Sunday, April 16, 2006

Brice in WWII

From L-R is Brice, Lt. McCarthey and Capt Rubino. On the Back of the photo it says that this is the day Rubino refused to fly after the airplane had 27 holes shot in it. Brice was made the pilot (Crew Commander). It was the end of May 1944 - just before D-Day.

On November 26th 1944, Brice's Plane "The Unlimited" was shot down and he became a POW. The previous 26 missions he was the pilot, but on this day he was the co-pilot so that a new pilot could run through an orientation flight. In his words "Everything was normal until we were in the target area. Over the target, flack was heavy. I saw 200 or 300+ fighters milling around outside of the target area. To avoid the flack after bombs away over the target, we turned to get out of the flack. Immediately the Me-109’s attacked the formation. The formation was attacked by 6 x 109s abreast with several flights of 6 abreast. The aircraft was a blazing inferno within 3 or 4 seconds. I looked back in the bomb bay and saw a crewman in a complete fireball. I got up from the seat to try to extinguish him. As I got up I glanced out of my side window and saw the right wing with #3 and #4 engines still attached…break off. The aircraft went into a wild gyration and there was a loud explosion. I was blown clear of the aircraft in the cool temp. (-50 degrees or more)"

What was not mentioned here is that prior to being blown from the plane, Brice was pulling down a crew member from the top turret because he knew the gunner did not have a parachute on due to the tight space up there.

Continuing on..."I delayed pulling the ripcord because I was fastening the parachute leg straps. (It was uncomfortable to sit in the seat for 8+ hours with the straps fastened.) While falling, I fell through a group of fighters firing at each other. Then I saw people on the ground and I pulled the ripcord. I landed in a freshly plowed, soft field. I rolled in the mud to try to extinguish the fire on myself. My clothes were on fire and my oxygen mask had melted onto my face. I was the first on the ground from the battle. I saw many men in parachutes descending from the air battle. Many aircraft were on fire and pieces were falling all around me. I saw many parachutes catch on fire and disappear from falling aircraft parts. They had no parachute left."

"Within a few minutes, there were several German soldiers with rifles and bayonets against my stomach. They were hollering “Pistol.” An 8-10 year old kid appeared and acted as interpreter. The boy spoke good English. I was ordered to get my parachute and go with them. About this time, someone hanging from a parachute above me started yelling at these German soldiers. He was a German fighter pilot who was shot down in the battle. He also spoke good English and asked me for a cigarette. I gave him the cigarettes I had and we walked side-by-side discussing the battle that was still going on about us. He put me in a room of a small building, shook my hand and disappeared. I never saw him again.

A man came into the room and said he was a doctor. He saw that I was pretty well burned and he put some kind of grease all over my face and arms. Then he wrapped my face, neck, wrists, etc. with a stretch type bandage.

Darkness descended upon us and I with about 4 other Americans who I did not know were taken by some kind of truck to a type of prison. I was place alone in a concrete room. I was kept there for a couple of days without food or water. Then I was moved along with 10-15 other Americans. One of them was my navigator, McCarthy. We rode the train for a day or two to a railroad station where we waited. While at this railroad station, the Brits started bombing it. We were rushed out and got on a trolley car out of the railroad station. We rode this trolley for a mile or two. We were then taken off of the trolley and taken to an interrogation center. The German officer interrogating me kept asking name. After about 30 minutes of this, I told him that I had always thought of the German people as being humane and I needed to see a doctor for my face where I had been burned. He said, “I’ll show you how humane the Germans are.” He called someone on the phone and told me a staff car would pick me up and take me to a hospital. Immediately 2 people came in and escorted me to a waiting staff car.....I was taken along with 15-20 Americans to a German hospital (It was something like Monetcen or Obermasfelt) where the medical division of the 1st British Airborne (which had been captured at Arnham) was taking care of the medical needs for the Allied POWs. After 4-5 weeks treatment at this hospital, I was transferred to a regular POW camp and was moved around 3 or 4 times until the war was over. "

When he was liberated from the POW camp, this 5'8" man weighed under 100 lbs thanks to a diet of burnt toast and water. However, he contends that at no time was he ever mistreated.