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S/Sgt Ivan F. Hunter – POW

S/Sgt Ivan F. Hunter – POW 10 Nov 44

A/C #42-106986
MACR #10356,
MICROFICHE # 3816

1ST LT JOHN F. LUNDQUIST P POW 10 NOV 44 WIESBADEN & INGELHEIM TAPS 27 JUN 1987
1ST LT WILLIS C. DICKERMAN CP POW 10 NOV 44 WIESBADEN & INGELHEIM
1ST LT JAMES V. GOSS NAV KIA 10 NOV 44 WIESBADEN & INGELHEIM
1ST LT DONALD G. MESTON BOM POW 10 NOV 44 WIESBADEN & INGELHEIM
S/SGT JOHN S. WILLIAMSON, JR ROG POW 10 NOV 44 WIESBADEN & INGELHEIM
S/SGT IRVING WELLS TTE POW 10 NOV 44 WIESBADEN & INGELHEIM TAPS 5 APR 1978
S/SGT JACK W. MOORE BTG POW 10 NOV 44 WIESBADEN & INGELHEIM TAPS 13 MAR 1979
S/SGT JAMES L. RAYNOR WG POW 10 NOV 44 WIESBADEN & INGELHEIM
S/SGT PAUL J. AMON WG NOC
S/SGT IVAN F. HUNTER TG POW 10 NOV 44 WIESBADEN & INGELHEIM

418th Sqdn. This crew joined the 100th on 17 Jul 1944 and were on their 34th mission on 10 Nov 44.

EYEWITNESS: “A/C #986 was damaged by flak over the target at 1239 hours. #1 and #3 engines were windmilling. At 1242 hours pilot called for fighter escort and asked for a heading to nearest friendly airfield. Aircraft left the formation at 1243 hours at 5009N and 0810E and headed back alone.”

Several crew members reported Lt. James V. Goss was killed by a shard of flak which penetrated his steel helment.

All crew members with the exception of Lt Goss successfully bailed out and were taken prisoner.

Mission Log For Ivan F. Hunter
(Last 12 missions courtesy of Mr. Ivan F. Hunter in 1994….pw)
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 7/28/44: MERSEBURG
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 7/29/44: MERSEBURG
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 7/31?44: MUNICH (AERO ENGINES)
HUNTER, I. F., 97230S/SGT, TG: 8/2/44: TORGNIER/LaFERE
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 8/3/44: TROYLES (RAIL YARD)
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 8/4/44: HAMBURG (OIL)
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 8/5/44: MAGDEBURG
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 8/11/44: VILLACOUBLAY
HUNTER, I. F., 38175, S/SGT, TG: 8/13/44: NANTES – GASSICOURT
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 8/14/44: LUDWIGHSAVEN (OIL)
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 8/15/44: VENLO
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 8/18/44: PACY sur ARMANCON
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 8/24/44: RUHLAND (OIL)
HUNTER, I. F., 6092, S/SGT, TG: 8/25/44: POLITZ (OIL)
HUNTER, I. F., 31895S/SGT, TG: 8/27/44: BERLIN (RECALL)
HUNTER, I. F., 46092S/SGT, TG: 9/1/44: MAINZ (RECALL)
HUNTER, I. F., 46092S/SGT, TG: 9/5/44: STUTTGART (AERO ENGS)
HUNTER, I. F., 6986S/SGT TG9/18/44: WARSAW
HUNTER, I. F., 6986S/SGT TG: 9/19/44: SZOLNOL (FROM RUSSIA)
HUNTER, I. F., 6986S/SGT TG: 9/25/44: LUDWIGSHAVEN
HUNTER, I. F., 6986S/SGT TG: 9/27/44: MAINZ
HUNTER, I. F., 6986S/SGT TG: 9/30/44: BIELDFELD
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 10/6/44: BERLIN (SPANDAU)
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 10/7/44: HAMLIN MARSHALING YARDS (target of opportunity)
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 10/9/44: MAINZ
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 10/12/44: BREMEN
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 10/15/44: COLOGNE (MARSHALING YARDS)
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 10/17/44: COLOGNE (MARSHALING YARDS)
HUNTER, I .F., S/SGT TG: 10/18/44: KASSEL
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 10/26/44: HANOVER
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 10/30/44: MERSEBURG (OIL)
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 11/6/44: NEUMUNSTER (MARSHALING YARDS & AC)
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 11/9/44: SAARBRUCKEN (MARSHALING YARDS – secondary target)
HUNTER, I. F., S/SGT TG: 11/10/44: WIESBADEN & MAINZ

Following from The Gowrie News , dated November 9, 1994

It is in the morning of November, 10, 1944, just fifty years ago, Army Air Corps Staff Sergeant Ivan Hunter, along with eight other young Americans in his flight crew, boarded their B-17 and readied themselves for their 34th bombing mission together. On this chilly, cloudy fall day near the eastern coast of Great Britain, the crew had received word their squadron’s task was to fly to Wiesbaden, Germany, where they were to bomb an airfield. They would never return together. During the run, shrapnel from anti- aircraft bursts peppered the plane, knocked out an engine, killed the Navigator and set two other engines on fire. Within half of an hour, Ivan parachuted and captured in a boggy pasture by German guards. He would be a prisoner of war for the next 170 days.

The Enlistment

Ivan had enlisted on July 10, 10942. He wanted to fly. so he spent three months at Fort Dodge in civilian pilot training.

“We trained in the smaller planes, the cubs or two seaters,” he recalled. “There were a lot of opportunities for flying then, ferry planes, transporting aircraft across the country or overseas and for glider pilots.”

After his training in Fort Dodge, he spent the next year in limbo, waiting, and then he finally heard from the military. On September of 1943, Ivan was ordered to report to the Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. For two months he went through Army basic training. After that, his assignment was to go to McCarran Field near Las Vegas, Nevada, where he would attend gunnery school.

Gunnery School lasted two months as well. He was to learn to use fighter guns and ground guns, the 50 caliber machine gun type. There would also be a great deal of skeet shooing, getting the troops in gear for combat readiness.

After Las Vegas, Ivan came home for a brief period. Then it was off to Tampa, Florida, where he reported in at McDill Field. The time spent at McDill was rigorous, learning key elements of flight training, formation training and the like. This training with the 3rd Army Air Corps would continue until May. He was then assigned tot he 8th Air Force in England and would be taking a ship to get there.

Still in May, Ivan was sent to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. Along with hundreds of other American soldiers, he boarded the S.S. Mitchell on June 15, 1944, only nine days after the invasion of Normandy had begun. The ship landed in Liverpool on July 1 and from there they were transported to what was referred to as “The Wash,” an area on the eastern coast of Britain in East Angela. At that time he was assigned to the 100th Bomb Group.

The bomb groups were made up of four squadrons, consisting 12 or 13 crews. Heavy bomb groups in that area of England numbered 50 or more.

Ivan was assigned to a B-17 along with nine other men. A change in crew size from ten to nine would be implemented and his crew of nine were soon to take it’s first mission over enemy territory. John Lundquist from Minnesota was the pilot. Willis Dickerman, the co-pilot, was from New York. Ivan was the tail gunner. In the front of the plane would be the bombardier, Donald Meston, another Iowan. The rest of the crew was Navigator James Goss, Georgia, Engineer Irving Wells from Michigan, ball turret gunner Jack Moore from Missouri, waist gunner James Raynor, North Carolina and the radio operator, John Williamson, Jr. from Virginia.

The Bloody Hundredth

At this stage of the war with the major invasion merely weeks old, the bomb groups were being used heavily. Ivan’s group was unique, it was known as the “Bloody Hundredth.”….

Ivan tell us, “Somewhere or somehow it was determined that if a crippled or damage plane was unable to make it back to England from Occupied Europe, the Luftwaffe fighters would escort them to a landing area. A plane from our group was being transported as such. As they neared the coast, the pilot decided that there was a chance that they could possibly make it across the channel. So agreed by the crew, the pilot ordered the crew to shoot down the fighters. The did make it back to England. After this incident, the Luftwaffe fighters would go after the “Square D,” our group’s insignia, and always inflict heavy damage on us. This was a well known fact, for when we were assigned to the 100th other said that ‘We have had it.’ Our group always had heavy casualties afterwards.”

The Missions

Their first mission was on July 28. Mission days were quite similar. They would get up at 3 or 4 a.m., go to mess, report to interrogation, or the briefing, then be transported to the “hard stand” where the plane was parked. At that point, the planes would assemble and line up for take-off.

As the missions would vary, so too would their payloads. Depending on the target, the bombers would be loaded with 100, 500, or 1000 pound bombs. The bombers would fly in groups of 12 or 13 planes, sometimes supported by P-51’s, or as they were referred to, Angels. The bombers would fly in their flight groups of three, like an arrowhead, with a tight group of four just below to maximize the drop effort. Targets could be roads, oil dumps, refineries, tank depots or ordnance facilities. One time they ran a shuttle mission to Warsaw, Poland, to drop supplies, bombed Hungry, flew to Italy, then home.

“we even went to Berlin to bomb an aircraft factory. These places were well guarded, especially anything to do with oil. Missions could be aborted for a number of reasons — engine trouble, weather. etc. We aborted only once, I think; we were recalled because of cloud cover on some other reason.”

Their first mission, as well as their second, was to bomb an oil refinery in Merseburg, Germany. That first day, three planes were downed and twenty-eight men were lost. The next mission was worse — seven planes and seventy-two men lost.

When they first went over, the crews were told they would do twenty-five missions then be relieved. “As we approached our 25th mission, they raised it 30. When we were at 30, they raised it to 35 (a kind of Catch-22). We were shot down on out 34th mission.”

Captured

On November 10, 1944, the crew went through the rigors of a mission day. The weather was cloudy and cold as they headed for their airfield target near Wiesbaden. “We had a new Squadron Commander on that bomb run,” Ivan said. “Our plane was flying Tail End Charlie, the back side of the formation. I’m not really sure what happened. I think the commander broke away and left the group. The flak was pretty dense, lots of 88s and 105s (88 and 105 millimeter anti-aircraft guns). With radar jamming we could usually keep the explosions below us, or at least stay between the range of their shelling. This day it was different.

Suddenly there was and explosion on board. Shrapnel had splattered into the fuselage and over the wings. One engine was immediately knocked out and the crew would soon discover Navigator James Goss was dead.

“I could reach back from my position and stick my fist through a hole in the plane. We began to fall back from the squadron and the Bombardier (trained as a Navigator) was trying to find us a place to go.”

During that time, the crew became aware that two more of the engines were on fire and had limited time left. “We were about 18 to 20 thousand feet when the fire broke. We had some time to sort things out and finally the pilot called to abandon ship. From the time we got hit we had been discarding as much as possible. It wouldn’t work. I left my position and crawled the 15 feet from the tail to the exit door, picked up my parachute and shoes, threw the shoes over my shoulder, buckled up and dived out.”

Ivan fell quite a distance before deploying his chute. When he did he noticed that nosy fighter pilot was circling him.

“It sounded like a Maytag,” he chuckled. “It was very quite there and all I could hear was the plane circling.”

As he came closer to the ground he had to make two adjustments with his chute. He slipped his chute, a process of letting out air to control direction, to first avoid a barn and then to maneuver away from a railroad embankment where there were power lines. He finally landed in a boggy pasture and German guards were waiting there to take him away.

Another crew member was there and they took us to Koblenz. We were taken to a guard house and the next day put on a train and transferred to Wetzlar for interrogation. We remained there several days in solitary.” He would later find out his entire crew (with the exception of Lt Ross) had been taken prisoner.

Ivan said they received a small package of necessities from the Red Cross there, such as toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.. From Wetzlar, he was transferred near the Baltic Sea to Stalag Luft IV. This would be his home for two and a half months.

The Prison Camp

Stalag Luft IV was situated approximately two and half miles south of Kielfheide in the Pomerania sector of Germany. It was activated in April 1944, but was never actually completed, despite German effort, due to the pressure of the war. The first group of prisoners were transfers from STalag Luft VI at Hydekrug in East Prussia. The majority of them were American but also included were 800 R.A.F. non-commissioned officers. From that day in April, the flow of :Kriegies: (POWs) was heavy until, upon evacuation, they numbered 10,000, a number far in excess of that for which the camp was designed.

There was continuous construction in the camp, both indoors and out. Indoors, the prisoners were trying their utmost to make their meager quarters more habitable and outdoors, the Germans were feverishly working to complete additional barracks. The camp was set in a forest clearing about one and half miles square. That particular forest was chosen because the dense foliage and underbrush served as an added barrier to escape. There were two barbed wire fences ten feet high completely surrounding the camp. Rumor had it that the outer fence was electrically charged, but the prisoners couldn’t vouch for that and had no desire to test it.

Between the two fences was another fence of rolled barbed wire four feet high. An area 200 feet deep — from the fence to the edge of the forest was left clear making it necessary for anyone attempting escape to traverse this area in full view of the guards. Fifty feet inside the wire fence was warning wire. A prisoner could expect to be shot first and questioned later if her stepped over this wire. Posted at close intervals around the camp were towers which were equipped with several powerful spotlights and bristled with machine guns. The railroad station was named Grosstychow, and the camp was south of the Baltic Sea where the meridians cross on the globe of 54°N and 16°E.

Moved to Nuremburg

In the latter part of January, a large group of POWs were transferred by rail to Stalag XIII D near Nuremburg. The trip took eight days, but Ivan said it was difficult to distinguish day from night as the train was dark and extremely crowded, 60 to a car. He would be at this camp just more than two months when was moved again.

“The war was coming to a close. Somebody in camp. I don’t know who, had a radio and was listening to the reports from Berlin and the Allies. We took the balance between the reports and figured out that was where the war was. All the time in the camps, we felt as if we were in a different world, that we had no real touch of what was going on. Each time we moved, we knew were being taken to get away from the front.”

The Final Camp

The final move was around the first part of April 1945. They were made to walk the 150 kilometers to Moosberg, shout and east of Stalag XIII. “They did not try any interrogation after Wetzlar. In the camps, we would exercise, play cards and even got a chance to listen to records. In our camp buildings, there would be about 26 to a room and each building had 10 to 12 rooms with a latrine and a room for the guard or barracks commander. We did what we could to irritate the guards and always tried pulling some shenanigans on them.”

Ivan said the prisoners were split up by rank, enlisted NCOs and Officers. He said work details were done by the infantry, but NCOs and Officers were not allowed to work. The food in camp was fairly consistent, but as his time in captivity increased, the food supply became less and less.

“At first we got a third of a loaf of German bread, hot meal, either soup or potatoes and each week we got a package from the Red Cross, crackers, cheese, jam, dried fruit, a chocolate bar, margarine, Spam or canned salmon, and cigarettes. By the time we got to Nuremburg, it was down to a slice of bread and usually no hot meal. When we left we couldn’t count on that. We were forced to eat garbage and fruit infested with maggots.”

Back home in Iowa, Ivan’s family received the dreaded Western Union telegram on November 17, 1944 that he had been shot down and was missing in action. It was not until January 13, 1945 that another telegram would inform then that he was alive, but a prisoner of war.

Freedom

On April 29, 1945, everything would change. “That was out day of liberation. I was in camp and saw someone from the U.S. Army there. (General George Patton’s army came and liberated us.”

From the time he was captured until day, Ivan had lost from 175 pounds to 124 pounds. Two weeks later he was up to 140 pounds.

“We were billeted in a big tent. Some of the troops took off to Moosburg to celebrate and go drinking. It wasn’t very safe, there was still a lot of firing going on there. Some of those prisoners had been POWs for two or three years.”

He would stay there until V-E Day. When victory was declared in Europe. Ivan and his fellow POWs were flown out of nearby airfield on C-47s to Liegé, Belgium. After a few days there, they took a hospital train to LeHarve, where they would enter Camp Lucky Strike.

“We were all POWs there and they really fed us. They were trying to fatten us up before we went home,” he smiled. “We got eggnog, vegetables, meat, you name it.”

Going Home

Sometime near June 1, 1945, Ivan was one of 450 Americans to board the Liberty Ship headed for New York, headed home. The mess counter was open twenty-four hours a day. Needless to say he got back up to his 175 pounds quickly.

“We landed in New York harbor on the 13th, just a few days shy of a whole year when I had gone over (to Britain). The harbor was beautiful, the porpoises were having a ball and we saw the Statue of Liberty. The sea was calm as glass. It was wonderful.”

Upon arrival everyone got a haircut then were shipped off to various locations. Ivan would return briefly to Jefferson Barracks and he was sent to Iowa from there. The Interurban carried him north and he arrived home June 17, 1945. With 90 days of leave coming he would have a good while to be with friends and relatives and to relate his stories. A trip to San Antonio in October necessary so he could be discharged.

Reflections

During his captivity, Ivan was able to keep a diary and write down his thoughts. H would use whatever he could get his hands on, cigarette paper, scraps or candy wrappers. He also fashioned a tin box out of cans. Picking up a small piece of wire here or a metal scrap there to create it, this box contained mementos of a time he has kept vividly wrapped in the fiber of his memory.

Ivan traveled back to England and Europe this summer (1994) to visit the places he had been and to visit with comrades and friends from 50 years ago. Early on, he stayed in touch with his entire crew and with the family of the young Navigator who was killed in action.

“They used to call me Dad because I was the oldest. I was 30 and they were in their early twenties.”

As well as the Navigator, two other crew members have died. Six still survive. The only survivor of the crew with whom Ivan stays in touch now is the radio operator, John Williamson, Jr., who still resides in Virginia.

Ivan pointed out that there are still a high number of men and women still unaccounted for in our wars in this century. Still missing from World War I are 3.350. The number from World War II is over 70,000; over 8,000 from the Korean conflict; and nearly 2,000 from Vietnam.

In the Broadway show, Les Miserables, one of the most touching songs is sung by an older man:

“God on high, hear my prayer,
In my need, you have always been there.
He is young, he’s afraid
Let him rest, heaven blessed
Bring him home,
Bring him, home,
Bring him home.

Of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been taken prisoner during wartime, Ivan is one. However, his saga tells us–would any of the stories of the brave men and women–that the price of freedom can come with high cost. In a world where technology reigns and the individual role may be diminished, a common truth persists. It is found in those like Ivan, who served, many have died and many are still prisoners of war, either against their will or entombed far from those who love and cherish them.

On this Veterans Day, we can be thankful that there are those who truly understand freedom and patriotism as a gift that is not taken for granted but is precious and earned.