Posted on April 20, 2022
by Kevin Maurer
Writing Damn Lucky was an incredible expertise, however one of many frustrations was all the nice stuff I ignored as a result of it didn’t match into the narrative. This story is a couple of crash, a fisherman, and a shawl.
It’s July 1943 and Bill DeSanders—who makes a cameo in Damn Lucky at a pivotal time—has an ear an infection so Captain Richard Carey took his place within the pilot seat on his crew with Second Lieutenant William Styles within the co-pilot seat. This was Styles’s eighth mission. The goal was plane factories in Warnemunde, a German city on the Baltic Sea. Cloud cowl pushed the bombers to Kiel, the place anti-plane fireplace—known as flak—tore into the squadron.
Their bomber misplaced its No. 2 engine and struggled to maintain up with the others. Soon, different engines failed forcing Styles and Carey to ditch into the ocean fifty miles from Denmark.
Carey and Styles escaped the shortly sinking airplane. The remainder of the crew was within the radio room on the heart of the plane. Two severely injured gunners—Robert Lepper and Maynard Parsons—had been pushed via the overhead hatch by the opposite six crew members who had been trapped and went down with the airplane.
“Griffith was struggling to get out of the hatch as the plane was sinking, that is the last I saw of him,” Styles wrote in a report later.
Nearby, a Danish fishing boat noticed the B-17 hit the water and cruised over to select up any survivors. Bobbing within the water with their Mae West life jackets inflated had been the 2 pilots—Styles and Carey—and the 2 gunners—Lepper and Parsons. The boat’s crew—Captain Svend Pedersen and Viggo Skouenborg —hauled the lads onto the deck like a recent catch. Lepper’s wrist and legs had been fractured, and the fishermen broke up crates so they might splint the limbs. When they completed, Lepper was wrapped in a blanket to remain heat.
While they waited for rescue, Skouenborg shot photos of the Americans. A couple of present Styles posing with Carey. Both males look traumatized. They’d simply endured bone-jarring flak and crashing into the North Sea. More than half their crew was useless and there was a great likelihood they had been prisoners of struggle. Styles gave Skouenborg his silk survival scarf in gratitude. The scarf had a map of France and Germany printed on it. Made of silk in order that it didn’t make any noise at evening or when an airman was hiding, the maps had been a vital a part of the crew’s evasion equipment. The fisherman waited within the space for six hours hoping an American rescue airplane would come for the crew, however the crash was too removed from England. Out of choices as a result of a German fighter reported the downed bomber, they had been pressured to return to port in Esbjerg, Denmark, and switch over the crew.
An ambulance and a small crowd met the boat on the dock. The Germans arrived quickly after, in accordance with an account in a resistance newspaper known as Vestjyden, and stored Lepper on the deck of the boat as an alternative of the ambulance. The crowd protested, however a pointy whistle from the German officer introduced extra troops who threatened the group and drove them away from the dock. For two hours, Lepper waited in agony for a German ambulance.
“While the poor man was lying there racked with pain a German officer strutted about smiling cynically every time the injured airman moaned with pain,” a witness wrote within the newspaper. “The brutality shown here by the Germans to a severely injured and helpless adversary once more stresses their cowardice and sadistic leanings. It is a comfort that the day of reckoning will soon be here, and then the German beasts will have the bill presented with interest and compound interest. We are in complete agreement on that.”
The airmen had been taken to Dulag Luft after which Stalag Luft III, the POW camp for aviation officers in Sagan, Germany till the tip of the struggle.
Fast ahead to 2017.
A reporter on the native paper in Esbjerg bought an e mail from Linda Berkery, Style’s daughter, asking for extra details about what occurred that day. The reporter dug in and when the story was revealed, the fishermen’s households acknowledged the pictures and contacted Linda. Soon, decedents from the airman and Danish fishermen related through social media and cellphone.
But the most important shock got here when Jesper, the son of the fisherman turned photographer who shot the pictures of Styles and crew, contacted Linda.
“As a kid, I listened to my father with tall eyes and ears when he told me this dramatic rescue story,” he informed Linda.
Then the kicker.
“Your father gave my father two silk maps as a thank you for the rescue,” he mentioned. “Those maps are still in my possession. I would love to give you one—my pleasure.”
Linda accepted the present and waited for weeks for the headband to reach. When it did, she took it out and held it to her face.
“Maybe it was just the sun on the front porch, but I felt my father’s warmth as the scarf rested in my shaky hands,” she wrote in an essay in regards to the scarf. “I breathed deeply and lifted the silent silk map to my face, careful to avoid the tears, but it wasn’t silent at all. I heard the North Sea and voices from a summer evening in 1943. I had re-connected with my father.”
Want to seek out extra data on this mission and each 100th Bomb Group mission? Head over to the 100th Bomb Group Foundation.
Kevin Maurer is an award-profitable journalist and three-time New York Times bestselling co-creator of No Easy Day, No Hero and American Radical amongst others. For the final eleven years, Maurer has additionally labored as a contract author masking struggle, politics and basic curiosity tales. His writing has been revealed in GQ, Men’s Journal, The Daily Beast, The Washington Post, and quite a few different publications.