In October of 2003, a vistor to this site sent me the name of a B-17 that had come down near his home in Belgium. He sent a couple of pictures and asked if I could give him any information on this aircraft. I posted the information I could dig up here on this site as the story was a very remarkable one to say the least. This visitor was a member of the Belgium underground and had assisted Allied fliers during the war.

On September 18, 2006 I had yet another e-mail from a different visitor regarding this same aircraft:

I was researching information on the 8th Air Force 100th Bomb Group 349th Bomb Squadron and came upon your web page and the "Tale of the Ol' Dad".

Hugh Hamilton (we call him by his nickname "Sam") was the tail gunner on Ol' Dad and became a POW when it was shot down. Hugh is a volunteer at the elementary school I teach at (I think he puts in more hours than I do!!) and I am hoping to put together anything I can about his squadron and Ol' Dad.

To say I was amazed was an understatement. Included with this was an account of Mr. Hamilton's war experiance. Included here was his original crew list:

Lt. Winans C. Shaddix, Pilot
Lt. George Sullivan, Co-pilot
Lt. Harry Tennenbaum, Navigator
Lt. Cole M. Dailey, Bombardier
Sgt. James M. Lee, Flight Engineer
Sgt. Fred H. Erb, Radio Gunner
Sgt. William Cornelius, Waist Gunner
Sgt “Horizontal” Herdzik, Waist Gunner (he did not go overseas with us)
Sgt. John Pontzious, Ball Gunner
Sgt. Hugh Hamilton, Tail Gunner

Obviously Sgt. Herdzik did not join the crew when they crewed Ol' Dad. But that was not the most impressive part of the story. Included within the pages of this account were the last mission of Ol' Dad:

I was shot down on April 27, ’44 – less than two weeks before D-Day. Everyone know the invasion was imminent – didn’t know which day, thought. The Germans were ready. They were gathered all along the French-Belgian coast. We were making short flights across the English Channel, attacking the German installations.

On my “Big Day”, we made our usual short flight, landed home safely, and then we’re told we were to make another raid – No. 13. Something told me this was it. Anyway, we loaded up again, hit our target somewhere down in France and headed back – probably 100 bombers or more in our formation.

Nearing the channel, a lone battery of anti-aircraft guns fired at us. The five burst of flak blew our plane out of formation – no other plane was touched. The flak cut our fuel lines, and killed 3 of our 4 engines, but luckily, no one was hit.

The plane struggled along on one engine, losing altitude, of course. We threw out flak vests and everything we could to lighten the load. Finally, a few minutes later, fire broke out in the one engine. Shad, the pilot, said, “That’s it, boys. Get out!”

I snapped my chute in place and went up into the body of the plane. I’d promised the ball gunner that if this ever happened, I’d be sure he got out of the turret, but he was already out of the plane. The others were either out, or ready to jump. As I went out the door, I had the thought – make a delayed jump – don’t pull the ripcord too soon – they won’t see you as long. Yet, out of the plane, I counted to 7, said “this isn’t enough” – pulled the ripcord anyway. I waited to see the chute open, but nothing happened. The ripcord – a chrome hand-sized loop attached to a wire that holds the chute together – was still in my hand. I looked at it, ran my left hand down the wire – totally disengaged.

So I stuffed the ripcord into my pocket – don’t ask why – and pulled the flap on the chute; then the chute opened and blossomed above me. Hanging there, swinging around, I looked around for the first time. Saw two other chutes in the distance – lower.

It didn’t take too long to hit the ground. Three thumps – feet, rear end, then the back of my head. Sitting up, I saw the chute collapse in front of me. Unhooking it, I stood up, brushing Brussels sprouts off. I’d landed in a woman’s garden.

Several civilians ran toward me, smiling and talking, but I didn’t understand them. Women hugged me and kids shook my hand. Probably thought I was starting D-Day. I tried to get away – they were showing the Germans where I was. A woman caught my hand and pulled me into her house and into her basement. Hearing thumping upstairs, I went through the basement window and across the yard. Another woman pulled me into her kitchen and gave me a glass of milk.

As I gulped it down, two Germans came in the door with guns leveled at me. I drained the glass, sat it down, and raised my arms.

His story of captivity is also included in his war memoirs. The full work is also included here on this site. I wish to give my most sincere thanks to the individual who forwarded this information. When this site was first started over 12 years ago I hoped to one day unite two people who's common past may have crossed somewhere in history just like this. I hope that those involved in this wonderful story will get to read both accounts to add to their own personal histories. Thank you again for allowing this site to help facilitate this.




Home | Updates | About Us | Comments

©2008 All Rights Reserved Troy Lyman's B-17 Flying Fortress Sitecontact us