Lt. Warren Wade was not a fighter ace, but he was an American hero. Wade and his crew, which consisted of Ted Provost as Co-Pilot, Burt Bream, navigator; William Howell, bombardier; Robert Ritter, engineer; John Rex, radio operator; Wilbert Burns, ball turret gunner; Harrison Brooks, waist gunner; and Eugene Gamba, tail gunner. Most will never know about what they did one night in France, but ther are heroes nonetheless. After their Fortress, which was a trusty combat veteran itself began having engine problems, their trouble began. One engine after another began to fail, and fighter support was nowhere to be found. The plane was going down, but nobody really knew how fast or how far. A flash of inspiration led Wade to order engineer Ritter to hold up his earphone cord to help establish some kind of an artificial horizon. Not much help. The plane struggled to stay alive as it wallowed in the murky skies.
“Sometimes we were upside down, sometimes diving and sometimes near stalling,” recalled Prevost. “It was wild, and the tremendous downdrafts had us all guessing. And then our pitot tube had frozen over so we had no idea of our air speed.”
Somewhere during this descent the bombardier chose to bail out and he was followed by the engineer. Both went out the nose hatch.
The wild ride continued for about 40 minutes, when all at once came the “moment of truth.”
A church steeple appeared just ahead. And they were flying upside down!
“Warren and I put our legs on the yoke and pushed, just barely clearing the steeple as we turned the plane right side up.
“Now we were on the deck and the next thing I heard from Warren was ‘wheels and flaps!’”
And the “magnificent” landing… and the beginning of another adventure that would conclude with three of the crew dead in a bloody escape attempt.
The emergency landing was so smooth, the other members of the crew who had huddled in the radio room for the impending crash jolts hardly realized they were safely on the ground.
The joy of the super landing was short-lived, however, as the crew was quickly rounded up by German soldiers. And as these soldiers were ordering the captured seven Americans into a truck, others were cutting branches from nearby trees in an effort to conceal the prized, intact B-17 from the air.
U.S. fighter pilots had standing orders to destroy any bomber that might have survived such a crash landing. It didn’t take them long to find the B-17 and render it junk.
The landing had been successfully negotiated somewhere southeast of Nancy.
“We landed somewhere about half way between Nancy to the west and Sarrebourg to the east,” said Bream. “At least it was 12 kilometers to Nancy, according to the sign post.”
The seven Americans were loaded into an open truck, guarded by five SS troops in the back and two more in the cab. It was now quite dark and soon to begin was a conflict befitting World War I trench warfare of a generation before.
Wade passed the word that they should make an escape try, even in the face of seven armed guards. In the dark, he reasoned, they could make a run for it and reach Allied lines before dawn.
At Wade’s signal, they all jumped the guards and the battle ensued. Tail gunner Gamba threw himself at a guard, only to catch the muzzle of a machine pistol in the stomach. He took “many” rounds and died quickly.
In the wild thrashing of bodies, bullets began flying in all directions. The two guards in the cab also opened up with their machine pistols, their spray firing cutting down one of their own men. But also caught were Wade and Burns.
Prevost was then blinded by a stray bullet and Bream was wounded in the hip. While still standing, a guard landed a rifle butt to his face.
Rex also was flattened with a rifle butt to the face, knocking out many of his teeth.
Thus, the little war was over.
“It was a very bloody truck.”
The living - Bream, Brooks, Prevost and Rex – were herded to a nearby “dungeon,” as Bream called it. As he tried to convince the soldier that he was too weak to walk, he was told flat out –
“Walk or die!”
He walked, but soon almost passed out from loss of blood. Thinking he was about to die he told the others – “So long guys, Nice to have known you.”
Later, in a hospital in Strasboug being treated for his bullet wounds and lacerations, Bream offered high praise for his treatment at the hands of the German medical staff.
They asked him if his wounds were from flak or fighters.
Cautiously, remembering his remarkable air and ground dramas of the preceding hours, he said –
“I’m not sure.”
Bream and Prevost spent the rest of the war at Stalag Luft 1 at Barth. Rex and Brooks were sent to Kief Heide at Pomeria.
Howell and Ritter, who bailed out, made contact with the French Underground, led in that area by Paul Bodot. They were joined by a pair of P-51 pilots, Pierce MacKennon and Ray Reuter, and the four spent several days in an abandoned salt mine. On September 18, guided by Bodot, they made contact with the U.S. 4th Armored Division and soon afterwards were rotated home.
the majoriy of this was taken from the 398's website: www.398th.org.
The link to the actual story is: http://www.398th.org/History/Articles/Remembrances/Ostrom_ShadyLady.html
-----------Again, this B-17 was purchased from Sheldon at www.brickaddiction.com. I ended up modifying it cosmetically and added the 398ths markings, along with other small modifications. The credit for this design goes to him!
About this creation
Sheldon's design for the general arframe shape is the best Lego B-17 out there... He really hit it out of the park.