Crippled by flak and fighters on a mission to Brunswick, GR on 23 Mar 1944, B-17G #42-31745 'Heaven Can Wait' made an emergency landing near Wildeshausen/Oldenburg, GR. Prisoner of War (POW).
An article published after Uncle Merton's return to the U.S. appeared in the 7-5-1945 edition of The Current Local, Van Buren, Carter Co., MO on the front page under "Ellsinore Notes."
"Sgt. Merton Alcorn, who was a prisoner of the Germans for 13 months, arrived home here one day last week. Merton says his bomber on which he was a radio-gunner, was shot down on their 13th mission. The bomber exploded in midair and five of the crew were killed. He said he landed in the middle of the street of one of the German cities and, of course, was captured at once. He suffered a broken arm which was not given medical attention for several days after he was captured by the Germans. He related that their food consisted of a bowl of thin, unseasoned soup and two slices of black bread a day, and that the American prisoners would have suffered much worse had it not been for the packages they received through the Red Cross. Merton says he received very little of his mail while he was a prisoner."
In addition, this is the story that my Uncle Merton told me about his capture. He told me this story in the early 1990's:
"When I was shot down, I was taken to be interrogated by a German officer. Perhaps because of my appearance--I was small and dark--he asked me,"Jew?" And I told him, "No, Methodist," and this is what was on my dog tags. Still, he kept asking me, "Jew?" so I kept on saying, "No, Methodist." He asked me this several times. Finally they sent me to a cell. That night, I remember, a German nun came to visit me. She spoke to me in English and told me that everything would be all right. I've always remembered her visit."
He was sent to Stalag Luft One, a Nazi camp in Barth, Germany, where thousands of downed Allied fliers who had parachuted out of their planes and been captured were taken. Merton was housed in North 3, Barracks 2 (Block 302), Room 13. The prisoners called themselves "kriegies" (a shortened version of the German word for prisoner of war, "kriegesgefangener").
There he and the others endured cold and starvation, and for at least one month (March, 1945) each prisoner was only given a single bowl of rutabagas each day. ("At night," he said, "I would dream of eating grease. Of just eating lard by itself.") On April 1, 1945 (Easter Sunday) the Germans dumped tens of thousands of Red Cross food parcels into the camp. Many of the prisoners ate huge amounts of the food and were very sick.
The German guards abandoned camp on April 30, 1945, escaping the advancing Soviet army. An announcement was made over the PA system that the prisoners were free and Uncle Merton and all others were airlifted out of the area.
The airlift, however, was not immediate. Uncle Merton told me that the night the Russians liberated the camp, the Russians went out into some adjacent fields and slaughtered some cattle and cooked and gave the meat to the prisoners to eat. "We all became very sick from eating that too," he said. This, of course, was due to their bodies being unaccustomed to the heavy or rich food. When he got home, my grandmother said, he weighed about 90 pounds.
But he lived. And years later, though before the days of the internet or Facebook, he and one of the other crew members reconnected about forty years later. Someone helped organize a reunion. Miraculously, though none of the crew members who had parachuted out had seen each other since the night their plane exploded, all six had survived.
Units served with
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...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Denver 12/12/43; Kearney 30/12/43; RAF Nutts Corner 14/1/44; Assigned 563BS/388BG Knettishall 17/1/44; Missing in Action Brunswick 23/3/44 with George McFaull, Co-pilot: Frank Irizarry, Navigator: Ed Brazis, Bombardier: Roy Eggman, Flight...
||7 August 1920
|Prisoner of War (POW)
||23 March 1944