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B-17 Flying Fortress

Photo Source: http://www.brooks.af.mil/HSW/HO/ww2plane.html 



by Matt Davison

Jimmy Carter is a volunteer at the V.A. Medical Center in Long Beach, California. In the 40’s, he was an 18 year old enlistee from Owensboro, Kentucky, assigned to the Army Air Corps 15th Army, 5th Bomb Wing, 2nd Bomb Group, 20th Bomb Squadron, as a tail gunner.

On a bombing mission over Germany, Jimmy’s B-17 was hit and shot down. Jimmy caught some AA flak in the arm. Another gunner was shot up badly, but still alive. Jimmy tossed this gunner out of the B-17 before bailing out, seconds before the aircraft blew up. On his way down, in his chute, Jimmy was shot again in the left shoulder by a passing Nazi ME109 aircraft.

Before landing, Jimmy could see German civilians moving toward his landing area. Jimmy landed before the Germans arrived, got out of his chute, and hid in a ravine. That night, he heard an approaching motorcycle. Jimmy grabbed the biggest stick he could find and crawled out of the ravine. When the motorcycle was nearly upon him, Jimmy recognized that its driver was an SS Trooper. He rose up and caught the driver flush in the face with all the power left in his wounded body, killing the Trooper instantly. Jimmy then hid the SS Trooper and his motorcycle in the brush near the ravine.

Moving along the road, in the darkness, Jimmy watched as an ammunition truck approached. With one grenade, he managed to blow the truck to pieces. Further on down the road, Jimmy came onto an area with a great deal of activity. Parked alongside the road was a driverless aviation tanker. Jimmy opened up its valves and tossed a grenade, blowing up the tanker, before moving into the cover of night and escaping further down the road. Eventually, Jimmy passed out and was found by Nazi forces. Because of the severity of his wounds, the Nazis did not associate him with the destruction of the truck or tanker.

Jimmy was then taken to Buchanwald, where he spent the remainder of the war in a 6x8 solitary confinement cell. He recalls a visit by Adolph Hitler and his entourage. Hitler did not come into the camp, but remained outside. Jimmy was summoned from his cell and taken to where Hitler waited. Through a translator, Hitler asked Jimmy where his base of operations was and what their bombing mission was. Jimmy would only reply with his name, rank and serial number. His lack of response resulted in his being rifle-butted across the face.

While hurting and in considerable pain from ongoing torture, Jimmy would be seen from time to time by a Serbian doctor. He and the doctor, who now lives in Belgrade, remain friends to this day. In 1945, Jimmy was among those liberated by the 1st Ukraine Army. He still experiences discomfort and pain from his war experiences, but for a man in his 70’s, his presence is strong…a throwback to another generation of Americans…what Tom Brokaw refers to as “The Greatest Generation.”




15th Air Force, 5th Bomb Wing, 2nd Bomb Group, 20th Bomb Squadron 


The Pin Ups
The Pin Ups That Went to War
That Went to War



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