|Navigation School April 15,1943||On Leave May 16, 1943|
|Last Name: `
|Street: 62-59 108 ST #2-K||City & State: FOREST HILLS, NY||E-Mail:|
|Zip: 11375||Phone: (718) 275-1047||Spouse: SELMA|
|Conflict: WWII||Service Branch: Army Air Corp||Unit: 15 AF 301 BG 352 BS|
|Theater: ETO||Where Captured: CENTRAL EUROPE||Date Captured: 02/24/44|
|Camps Held In: STALAG LUFT 1 BARTH GERMANY||How Long Interned: 432 days|
|liberated / repatriated: liberated||Date Liberated: 05/45||Age at Capture: 26|
|Medals Received: 4 AIR MEDALS, 3 PURPLE HEARTS, PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION|
|Military Job: Navagation Airial||Company: PROJ. MAGR. IN COMMUNICATION N.Y.C.F.D.|
|Occupation after War: 9212 AIR RESERVE SQUADRON|
Lt. Col. M. William Mark, USAF-Ret. of Forest Hills, N.Y. was drafted into the Army August 1st, 1941. He took basic training and was assigned to HQ Company, 44th Division at Ft. Dix, NJ, where he heroically defended a water tower against a feared enemy-invasion of that unprotected state after Pearl Harbor was bombed.
From there he was sent to the West Coast to afford protection of our pacific shore. At the same time he attended radio school and became competent in that instrument as well. After testing and transfer to Ft. Lewis, he was assigned to the Air Force and Ellington Field, TX, for training as a navigator and was then sent to Walla Walla, Wash., for combat training on B-17s. Gunnery proficiency was also an aspect of training for crewmembers of the Flying Fortress, stated Mr. Mark.
Our shipment to the combat area took a tortuous turn. Instead of flying, we convoyed through submarine invested waters. From there we were flown to many spots until we reached Tunis in North Africa. There I joined others, living in tents that were part of the 15th AF, 301st Bomb Group, 352nd Squadron.
A typical eight-hour mission consisted of three B-17s, fully loaded. Some never made it back, some never even made it to the targets, some even made it home on two engines. The Flying Fortress was a marvel of engineering!
On one mission, one of our gunners was badly wounded. My jacket helped keep him warm and alive in those freezing temperatures. For me however it ment a stay in a field hospital for two weeks. On Dec. of 1943 one of our missions was to cross the Adriatic Sea through unexpected weather. The group began to break up as we searched for the target. We were down to two engines and little oxygen when we finally bombed our target. I could do nothing more than estimate our position as we soon began falling behind the other planes. A break in the clouds revealed snow-capped mountains, indicating that we were over Yugoslavia. I charted a course home. My co-pilot came to check my work. He was so frightened that he told me that he wouldn't let me in the life raft if I had made an error. Luckily enough we were the only plane to make it back. My co-pilot begged for forgiveness and asked that I serve with him from now on.
Unfortunately on Feb 24, 1944, our luck did not hold. On my way to Central Europe, we experienced enemy fighters. Since we were flying in the outer flank, it was our duty to protect the B17 Group from the enemy fighters. But they were overwhelming us. Our B-17 was out of control and burning, the pilot gave us the signal to bail out at 20,000 feet.
I was slightly wounded from fragmentation bursts and the parachute harness nearly slipped off over my head during the descent but I managed to pull the ripcord and float down safely into a snowy farm field. Shortly after, the enemy home guard had surrounded me and eventually I became a POW for 15 months at Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, Germany.
The last days of my interment were especially terrifying, stated Mr. Mark. Hitler had ordered that Jewish American POWs be segregated and made part of his 'Final Solution'. It was a race between fate and the Russian advance. I am happy enough to be here to tell you my story. A short time after the Russians freed and fed us; General Eisenhower had B-17s fly us out from a captured airfield to Paris, France.
|My Message to Future Generations:
To Come: I was a navigator on FLYING FORTRESS- B17 this is my biography about flying heavy Bombing Missions over Central Europe. I was shot down on my 20th mission over central Europe and was a prisoner-of-war for fifteen months in Stalag Luft 1, Barth, Germany.
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