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Arthur M Read

Military

Shot down by flak and crashed near Pierrelay on 8/2/44 in B-17 'Fourth Term' #42-97171, Prisoner of War (POW).

Twenty-five thousand feet below spread the great city of Paris. A city of light where the world's finest artists had left a heritage on memorable culture, but on this day, Aug. 2, 1944, Paris was a city of darkness. Paris was crushed under the military boots of Hitler, one of the world's most vicious, tyrannical dictators.

As the beautiful, nostalgic old song reminds us, "The Last Time I Saw Paris" was also my favorite view of the winding Seine river, the Arc de Triomphe at the west end of the Champs Elysees, and the towering Eiffel Tower. My point of vantage was quite unique. I was descending a one-way nylon canopy ladder after bailing out of Fourth Term a B-17 bomber named in honor of our great President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Our group had flown an afternoon mission from our 8th Air Force base in Knettishall, England. I was the crew navigator flying with the 563rd squadron of the 388th bomb group. The target was a bridge across the Seine just north of Paris. The bridge was under heavy German traffic. Paradoxically, reinforcements were being rushed to northern France and at the same time battered German units were retreating.

Twenty eight Fortresses took off from our group. Pre-flight briefing had warned us that flak over the target would be light but quite accurate. This proved to be too true for our plane and crew. We had a successful "bombs away" at 1700.

Immediately after this drop our plane suffered direct hits by three 88 millimeter shells.

One shell exploded directly in front of the bomber's nose. The plexiglass was shattered and I was knocked unconscious. My flak suit was riddled as were my life preserver and my oxygen mask. If I had been wearing a chest pack type of parachute, I'm sure that my journey to the soil of France would have been much quicker! I have often wondered how our bombardier escaped unscathed. His position was directly behind the shattered plexiglass nose. Apparently he was crouched over the Norden bomb sight and the blast force passed over him.

Fate had smiled on me several times on that fateful day. Just prior to the mission (#13), for some reason, I decided to go to the parachute rigger dept. and have my chute straps adjusted. The chute rigger glanced at my bulk (250 Lbs.) and decided to fit me with a much larger chute. Very fortunately, the largest chute in the supply room was a new backpack. This was fitted expertly and three hours later had the unwanted opportunity of successfully proving the fruits of his labor. Needless to say, my heartfelt thanks go to this skilled technician and his wise and fateful decision.

Our bomber, the Fourth Term, also received a direct hit on the number 3 engine which burst into flame. another 88 millimeter shell exploded near the radio room severely wounding our engineer, a young Brooklyn man named Ernie Furfars. Eight of us jumped from the badly damaged plane.
I learned later that circumstances forced our co-pilot, Willard Spangler, to crash land the burning plane. A remarkable feat of piloting for which he was to be decorated many years later.

I pulled the rip cord soon after exiting the front escape hatch.

This early activating of the chute was prompted by some rather foggy logic. Knowing how badly my equipment and clothing had been damaged in the plane explosion, I felt that I might somehow assist the chute's release if it failed to function properly. I hadn't the slightest idea what I could have possibly done if it had been damaged. A sharp jolt as I was jerked to a perpendicular position was most reassuring.

Although still feeling quite groggy, a great feeling of relief swept over me. Apparently we had all gotten out of the bomber before the fire had caused a much feared explosion, and I could not detect any injury. The only action I could detect below was a farmer loading hay onto a wagon pulled by two oxen.

He seemed oblivious to the sights and sounds of war as he worked on the east edge of the city. Some of the famous Paris landmarks became visible below the light cloud cover. I thought how ironic it would be to land on the Eiffel Tower or the famous boulevard, Champs Elysees. Those possibilities were, of course, very remote, but a splash in the Seine seemed a probability.

My day dreaming ended and I was jolted rudely back - something had hit my parachute canopy. Glancing apprehension, I saw three six inch holes directly above my head.

This happened nearly fifty years ago, yet I still marvel today just how those machine gun shells could have gotten past my very large swinging frame to make holes directly above my head. This ground fire did result in tragedy to a crew member. Our pilot, Donald Balboni, was fatally wounded and died a few days later in a Paris hospital.

The three bullet holes in the canopy did not seem to accelerate my speed of decent. I had drifted far to the east. Very close in fact, to the hay making farmer. Any thought I cherished for hiding in France and escaping capture were dashed when I spotted perhaps a dozen armed German soldiers on motor bikes circling my approximate landing spot. Following my very unskilled landing, I was immediately surrounded by German soldiers screaming for my "pistoliver!"

I told them that since I didn't have my sidearm with me, it must be still up, as I pointed to the sky. My attempt at humor was not applauded!

They gathered my parachute and handed it to me to carry about a mile to a civic building that had taken as an office building for their purposes. A number of elderly French men and women lined the roadside for our impromptu parade. There were a few waves and furtive V's for victory directed towards me, but for the most part the spectators were very grim after years of occupation.

As I entered the Government building where a part of our bomber crew was assembled, I saw a German army troop carrier truck leave with seven American Airmen in the back. Just a few hours later, I was to see the same truck about ten kilometers north of Paris. It was burning in a ditch, apparently from allied fighter plane strafing. There were no signs of friends or foe, consequently we took the optimistic view that the POWs had been transferred and were safe.

Our first night of captivity was spent in an unbelievably ancient French dungeon about 50 kilometers north of Paris. This old prison was typical of torture chambers and dungeons portrayed in chilling French novels and horror movies. We saw no other Allied POWs, but hundreds of civilian inmates. Most appeared quite old and many were insane. Some had beards to their waists - dirty, ragged and barefoot. Sympathy was all we had to extend.

Our excitement for the day was not over. Just before midnight, two flights of medium bombers hit a bridge about 100 yards from our cells. It was impossible to judge just how close some of the stray bombs landed. However, judging from the noise, vibrations, smoke and dust, we could only believe that we were part of the target. These bombings and strafings were to be repeated by friendly aircraft a number of times during the ensuing year of captivity.

After the war, in reply to inane comments, which we “probably got used to it,” my reply and I am sure all other 'Krieges' responses were an enthusiastic "Never!"

Service

People

  • Donald Balboni

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Pilot | 388th Bomb Group
    Killed in Action (KIA) Shot down by flak and crashed near Pierrelay in B-17 Fourth Term #4297171

  • Ernest Furfaro

    Military | Corporal | Top Turret Gunner | 388th Bomb Group
    Shot down by flak and crashed near Pierrelay on 8/2/44 in B-17 'Fourth Term' #42-97171, Evaded (EVD).

  • Laverne Kaasa

    Military | Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 388th Bomb Group
    Prisoner of War (POW) Shot down by flak and crashed near Pierrelay on 8/2/44 in B-17 Fourth Term #4297171 POW

  • Walter Knudson

    Military | Private | Right Waist Gunner, Waist Gunner | 388th Bomb Group
    Prisoner of War (POW) Shot down by flak and crashed near Pierrelay on 8/2/44 in B-17 Fourth Term #4297171 POW

  • Louis LeGrand

    Military | Private First Class | Ball Turret Gunner | 388th Bomb Group
    Prisoner of War (POW) Shot down by flak and crashed near Pierrelay on 8/2/44 in B-17 Fourth Term #4297171 POW

  • Louis Legrand

    Military | Private First Class | Ball Turret Gunner | 388th Bomb Group

  • Edward Monroe

    Military | Sergeant | Radio Operator | 388th Bomb Group
    Prisoner of War (POW) Shot down by flak and crashed near Pierrelay on 8/2/44 in B-17 Fourth Term #4297171 POW

  • Earl Simanek

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Bombardier | 388th Bomb Group
    Prisoner of War (POW) shot down by flak and crashed near Pierrelay on 8/2/44 in B-17 Fourth Term #4297171 POW

  • Willard Spangler

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 388th Bomb Group
    Prisoner of War (POW) Shot down by flak and crashed near Pierrelay in B-17 Fourth Term 42-97171 POW

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Units served with

  • 388th Bomb Group

    388th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 388th Bomb Group flew strategic bombing mission from Knettishall, Suffolk from June 1943 to the end of the war. During this time, though, detachments were sent to Fersfield, Norfolk to conduct Aphrodite missions. In these Aphrodite missions veteran...

  • 563rd Bomb Squadron

Aircraft

  • 42-97171

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 3/2/44; Kearney 24/2/44; Grenier 8/3/44; Assigned 563BS/388BG [L] Knettishall 12/3/44; Missing in Action Paris 2/8/44 with Don Balboni (Killed in Action); Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Ernie Fufaro (evaded capture); Co-pilot:...

  • 44-6106 Gremlin's Hideout

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Accepted: 2 May 1944 ...

Missions

  • 458

    7 July 1944

  • 460

    8 July 1944

  • 481

    18 July 1944
    Flew an easy one over Denmark to Germany. Only had one hours sleep between yesterday and today.

  • 8th Air Force 482

    19 July 1944
    Schweinfurt, Germany ball bearing plant was the target. Hit by flak and fell behind formation at 8:45 am above Aachen, Germany and crashed at Haren, Belgium at 10:06 am in the air district.

  • 492

    24 July 1944
    Bombed enemy troop concentrations and thus assisted the Allied breakthrough at St. Lo. About 1500 planes of US went to St. Lo in Cherbourg. We came back with our bombs. Couldn't find the target.

  • 501

    28 July 1944

  • 507

    31 July 1944
    Flak knocked out #2 engine, the interphone system, the VHF plus other damages. We got back to the base before the formation.

  • 510

    2 August 1944

Associated Place

  • Knettishall

    Military site : airfield
    Knettishall was built to Class A standard for an American Bomb Group that would be bringing up to forty heavy bombers with them in three or four Squadrons. The 388th Bomb Group, which stayed at Knettishall for their entire service in the ETO, flew B-17...

Events

Event Location Date
Born Daytonia Beach, Florida, USA
Prisoner of War (POW) France 2 August 1944
Died 6 January 2001
Buried Rockford, Illinois

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
23 September 2020 22:24:15 jmoore43 Changes to biography
Sources

Added a "-" to the A/C serial # in the "Summary biography" to aid clarity & consistency.

Date Contributor Update
30 January 2015 20:24:11 Ivy Read Gregg Changes to nickname
Sources

Added Grandpa's nicknames... Although he used Bud often back home, he only ever talked about the Moose monicker in his POW stories.

Date Contributor Update
30 January 2015 16:31:19 Emily Changes to biography, person associations and mission associations
Sources

Mission details written by Arthur M Read in 1991, courtesy of Dick Read

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:04:09 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / MACR 7745 / MACR 7745, son / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database

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