1989 photocopy of P.O.W. processing papers

 

My grandfather Hayden Collier was the bravest, most honest and decent man I have ever met. During his duty as a waist gunner on a B-17 bomber in WWII he was shot down over France. As part of a junior high project in 1989, I had him record his experiences as a P.O.W. in Germany.

He passed away a little over a year after recording these tapes. I've put this page up to honor him. This is his story-

 

MP3- For broadband connections

Tape 1 (Side A) (30:12)

Tape 1 (Side B) (30:02)

Tape 2 (Side A) (30:11)

Tape 2 (Side B) (22:41)

RealAudio- For dial-up connections

Tape 1 (Side A) (30:12)

Tape 1 (Side B) (30:02)

Tape 2 (Side A) (30:11)

Tape 2 (Side B) (22:41)

 

Tape 1 (Side A)

 

The following is an excerpt from First over Germany, A History of the 306th Bombardment Group, by Russell A. Strong-

FIRST OVER GERMANY It was the thirteenth mission for 1st Lt. Thomas W. Symons III and most of his crew and proved to be an unlucky one for them. S/Sgt. Albert J. Doine was new to the 368th crew that day because he had not gone on leave with his regular crew, but had instead volunteered to fly. Fighters hit the plane, killing Symons instantly. The plane tried to loop, but came back to horizontal with a sheet of flame enveloping the right wing. The nose had taken hits from 20 mm cannon fire. 1st Lt. Robert F. Proctor, bombardier, was badly wounded on his entire right side from face down and both legs had been shot up. A cannon shell hit the navigator, 1st Lt. Robert G. Jobe, in the side where the front and back of his flak suit did not quite meet, killing him. The only crew member to bail out of the stricken plane was S/Sgt. Hayden M. Collier, a waist gunner, who jumped an instant before it blew up.

When Proctor regained consciousness from the explosion he had just come through a cloud layer at about 1500 feet and managed to pull the rip cord on his back pack wit his left hand. He was knocked out again when he hit the snow covered ground in a stand of young pine trees. Had he been wearing his usual chest pack, which was in for repack, Proctor thinks he would never have retrieved it in time to have survived. When he regained consciousness a second time, an old man and a boy of about fifteen were standing over him, the boy holding a rifle almost as tall as he was. The young German waved the gun menacingly at Proctor, although it was obvious that the holder was as scared as the prisoner. The old man said, "I come from Cincinnati in 1934. Why do you bomb Germany?" Proctor had no reply, as he had considerable pain in the left side of his mouth. All of his teeth on that side had been loosened, but a soup diet for some days helped in allowing the teeth to reseat themselves.

Also blasted out of the plane and to safety were T/Sgt. Robert L. Woodruff, radio, and S/Sgt. Joseph P. Fiddles, waist. Collier says that "Woodruff did not have his parachute on when we were hit. When he saw the plane was on fire he started to put on his chute. The explosion blew him out and in some way the shoulder strap from Woodruff's chute wrapped itself around his wrist. As he came free of the debris in the air, Woodruff noticed that he was attached to his chute harness by the strap around the wrist and, knowing that he had nothing to lose, pulled the rip cord. The chute opened and the pressure created by his weight against the twisted strap kept it in place and he landed safely. Once on the ground, he shook his wrist and was free of the chute." Besides Symons, others killed from his crew were 1st Lt. John R. Wempe, copilot; T/Sgt. Oscar V. Ellison, engineer; and S/Sgt. Julius G. Parrish, ball turret.

 

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