|Weldon Phelps, 1945 Paris, France|
|Last Name: `
|Street: 255 Dolphin Point #611||City & State: Clearwater, Fl||E-Mail: DolphinCVE@aol.com|
|Zip: 33767-2118||Phone: 727 445-1024||Spouse: Rosemary|
|Conflict: WWII||Service Branch: Army Air Corp||Unit: 8th AF, 92nd Bomb Grp., 407th Squad.|
|Theater:||Where Captured: Germany, Ruhr Valley-Gelsenkirchen||Date Captured: 08/12/43|
|Camps Held In: Frankfurt-Dulagluft, Mooseburg-Stalag 7A, Krems-Stalag 17B||How Long Interned: 642 days|
|liberated / repatriated: liberated||Date Liberated: 05/15/45||Age at Capture: 20|
|Medals Received: EAME Service Medal w/1 Bronze Star, Air Medal W/2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart, POW Medal|
|Military Job: Flexible Gunner Technical Sergeant||Company: Allison, a Division of General Motors|
|Occupation after War: Laboratory Technician, Manufacturing Representative|
Weldon F. Phelps
I was raised in Moline, Illinois and graduated from Moline High School in 1941. My family of five, consisted of 1 brother and 1 sister. My dad was an engineer at Moline Water Works and my mother was a housewife.
I went to work at Allison, a Division of General Motors in 1941. Along with my friends, Robert Lyons and Willard Reed, I drove to Dayton, Ohio to enlist in the Army Air Force. I was the only one accepted (and to this day I donít let them forget it!). I was ordered to report to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 23rd 1942.
My basic training was at Bowman Field, Louisville, Kentucky. I was enrolled immediately in a nine-week Armament Course at Buckley Field, Denver, Colorado. While at Buckley Field I contracted the measles resulting in me graduating alone one week later than my entire class. Following this course we went on to Gunnery Training at Buckingham Field, Fort Myers, Florida.
The top ten gunners were selected and we left for Europe on a YB40 via Presque Isle, Maine, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland, then on to England. I was assigned to the 8th Air Force, 92nd Bomb Group, 407th Squadron.
Regrettably, there had been no time for the necessary Preliminary Phase Training at high altitudes. Because maximum effort was urgently required there was no time to assemble experienced crews. We didnít know each other, had no time for training and were thrown together for our first mission ten days after I arrived. I went up on my first mission having never reached altitudes requiring the use of oxygen. This was terrifying! My first mission was over Wilhelmshaven on June 11th 1943. Our pilot, Gene Wiley, had just been released from the hospital after being wounded on his first mission and was flying his second mission with an entirely inexperienced crew. Our crew flew a total of 15 missions before being shot down. Many of our missions were eventful and I will add more details later.
On August 12th 1943 (target Gelsenkerchen) our luck ran out. Before our bomb drop we were hit by flak and I was wounded in the arm, leg and finger. We dumped our bombs and fought to maintain altitude. After two of our engines were disabled from flak, we fought to reach cloud cover where we could hide from fighters. With our rapid descent all metal surfaces naturally were covered with ice. We were going DOWN! One gunner, Frank Grey, bailed out when his intercom was disabled and fire was streaming back. Because we had lost altitude and were too low to bail out the rest of the crew gathered in the Radio Room. We hoped to make it to the English Channel where rescue would be possible. We crashed landed outside a small German village I believe to be Allstadtt. Gordon Chisholm and I bolted from the plane attempting an escape. We ran through several cornfields being pursued by local citizens (one overly eager teenager, well over 6 feet tall, armed with a pitchfork leading the pack). Chisholm was able to jump a fence climbing up to a railroad trestle, but I was slowed down by my injuries and the teenager caught up with me. He clobbered me with his pitchfork, but we escaped again into another cornfield, taking refuge in an irrigation ditch. We were camouflaged in the high reeds where we hid for what seemed to be hours. We could hear our pursuers moving off in the distance. Finally, it was a little girl who was ultimately responsible for our capture. She was walking down the road alongside the ditch, humming a little ditty when she saw us and emitted a blood-curdling scream. We separated at that point and the next time I saw Gordy he has being held captive by the teenager with the pitchfork, and yelling at me to ďGET OUT OF HEREĒ. I ran around the nearest farmhouse and hid in a huge woodpile. Exhausted, I was finally apprehended by the crowd, led by an older army soldier in a green uniform. He was probably just as frightened as I was, if his shaking gun hand was any indication. The local farmers took me into their house under the watchful eye of the soldier, where the hausfrau kindly tended to my wounds. The children were naturally curious, trying to touch me and I offered them some items from my escape kit as a gesture of goodwill. At that point their mothers became fearful and scolding them, shooing them away from the dangerous enemy. The soldier then ushered me out of the house and back down the road where we had come from, meeting up with Gordy, who by now was exhausted. Together, with the complete town as entourage, we were escorted into the center of town where we joined the rest of our crew who had previously been captured.
Because Colonol Spivey had come along on our mission as an observer and made the usual 10 man crew, 11 men, the Gestapo wasnít sure that there werenít more flyers to be found.
Their confusion made our following interrogation even more intense. The Gestapo Officers attempted to wrestle information from us that we were unwilling to provide. They received only our name, rank and serial numbers!
We ultimately ended up in Dulagluft in Frankfurt, Germany for further interrogation and orientation, before being assigned to different POW Camps. We were than shipped to Stalag VIIA in Munich via train and then on to Krems, Austria. It was one miserable trip (5 days and nights) in a cattle car. I spent almost 20 months in Stalag 17B. Toward the end of the war in April 1945 the Russians approached Vienna. At night we could see artillery flashes and hear the bombing. The Germans did everything possible to prevent our being liberated by the Russians who never abided by the accepted rules of the Geneva Convention. The Russians were ruthless in treatment of all prisoners and were taught to resist surrender at all costs even if it meant their death. Because the Russians were fast approaching and to gain favor with the Americans, the Germans decided to force march to the west, closer to Pattonís Troups. We marched from Stalag 17B (Krems) in groups of 500 to Braunau (Hitlerís Birth Place). We were herded into the nearby forest surrounded by guards. It was survival of the fittest and we lived off the land and what we could steal. I escaped from this area, again with my buddy, Gordy Chisholm one day before Pattonís 13th Armored Division Liberated approximately 4000 prisoners. Two hundred of the more seriously injured remained behind in Stalag 17B and we never learned of their fate. Chisholm and I stayed overnight with an Austrian family, who fed and sheltered us. The family informed us that Patton had liberated the city of Braunau and we immediately departed to join the celebration. We were greeted and served coffee and doughnuts by the Austrian Red Cross. It was unbelievable to us that we were in fact free again and that Patton had come to our rescue. I had been interned by the Germans a total of 656 days.
We boarded a train to Camp Lucky Strike on the French Coast. Utter confusion was the situation of the day at Lucky Strike with thousands of Ex-POWís coming in from various camps after liberation. Lou Taney and I hitch hiked to Paris for a glorious two-week vacation, where we met up with other POWs, Don Bevin and Edmond Tryzinski, who later wrote the script for the movie Stalag 17B. We certainly enjoyed celebrating our freedom! After numerous escapades and an arrest for being caught out of uniform, we were finally escorted by the MPís back to Camp Lucky Strike and sent to the SS Walter Reed ( liberty ship) for shipment back to the U.S.
For some unknown reason, I was sent to SanAntonio, TX and the whole ordeal was utter confusion and frustration. While in Texas a bunch of us, including John Montmullen, vacationed in Monterey, Mexico and had a great time. I was discharged Oct 10, 1945 and returned to Indianapolis to reunite with my family and pick up my life where I left off. I was re-employed at Allison, a Division of General Motors, with continuing seniority. In 1950 I married the beautiful Rosemary Albert and we raised a family of four, three daughters and a son. After 36 years I retired from Allison and moved to Clearwater, Florida in 1979.
Since moving to Clearwater I have enjoyed volunteering as a driver for the Red Cross and golfing.
Weldon F. Phelps
|My Message to Future Generations:
In rememberence of our B17 Crew (photo) 1943 Left to Right; Robert Daniels*(Radio Operator), Gordon Chisholm, Robert Groff, Robert Broach*, Capt. Eugene Wiley, Emmette Wells*(co-pilot), Weldon Phelps, Jim Lee,and Frank Grey. Missing from photo is LT. Overman*(Bombardier) and Col. Spivey*(observer). (* Known deceased as of July 1,2000)
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