Americans Home From Siberia
On October 2, 1992, the secretary of the Air Force acknowledge and honored a unique
group of WWII Veterans.
A little know story of WWII was the relationship of the U.S. and Russia during the time
prior to Russia declaring war on Japan. According to International Law, Russia was a
neutral country and was obliged to intern personnel of warring nations if they were within
the control of Russian armed forces.
Until the mid 1980s, the activities of these airmen was highly classified.
It all started with the famous Doolittle Raiders. One crew, Lt. Yorks, due to a fuel
shortage, landed north of Valdivoltok instead of China, and were instantly interned. Over
the next three years thirty six other crews, for a total of 291 Americans met the same
fate. With the exception of 4 B-29 crews of the 29th Air Force, these airmen were members
of the old Army Air Corps and Navy Air Wing 4 form the Aleutian Islands. They were flying
missions against the Japanese Kurile Islands.
In case of aircraft damage the preplanned escape route was to Petropovlavsk, Kamchatke
Peninsula. Petro was a holding point until a group became large enough to move
across Siberia to another holding point at Tashkent Russia. The trip across Siberian R.R.
to flying in old C-47 is with Russian crews. All in all five separate groups were held and
released by various methods. The last group, of which I was a member was released after
the war had ended.
The survivors of the ordeal have formed an organization known as the Americans Home
from Siberia and are a part of the Eleventh Air Force Association.
On October 3, 1992 at the banquet following the 11th Air Force Reunion Air Force Lt. Gen.
Tom McInerney made a surprise presentation of the Ex-P.O.W. medal to the members that were
present, recognizing them 47 years after the fact.
Mr. Otis Hays Jr. has written and published an outstanding book that tells the story as it
really happened. Home From Siberia, the secret odyssey of interned airmen in
WWII. Texas A&M University Press.