Warren L. Soden at Ruhland, 11 Sep 44
Warren L. Soden
1324 Andover Rd.
Richmond, VA 23229
At briefing prior to the Ruhland mission on 9/11/44 the 100th Bomb Group was informed that we would encounter strong enemy fighter opposition, however, we would have heavy fighter cover. The 349th Squadron was flying top position and our plane , a spare, was flying right wing. Therefore, we were the top plane in the group.
At the I.P. (initial point) southwest of Ruhland we were jumped by F. W. 190’s. I did not see any of our promised fighter cover and I head no confirmation from our gunners that they saw any P-51’s or P-37”s. I could not see what was going on above and to the rear due to my position in the nose. From my window I did see one B-17 start down and one crippled Fw 190 go through our lead squadron on the way down.
After several passes by the 190’s 20mm fire knocked out our tail controls, both rudder and elevator. We started down and I could see the pilot’s feet (Everett’s) on the rudder pedals trying to get control. (I could see the cockpit from the nose due to the fabric panel being absent in this plane.) I bailed out and on the way down I saw our plane almost directly below me on a flight path that was consistently left-right with decent significantly slowed. This flight pattern indicated to me that Everitt was still flying the plane. I can only conclude that he had not bailed out and was trying to get below cloud cover before bailing out (approximately 5000 feet cover according to the information at briefing). However the plane exploded shortly before reaching cloud cover and I saw only pieces of aluminum floating down. I landed in a forest and was picked up by Germans soldiers and put in a panel truck with Manniello (co-pilot). We were taken to a building were cuts on my head (and Manniello’s) were closed. My major injury was in my lover back, the chest straps on chute opening had taken most of my weight with the result that I almost had a spinal separation. Ed Minton, the nose gunner, was paralyzed from the waist down due to his chute opening while falling at high velocity. I saw Ed, September 13th on a stretcher in Chomutov and knew his condition was very serious. He did have a spinal separation.
I was transported by train through Prague and Munich to Frankfurt for interrogation. I was with a B-24 crew whose Navigator was missing and the interrogator assumed I was a member of that crew. After leaving Frankfurt I went by train through Berlin and onto Stalag Luft I at Barth on the Baltic Sea where I remained until liberated by Russians on April 30, 1945.
I have seen three of the original crew members, the co-pilot John Manniello, the tail gunner, William Kenney, and just recently William H. Titley, the Bombardier.
Five members of the original crew did not survive the fighter attack on September 11, 1944. These are the pilot Lt. Orville C. Everett, Cpl. Robert Williams, Cpl. Robert Howard, Cpl, Homer K. Hirsch and Cpl. Edward Minton. Cpl. Jamesx V. Armstrong was not flying that day; he had been seriously wounded on a earlier mission and Cpl Lawrence A. Radka was radio operator in his place. Cpl. Radka did not survive.
I trust this brief statement of the Ruhland mission on September 11, 1944 will be of use in your project.
Warren L. Soden