Paul's Sentimental Journey

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The Crew in Walla Walla Washington

June 17, 1943

 

 

Original Crew at Walla Walla Washington

 

Top Row Left to Right:

Tech. Sgt. William Jarrell  - Engineer/Top Turret Gunner

1st  Lt. Giles Kauffman - Pilot

Lt. McNalley (was not on the day they were shot down because of having vision problems above 10,000 feet)

Staff Sgt. Stanley T. Rueben  - Tail gunner

Lt. Jim La Croix Bombardier - (also was not on the day they were shot down had “GI distress” however he did complete his 25 missions)

Staff Sgt. Peter Seniawski - Left Waist Gunner (first American Airman to escape out of Germany on foot)

 

Second Row: Left to Right

Staff Sgt. Paul Spodar - Right Waist Gunner

Staff Sgt. Jacob (Jake)  - M. Martinez – Ball Turret Gunner

Tech Sgt. Jules T. Beck  - Radioman 

Paul’s crew flew only 5 missions they were:

  1. September 27,1943 - Emden Germany
  2. October 2, 1943  - Munster Germany
  3. October 4, 1943 – Emden Germany
  4. October 10,1943 – Frankfurt / Main Germany
  5. October 14,1943 – Schweinfurt Germany

Their first mission  on September 27, 1943 to Emden Germany was the only mission that they actually made it back to their base at Grafton Underwood England. Out of the 5 missions they flew 3 ended up being very memorable.  One mission they ran out of gas and made an unscheduled stop. Another they took heavy flak then ran out of gas and ditched in the Black Sea. (See the story of Ruthless) Their final mission  was on Black Thursday  when they were shot down and captured.

 

On their second mission when they were returning from a bombing raid. It was the usual practice that as the planes came in they would circle the airfield and one by one according to rank or need would peal off from the holding pattern and land. The crew was happy that they made it back in one piece. “Junior” Kaffman the pilot had just finished his first circle of the airfield when all of a sudden he banked out of the holding pattern. Paul turned to the other men and said, “What the heck is Junior doing?” At the same time he was voicing his concerns, the sound of the wheels coming down and engaging got everyone’s attention. They looked out and didn’t see their landing field. As their B17 descended the crew could see a crowd by the runway. There were all types of people standing on the airfield, RAF, civilians, dignitaries. The men were really confused to see all these people waiting for them. They trundled down the runway past all those spectators and came to a sudden stop. Junior figured it just right the B17 was completely out of gas.

 

A ground crew drove up to meet the crew with confused looks on their faces. Kauffman jumped out of the plane and explained what happened. He told them that his B17 was running on fumes and they would not make it to land. He had seen their landing field as he was returning to home base. He chose to break the holding pattern and land on their field instead of crashing at Grafton Underwood. The ground crew started laughing, they told Junior and the rest of the men that they landed on a brand new landing strip.  The B17 sort of interrupted a presentation and ceremony they had prepared. All those people by the runway were waiting in anticipation for sleek little fighter planes to come in and “christen” the new Spitfire landing strip. Instead they watched in surprised silence as this big old beat up B17 plopped her butt down in front of them. Everyone enjoyed the “pre” show and the Spitfires did come it to inaugurate their new landing strip. 

     

This picture is of Staff Sgt. Peter Seniawski and Tech Sgt. Jules T. Beck. This picture was taken in the States several weeks before they went over seas in August of 1943.

 

 

  "Big Moose AKA Tough Shit" Crash Landing in England.

First I would like to extend my up most gratitude to George Brinkley of England for sharing with me several pictures including one of  “Big Moose”, the B17 that my father Paul Spodar was flying in when they were shot down on October 14, 1943. George has been chasing “Big Moose” since he was a child and heard of Big Moose crash landing near his home. It has been a life’s passion for him to find out about the plane and crew that touched his young life. Over the years he has kept contact with most of that crew and with some became life long friends.

This picture of Big Moose comes from the prior crew. The picture was taken of this earlier crew when they had to crash land in Heston England returning from a raid on Stuttgart Germany on September 6, 1943. With both props feathered on the right side and 1 feathered on the left, the pilot had no control over the aircraft. At about 10 feet from the ground the last engine cut out. They came to an abrupt stop when they hit 2 Anti Invasion Polos, which embedded into the leading edge of the port wing. The damaged plane was taken back to base to be fixed and overhauled. A month later Big Moose was assigned to the Kauffman crew where she was lost in action on Black Thursday.

The prior crew consisted of:  From Left to Right:

Pilot -  1st Lt. John J. Kney 

Radio Operator - tech Sgt. Douglas E. Lane

Co-pilot - 2nd Lt. James B. Oakley co-pilot

Bombardier -  2nd Lt. Andrew P. Demitropolis 

Ball Turett Gunner -  Staff Sgt. Lyle E. Lyons 

Right Waist Gunner -  Staff Sgt. Kenneth S, Sayder 

Tail Gunner -  Staff Sgt. Louis A. Hill 

Navigator - 2nd  Lt. Edward S. Child

Left Waist Gunner -  Staff Sgt. Emil E. Lewison 

Engineer/ Top Turett Gunner -  Tech Sgt. Charles V. Kiefer

To all those men who flew on “Big Moose and served our country so bravely and valiantly, I THANK YOU. We will never forget…God Bless You all.