fighter Group was additionally stationed there. The 489th had 4 squadrons—the 844th, 845th, 846th, and 847th; Albert was assigned to the 846th Bombardment Squadron.

Whereas at Halesworth, the squadron flew a number of follow missions over the North Sea. Simply earlier than their first fight mission, two of the Liberators, making an attempt to keep away from a pair of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers headed straight for them out of the clouds, collided with one another, inflicting each ships to crash with ensuing fatalities. It was an unnerving expertise for the younger crews of the opposite planes.

A B-24, with a portion of its right wing damaged by antiaircraft fire during a raid over France in August 1944. The U.S. Eighth Air Force lost approximately 6,000 B-24s and B-17s in operational sorties throughout the war in various theaters. Over 30,000 U.S. airmen were killed or went missing and another 30,000 were captured, making life in the air force extremely hazardous.

A B-24, with a portion of its proper wing broken by antiaircraft hearth throughout a raid over France in August 1944. The U.S. Eighth Air Pressure misplaced roughly 6,000 B-24s and B-17s in operational sorties all through the conflict in numerous theaters. Over 30,000 U.S. airmen have been killed or went lacking and one other 30,000 have been captured, making life within the air pressure extraordinarily hazardous.

When not flying a fight mission, crew members spent their spare time lounging round their subject, writing letters residence, enjoying playing cards, going to pubs and dances in close by cities (the closest to RAF Halesworth have been Norwich and Ipswich), happening cross to London, or—most significantly—catching up on sleep.

A navigator in one other bomb group (the 455th) described life within the Eighth Air Pressure: “We dreaded each mission, however we knew that we needed to fly the missions with a purpose to get residence. All of us flew in terror. We prayed lots. A few of us drank lots. A few of us smoked lots. To flee the conflict, we walked or biked out on the English countryside any probability we had.

“Our crew was our household. We did nearly the whole lot collectively and took care of each other, it doesn’t matter what. The English women we met, we held them tight. They have been the angels in our world of sudden fiery demise. A few of us barely held on to our sanity. The flight surgeons gave us the suitable medicines to maintain us functioning the identical method our mechanics stored our bombers flying. One of many crew broke down underneath the pressure, and we couldn’t assist however envy him as he was pulled out of fight…

“A few years later we might study that, statistically, there was no extra harmful place to be in World Struggle II than in a bomber over Germany. The medals we acquired weren’t for heroism. They have been for having survived the hazard of collision with our personal planes, of being wounded by a bit of flak shrapnel, of being blown to kingdom come by a direct hit, of taking place due to a malfunctioning airplane, of being attacked by German fighters, of crashing into the ocean—of damage or dying in a thousand methods.”

The 489th flew its first fight mission on Might 30, 1944, only a week earlier than Operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion. On the time, crews needed to survive a minimal of 25 missions earlier than they might return house.

The wake-up name got here at four am, with the briefing happening after breakfast. The targets for the 489th Group’s 135 B-24s   have been aviation depots and the Wilde Sau fighter unit at Oldenburg in Decrease Saxony, west of Bremen. Because the 489th Group flew over the Dutch coast, German flak got here as much as meet them. It was the group’s first introduction to the lethal German antiaircraft hearth.

2nd Lt. Al Boam (left) poses with an Army buddy (right) and Rags Ragland, a comedian who appeared in many MGM films, photographed in Hollywood, California, while Boam was on leave before heading overseas.

2nd Lt. Al Boam (left) poses with an Military buddy (proper) and Rags Ragland, a comic who appeared in lots of MGM movies, photographed in Hollywood, California, whereas Boam was on depart earlier than heading abroad.

A crew didn’t have to be shot right down to be misplaced. On the Oldenburg mission, one other crew flying its first fight mission had made the error of not fueling the aircraft correctly, leaving it in need of gasoline for a spherical journey. In consequence, it ran out of fuel earlier than it might make it house and needed to ditch within the North Sea. Its surviving crewmen have been fished out of the water by the Germans and brought prisoner.

Albert remembered one other man within the squadron named Jack “Joe” Garber, who had been the U.S. nationwide handball champion in 1938 and 1942. On the group’s second mission, Garber’s flak helmet turned uncomfortable so he eliminated it to regulate it. At that second a piece of flak hit and killed him.

Albert’s aircraft was named Little Eva by its engineer. (One other B-24 Little Eva crashed off the coast of Australia in December 1942.) Little Eva’s second mission, on Might 31, 1944, was to hit V-1 “buzz bomb” launch websites within the Pas de Calais space of France. Flying between 7,000 and eight,000 ft, the primary cross over the goal was at a clumsy angle, and a lot of the planes did not drop their bombs. The flight commander was not glad and ordered a second move over goal, by no means a good suggestion.

Brig. Gen. Ezekiel Napier, commanded Boam’s 489th Bomb Group.

Brig. Gen. Ezekiel Napier, commanded Boam’s 489th Bomb Group.

Now the Germans knew they have been coming, plus their vary and altitude. Flak was correct, and Little Eva returned to base riddled with 186 holes from floor hearth. The hydraulic system had been pierced, and there have been no brakes. “One of many holes was immediately beneath the place I used to be sitting,” Albert recalled. “I’m nonetheless amazed that it didn’t hit me.”

One of many waist gunners was hit within the arm; he was badly wounded and wouldn’t fly in fight once more. A few planes have been shot down, and a lot of the planes acquired injury. “That’s the day I began smoking,” Albert recalled.

To make issues worse, whereas flying again to base over the Thames River Estuary, Little Eva flew under 10,000 ft and acquired antiaircraft hearth from the British. It was a rule that they have been to not fly under 10,000 ft close to London in order to not be mistaken for German bombers. Both the pilot didn’t keep in mind or the aircraft was too badly shot as much as maintain altitude.

Then issues received even worse. The lights at Halesworth went out as Little Eva approached, and the planes circled a number of occasions earlier than being diverted to RAF Metfield, about 18 miles south of Norwich. Because the aircraft landed with no brakes, the pilot carried out a floor loop to convey it to a cease.

Lt. Col. Bob Vance, right, earned the Medal of Honor despite severe injuries.

Lt. Col. Bob Vance, proper, earned the Medal of Honor regardless of extreme accidents.

The 489th took half in a number of extra raids previous to and after the Normandy invasion. One particularly stands out within the annals of the group’s historical past: June 5, 1944. On that day, Lt. Col. Leon R. “Bob” Vance was commanding the group in a diversionary raid on German coastal defenses at Wimereux, France. Vance was positioned behind the pilot and co-pilot of a B-24 carrying a floor radar set. Through the preliminary run over the goal, the lead aircraft’s bombs did not jettision, so a second run was ordered. A flak burst killed the pilot of the aircraft by which Vance was driving and badly wounded Vance, almost severing his proper foot.

When the co-pilot took cost of the aircraft, Vance assisted him in bringing it underneath management. Returning to England, Vance, now piloting the B-24, ordered the crew to bail out over the English Channel, because it was too badly broken to land safely. Erroneously considering that the aircraft’s radio operator was nonetheless on board, Vance made a profitable water touchdown to save lots of the person’s life, however an explosion occurred that blew Vance freed from the cockpit. He was picked up by a British air-sea rescue boat, however his foot needed to be amputated.

As Vance was flown again to america on July 26 for additional medical remedy, the C-54 Skymaster on which he and different wounded People have been flying disappeared over the North Atlantic. Vance was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor––the one Medal of Honor awarded to a B-24 crewman for an motion flown from England. In 1949, Enid Air Pressure Base in his hometown of Enid, Oklahoma, was renamed Vance Air Pressure Base in his honor.

On D-Day, Little Eva got down to bomb St. Lô, France. Flying beneath the clouds, Albert was surprised by the variety of ships concerned within the cross-Channel invasion. “It seemed like you might stroll from one finish of the Channel to the opposite,” he remembered.

On this journey, the pathfinder plane that was to cleared the path and designate the goal failed to seem. The planes assigned to bomb St. Lô discovered visibility restricted by clouds and aborted their mission.

After D-Day, the turnaround in missions was speedy; it appeared to Albert that Little Eva was flying a mission each different day. He flew two raids towards Munich (July 11 and 12, 1944). Each out there aircraft within the Eighth Air Pressure took half in these well-known “thousand aircraft” raids.

A number of of the missions additionally focused marshaling yards the place rail visitors was concentrated. At the least certainly one of his missions was towards Villacoublay Air Base, eight miles southwest of Paris, the place the Luftwaffe maintained a fighter base and a few plane manufacturing amenities.

Smoke and dust rise as a B-24 Liberator flies high above a target during a raid over Germany. B-24s dropped over 450,000 tons of bombs on Europe during World War II.

Smoke and mud rise as a B-24 Liberator flies excessive above a goal throughout a raid over Germany.
B-24s dropped over 450,000 tons of bombs on Europe throughout World Conflict II.

The group’s July 31 mission was directed towards the I.G. Farben chemical crops at Ludwigshafen-am-Rhein, throughout the river from Mannheim, Germany. Little Eva and her crew had logged 30 missions, and the July 31 mission can be their final—however not the best way that they had hoped.

Little Eva was the second aircraft in formation following the pathfinder plane, which led the best way to confirm the goal.

Because the squadron tagged after the pathfinder, Albert started to note that they have been off track. He radioed his pilot this info, however it was not transmitted to the lead aircraft. Their strategy was erroneously main them over the outskirts of Saarbrücken and in vary of the town’s antiaircraft defenses. Quickly flak rose into the sky and hit Little Eva’s management surfaces on the correct wing. Had the flak hit a number of inches to at least one aspect it will have ignited the gasoline tank with disastrous outcomes.

Little Eva peeled out of formation to the appropriate and flew erratically, dropping velocity and altitude. The pilot knew that they might not hope to make it again to England. As he struggled for management of the plane, the pilot desperately hoped that they might attain Switzerland, the place they might be protected. However Little Eva was turning into harder to regulate and had slowed virtually to stall velocity.

The pilot gave the order to bail out. Beginning at about eight,000 ft, the crew leaped out one after the other. Albert left by way of the nose-wheel door, chipping a tooth within the course of. “I opened my parachute immediately,” he stated. For greater than 70 years he has believed that he opened it too quickly. Little Eva hurtled to the bottom and crashed. William Bunton, the co-pilot, and Albert, bleeding from the mouth, landed in the identical space. They huddled collectively making an attempt to determine what to do subsequent.

That they had landed close to a police station at Hagenau in German-controlled Alsace-Lorraine. The native police chief and his males captured them. He swore at them, calling them “American terror gangsters.” In his anger, he took a couple of swings on the co-pilot, who was  a a lot greater man. The “gangsters” spent two nights within the native jail.

On the third day, a truck bearing the markings of the Luftwaffe arrived to select them up. The 2 males have been taken to the Dulag Luft (jail camp for enemy aviators) in Oberursel close to Frankfurt. Opened in 1939, this was the most important transit camp in Germany for captured Allied fliers. At Dulag Luft, POWs have been sorted out, interrogated, and shipped on to POW camps.

A B-24, its left outboard engine on fire, begins its fatal plunge. A Focke-Wulf FW-190 can be seen at right. Boam and his crew mates had to bail out of his stricken plane, Little Eva, near Hagenau, Alsace-Lorraine, on July 31, 1944. Boam was soon captured.

A B-24, its left outboard engine on hearth, begins its deadly plunge. A Focke-Wulf FW-190 could be seen at proper. Boam and his crew mates needed to bail out of his stricken aircraft, Little Eva, close to Hagenau, Alsace-Lorraine, on July 31, 1944. Boam was quickly captured.

Upon arrival, Albert and his co-pilot have been locked up in solitary confinement, given little to eat or drink, and slept on a picket palette with slightly pile of straw. After three days, they have been taken beneath guard to the workplace of an English-speaking Luftwaffe officer. He had carried out his homework. “He appeared to know rather a lot about me, the place I had educated, and my squadron quantity,” recalled Albert. The younger navigator was requested a collection of questions, the solutions to a few of which, he was positive, the German already knew. However Albert’s reply to all of the officer’s questions was “identify, rank, and serial quantity.”

After 5 days at Dulag Luft, they have been shipped by rail to Sagan, Decrease Silesia, and a Luftwaffe jail camp named Stalag Luft III. This was the well-known jail camp that was the location of “the Nice Escape.” That occasion and the brutal reprisals that adopted  occurred in March 1944—earlier than Albert arrived.

Within the camp, he was finally reunited with the opposite officers of his crew, pilot 1st Lt. Arthur P. Bertanzetti and bombardier Tom Day. That they had hidden and evaded seize for a number of days. All of the enlisted

males have been despatched to Stalag 17 in Austria. Their remedy can be a lot worse than that of the officers.

Boam’s German POW identification card. He spent 10 months in captivity before being liberated by Patton’s Third Army.

Boam’s German POW identification card. He spent 10 months in captivity earlier than being liberated by Patton’s Third Military.

At Stalag Luft III, they discovered that People have been being shot down in such numbers that there was no room for the brand new arrivals within the west camp that was put aside for U.S. air crews. So Albert was positioned within the north compound which housed RAF flyers, together with these from Canada and Poland. A few of these males had been imprisoned there since 1939 and 1940.

“I used to be actually impressed with their group,” Boam stated. “That they had a well-stocked library, a report assortment and a phonograph to play them. They organized lectures, placed on performs, with males in drag enjoying the ladies’s elements. They printed their very own camp newspaper and clandestinely hid a brief wave radio from which they gathered and verbally disseminated the BBC information of the day. The radio was given the code identify ‘tobacco’ to assist disguise its existence. For leisure at night time I most frequently performed playing cards.”

For train there was an oval space across the camp contained in the barbed wire, the place males took their day by day constitutionals (because the British referred to as it), and contact soccer and softball video games have been organized. Albert remembered, “At some point an Me-109 buzzed the compound, maybe paying respect to his fellow airmen. One of many prisoners threw a softball on the passing aircraft. Thankfully for us all, he missed. On one other event, an Me-262 German jet buzzed the compound. At first, there was awe on the aircraft with no propeller and the rumbling sound, however being fly boys we quickly found out what it was and what it meant”—that Nazi Germany had jet-powered planes which may tip the scales in Hitler’s favor.

For meals on the camp there was a dwindling quantity provided by the Luftwaffe—typically not more than insect-infested cabbage soup. “We needed to drain off the bugs earlier than
consuming it,” Boam recalled. Every so often they acquired a baked potato and typically a tough piece of darkish brown bread. The majority of their eating regimen got here from Pink Cross meals parcels.

Every parcel contained a number of gadgets. “I keep in mind tinned corned beef, powdered milk in a can, a chocolate bar, margarine, and a pack of cigarettes,” stated Albert.  The rising variety of Allied airmen within the camps restricted their parts. The lads have been positioned on half rations, and 15 parcels have been doled out to 30 males each two weeks.

The Stalag Luft III compound near Sagan, Silesia, with prisoners taking their “daily constitutional” along a route inside the barbed wire. This camp was where “the Great Escape” occurred in March 1944—before Boam’s arrival.

The Stalag Luft III compound close to Sagan, Silesia, with prisoners taking their “every day constitutional” alongside a route contained in the barbed wire. This camp was the place “the Nice Escape” occurred in March 1944—earlier than Boam’s arrival.

Letters from house needed to be written on particular varieties. They have been closely censored, with many blacked-out phrases and phrases, they usually all the time appeared to be delivered two months late.

Early on, the camp had devised a financial system based mostly on meals, cleaning soap, cigarettes, and different provides. Nonsmokers might barter their cigarettes (or “fags” because the British referred to as them) for chocolate or different items acquired from the surface. If an merchandise turned scarce, it rose in worth. If it turned extra available, the worth fell based mostly on the buying and selling that was achieved every day. “The system was like an off-the-cuff inventory change,” Albert stated, and it labored. Although he smoked, he was greater than glad to commerce his cigarettes for different gadgets.

The officers of Little Eva settled into camp life till January 1945. On the 12th, the Russians started their long-awaited and overpowering offensive all alongside Germany’s Japanese Entrance. Because the preventing moved nearer to Stalag Luft III, the prisoners have been moved westward. After the struggle it was discovered that Hitler needed all of the POWs to be killed within the dying days of the Third Reich. The military thought higher of it, and although the Nazi regime was crumbling it was nonetheless thought-about necessary to carry on to Allied POWs as bargaining chips in any future negotiations.

By January 27, the Russians have been inside 16 miles of camp. “The guards introduced that the prisoners had two or three hours to collect our belongings and all of the Purple Cross parcels we might carry,” Boam recalled. Eleven thousand prisoners have been led out into climate that was under freezing and the place the snow was six inches deep; their westward march of about 45 miles took 4 or 5 days to finish. “One night time I used to be capable of sleep in a barn in a pile of different our bodies for heat,” Albert famous. “Our vacation spot was Spremberg in Saxony. However we didn’t stay there lengthy.”

The prisoners have been cut up up and despatched in several instructions. On February 2, the lads of the north compound, together with Albert, have been loaded onto boxcars and shipped to Stalag XIII-D at Nuremberg. The town seemed to Albert to be about 90 % destroyed. He recalled a scene from the film Judgment at Nuremberg that depicted the town in that situation. The camp, which was beforehand occupied by Italian prisoners, was infested with lice.

Circumstances deteriorated. Due to the chaos and disruption in Germany, a lot of it because of steady Allied bombing and strafing, no new Pink Cross parcels arrived for the prisoners for a number of weeks. Consequently there was little to eat, and the lads started to reduce weight. “I misplaced about 25 kilos,” Albert stated. Conversations have been dominated by speak of meals. Even ladies took a again seat in these barrack conversations. When a cargo of parcels lastly arrived, it was greeted with nice celebration. Albert remembered, “It was like V-E Day—we have been all so glad to have meals once more.”

Quickly, nevertheless, the camp was threatened as soon as extra—this time from the west because the People and their allies crossed the Rhine and rushed eastward. This time the weary prisoners have been marched southward to Bavaria. “It was early spring, and no less than the climate was nice,” Albert famous. The Germans have been in need of manpower by now, and the POWs have been guarded virtually informally by older males of the sort drafted into the Volkssturm on the finish of the conflict. Albert recalled, “The prisoners might have escaped if that they had needed to, however all of us knew that the conflict was virtually over and nobody needed to danger being shot earlier than we have been liberated.”

In the future as they shuffled previous an area farm, Albert walked as much as the farmer who was watching them move and tried to commerce a few of his cigarettes for eggs. The American had picked up slightly German, and the farmer understood what he needed. Through the change, nevertheless, the farmer knowledgeable Albert out of the blue that President  Franklin Roosevelt had died. The information quickly unfold, and it was a shock to everybody.

The POWs’ final cease was in a camp close to Moosburg, a city northeast of Munich. Whereas the prisoners settled into their new camp, they noticed a silver North American P-51 Mustang fighter fly low overhead; everybody stood and cheered. Albert recalled, “That very same day, down in Moosburg, we heard small-arms hearth after which—the best of sights—the American flag was hoisted above the village church steeple.” Their remaining guards simply wandered away, and the prisoners have been liberated.

Not lengthy after that, Basic George S. Patton himself rode into the makeshift camp sitting on prime of the rear seat of his jeep. The jeep stopped, and Patton stood on the jeep so he might be seen and delivered considered one of his trademark speeches to the exhausted prisoners. Albert remembered that Patton “thanked us for our service and referred to as the Germans SOBs. A couple of days later we have been evacuated by C-47s to Rheims in japanese France. Once we arrived, the celebrations for V-E Day have been already underway.”

It wasn’t lengthy earlier than the previous POWs have been moved to the northern French port of Le Havre. There they have been housed at a camp referred to as “Fortunate Strike” whereas being processed for the journey house. Whereas there, they got as a lot meals as they needed and began to realize weight once more.

A modern view of what was once Stalag VII-A, near Moosberg, Germany, in southern Bavaria, to which Boam was moved during the closing days of the war.

A contemporary view of what was as soon as Stalag VII-A, close to Moosberg, Germany, in southern Bavaria, to which Boam was moved through the closing days of the conflict.

When the day got here for departure, Albert was despatched aboard a troopship named the SS Marine Raven. Once more, the previous POWs received all they needed to eat and the load achieve continued. Albert stated, “My prewar weight was about 154 kilos; I obtained right down to 125 kilos in camp.  By the point I reached residence, I used to be as much as 167 kilos.”

The Marine Raven put to sea in a convoy of about 20 ships, all headed house. A lot of the ships headed straight for his hometown of New York, however the Marine Raven was sure for Boston. Albert by no means came upon why. From there he was despatched to Westover Air Pressure Base in western Massachusetts.

Albert was then ordered to report back to Fort Dix, New Jersey. There he lastly received some dental work accomplished for his chipped tooth. The dentist cemented an acrylic crown over the tooth, and as a bonus Albert met the nurse and dated her a few occasions. Additionally at Fort Dix, he acquired 9 months of again pay for the time he was a POW; it totaled about $three,000. He felt wealthy. He was additionally given 60 days depart.

On the practice house to New York, Albert met a younger lady. “I nonetheless keep in mind her identify,” he recalled. The 2 hit it off properly throughout their practice journey. By the point they reached Pennsylvania Station in New York Metropolis, he had talked her into spending the night time with him they usually rented a close-by lodge room. “She was a gorgeous Irish woman,” he recalled. “So I used to be a day late in getting house,” he smiled.

It was a really good depart. Albert had cash in his pocket and the desire to have a great time. “Breakfast consisted of bourbon and steaks—and typically lunch, too.” Whereas he was on depart, the Japanese surrendered. He was in Atlantic Metropolis, New Jersey, on the time, which in all probability had its largest celebration ever. “I definitely drank my share,” he recalled.

As a result of he had been a POW, Albert was given the chance to go to a “relaxation camp” in Asheville, North Carolina, and he accepted. Extra events ensued. Lastly, in November 1945, he was separated from the army. He had earned eight battle ribbons and wore them proudly. Albert remained within the Air Drive Reserve for 10 years.

Throughout that point, he attended Columbia College on the G.I. Invoice. He then went to work for an promoting company in New York. Requested what life was like within the “advert recreation,” he replied, “Booze and broads, principally.” He married in 1958, however it didn’t final lengthy and there have been no youngsters.

As soon as, in dialog together with his monetary adviser, he was requested if he needed to spend money on the German firm I.G. Farben—the corporate he was making an attempt to bomb on the day he was shot down. He declined the supply.

At this time, at age 92, Albert Boam enjoys life in a retirement group in Stone Mountain, Georgia.