Seymour Zimmerman-WWII Hero

2017-09-06

Who is Seymour Zimmerman?

To be honest I don’t know. All I know he died for my freedom and his name is on a memorial stone  in the American War Cemetery of Margraten in the Netherlands.8,3001heroes who sacrificed their lives are buried there. Unfortunately Seymour’s body was never found.

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This is all I know of him.

Radio Op. S/Sgt. Seymour Zimmerman MIA/KIA
Hometown: Walden, Massachusetts
Squadron: 576th BS 392th Bomb Group
Service # 11115346
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart
Pilot 2nd/Lt. Herman H. Miller MIA/KIA

Target: VORDEN AIRFIELD
Missing Air Crew Report Details
USAAF MACR#: 02563 AIRCRAFT:
Date Lost: 18-Nov-43
Serial Number: #42-64435
Aircraft Model B-24

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Aircraft Letter: “B”
Aircraft Name: (No Nickname) 21 st Mission
Location:Suspected of downed in the waters off the enemy coast.
Cause: flak fire hits 10 MIA/KIA

The briefed target for this mission was Hansdorf airfield which aircrews had difficulty locating with Vorden air field being struck as an alternative. Briefing for (36) aircrews was held between 0600-0730, all taking off starting at 0930. The 579th Squadron was assigned lead with Colonel Rendle, 392nd Commander, riding in the lead ship as Command Pilot and Captain Weiland as lead Bombardier. Because of poor weather over the briefed primary route, the Group elected to bomb the Target of Opportunity of Vorden, achieving excellent results. From 12-15 single and twin engine enemy aircraft were encountered as well as light but accurate flak. The bombing results at Vorden created massive destruction to the airfield and supporting facffities. Nine (9) aircraft were battle damaged by flak and one aircrew and aircraft were lost. 2nd Lieutenant H. H. Miller of the 576th and pilot of aircraft #435 with his crew were seen on return with #3 engine afire followed by an explosion directly beneath the aircraft. The explosion was believed to have been a bomb still aboard the aircraft. Just as the aircraft began crossing of the English Channel, it was seen to begin a turn and head for the enemy coast again which was the last the crew and aircraft were heard from all listed as MIA.

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MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: The eye-witness accounts from returning 392nd crewmembers (Lts. Swangren, Metz and Gries) stated that the missing crew plane was last seen with #3 engine on fire after which a large explosion was observed beneath the ship. After this explosion the aircraft was observed to be going down, out of control, and headed back towards the Dutch coast. It was subsequently concluded that this aircrew had gone down in the waters off the enemy coast as no information was ever recovered on this situation, either in enemy or friendly force reporting. The eye-witness accounts felt that the large explosion of this plane was due to bombs of the ship, flak fire hits the cause.

INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: No records exist of any survivor reports from this aircrew.

Dear Sir I salute you, although your body was never found your memory is very much alive.

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Marion Pritchard-Van Binsbergen- WWII Hero-Real Girl power.

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Dutch hero Marion Pritchard-Van Binsbergen died at the age of 96 in Washington on December 11th, 2016.

Marion Pritchard, (née van Binsbergen; was a Dutch-American social worker and psychoanalyst, who distinguished herself as a savior of Jews in the Netherlands during the Second World War. Pritchard helped save approximately 150 Dutch Jews, most of them children, throughout the German occupation of the Netherlands.In addition to protecting these people’s lives, she was imprisoned by Nazis, worked in collaboration with the Dutch resistance, and shot and killed a Dutch Nazi.

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Marion Pritchard grew up in the Netherlands, the daughter of liberal judge Jacob van Binsbergen, who was on the board of regents for the prisons of Amsterdam. Her parents encouraged her to express her feelings and to expect honest answers from them. She recalled going to school with Jews in every class and reported that they were “considered Dutch like everyone else”. At age 19, she enrolled in a school for social work in Amsterdam

When the war started in May 1940, she was studying social sciences at the University of Amsterdam.

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During her social work studies, Pritchard (then van Binsbergen) was arrested while staying overnight during curfew with friends, who—unbeknownst to her—had been distributing transcripts of Allied radio broadcasts, and was imprisoned for seven months.

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A year later, when the Germans began with the mass deportation of Jews, Marion intervened again. Along with 10 friends, she started a resistance that helped Jews find places to hide, getting them food stamps and false identities.

She then took on more dangerous activities when she was tasked with delivering a package to a home in the northern part of the country. Along the journey, she was given a baby girl by a stranger. Upon reaching her destination, she found out that the people she was supposed to deliver the package to had been arrested. She then took shelter with a man and his wife, originally not part of the operation, who agreed to take care of her and the baby

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Marion also managed to hide Fred Polak and his three children for over three years in a home outside Amsterdam. When Germans raided the home with a Dutch police officer, she hid the Jewish family under the floor. The Dutch officer returned and found the family. Marion shot him to protect them and hid his body, with the help of a local mortician, by burying it in a coffin that already contained someone else.

After the war she joined the United Nations and helped refugees who were displaced from their home. Here she met her husband Anton Pritchard, a US Army officer. They moved to the United States, where she continued to work with refugees.

George Joseph Peters-WWII Hero,sacrificed his life for others.

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Born: Mar. 19, 1923 . Cranston Providence County  Rhode Island, USA.

Died:Mar. 24, 1945 Düsseldorf .Düsseldorfer Stadtkreis .Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.

World War II Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. He served in the United States Army during World War II as a Private in Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry, 17th Airborne Division. He was awarded the CMOH for his bravery at Fluren, Germany, on March 24, 1945.

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His citation reads “Pvt. Peters, a platoon radio operator with Company G, made a descent into Germany near Fluren, east of the Rhine. With 10 others, he landed in a field about 75 yards from a German machinegun supported by riflemen, and was immediately pinned down by heavy, direct fire. The position of the small unit seemed hopeless with men struggling to free themselves of their parachutes in a hail of bullets that cut them off from their nearby equipment bundles, when Pvt. Peters stood up without orders and began a l-man charge against the hostile emplacement armed only with a rifle and grenades. His single-handed assault immediately drew the enemy fire away from his comrades. He had run halfway to his objective, pitting rifle fire against that of the machine gun, when he was struck and knocked to the ground by a burst. Heroically, he regained his feet and struggled onward. Once more he was torn by bullets, and this time he was unable to rise. With gallant devotion to his self-imposed mission, he crawled directly into the fire that had mortally wounded him until close enough to hurl grenades which knocked out the machine gun, killed 2 of its operators, and drove protecting riflemen from their positions into the safety of a woods. By his intrepidity and supreme sacrifice, Pvt. Peters saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers and made it possible for them to reach their equipment, organize, and seize their first objective.”

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Dear Sir I salute you for because of you and your brothers in arms. I was born in freedom. I shall not forfeit your sacrifice.

Next time I am in Margraten I will visit your grave.

Roger Casement-Irish Hero and the Congo

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Roger Casement was born in Sandycove, County Dublin in September 1864 and raised in Ballycastle County Antrim following the death of his parents..

between 1911 and shortly before his execution for treason, when he was stripped of his knighthood and other honours, was an Irish-born civil servant who worked for the British Foreign Office as a diplomat, and later became a humanitarian activist, Irish nationalist, and poet. Described as the “father of twentieth-century human rights investigations”, he was honoured in 1905 for the Casement Report on the Congo and knighted in 1911 for his important investigations of human rights abuses in Peru. He then made efforts during World War I to gain German military aid for the 1916 Easter Rising that sought to gain Irish independence.

On this day in 1916 he was sentenced to death for his part in the Easter Rising.

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However I will not go in to his involvement in the Easter Rising in this blog, my focus will be on his Congo report known as the Casement report.

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The Casement Report was a 1904 document written  detailing abuses in the Congo Free State

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which was under the private ownership of King Leopold II of Belgium.

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This report was instrumental in Leopold finally relinquishing his private holdings in Africa. Leopold had had ownership of the Congolese state since 1885, granted to him by the Berlin Conference, in which he exploited its natural resources (mostly rubber) for his own private wealth.

For many years prior to the Casement Report there were reports from the Congo alleging widespread abuses and exploitation of the native population. In 1895, the situation was reported to Dr Henry Grattan Guinness (1861–1915), a missionary doctor. He had established the Congo-Balolo Mission in 1889, and was promised action by King Leopold later in 1895, but nothing changed. H. R. Fox-Bourne of the Aborigines’ Protection Society had published Civilisation in Congoland in 1903, and the journalist E. D. Morel also wrote several articles about the Leopoldian government’s behaviour in the Congo Free State.

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On 20 May 1903 a motion by the Liberal Herbert Samuel was debated in the British House of Commons, resulting in this resolution: “.. That the Government of the Congo Free State having, at its inception, guaranteed to the Powers that its Native subjects should be governed with humanity, and that no trading monopoly or privilege should be permitted within its dominions, this House requests His Majesty’s Government to confer with the other Powers, signatories of the Berlin General Act by virtue of which the Congo Free State exists, in order that measures may be adopted to abate the evils prevalent in that State.

Subsequently, the British consul at Boma in the Congo, the Irishman Roger Casement was instructed by Balfour’s government to investigate. His report was published in 1904, confirmed Morel’s accusations, and had a considerable impact on public opinion.

Casement met and became friends with Morel just before the publication of his report in 1904 and realized that he had found the ally he had sought. Casement convinced Morel to establish an organization for dealing specifically with the Congo question. With Casement’s and Dr. Guinness’s assistance, he set up and ran the Congo Reform Association, which worked to end Leopold’s control of the Congo Free State. Branches of the association were established as far away as the United States.

The Casement Report comprises forty pages of the Parliamentary Papers, to which is appended another twenty pages of individual statements gathered by Casement as Consul, including several detailing grim tales of killings, mutilations, kidnappings and cruel beatings of the native population by soldiers of the Congo Administration of King Leopold. Copies of the Report were sent by the British government to the Belgian government as well as to nations who were signatories to the Berlin Agreement in 1885, under which much of Africa had been partitioned. The British Parliament demanded a meeting of the fourteen signatory powers to review the 1885 Berlin Agreement. The Belgian Parliament, pushed by socialist leader Emile Vandervelde 

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and other critics of the King’s Congolese policy, forced a reluctant Leopold to set up an independent commission of enquiry.

 

Its findings confirmed Casement’s report in every detail. This led to the arrest and punishment of officials who had been responsible for murders during a rubber-collection expedition in 1903 (including one Belgian national who was given a five-year sentence for causing the shooting of at least 122 Congolese natives).

Theodore Roosevelt Jr.-the forgotten Roosevelt.

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The Roosevelt name must be one of the best known names in US and world history, for it was the name of not 1 but 2 legendary presidents.

A lesser known but not a lesser heroic man was Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt III (September 13, 1887 – July 12, 1944), known as Theodore Jr., an American government, business, and military leader. He was the eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt and First Lady Edith Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was instrumental in the forming of the American Legion in 1919 following his valiant service in the United States Army during World War I. He later served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of Puerto Rico (1929–32), Governor-General of the Philippines (1932–33), Chairman of the Board of American Express Company, Vice-President at Doubleday Books. Returning to the Army in 1940, he led the first wave of troops at Utah Beach during the Normandy landings in 1944, earning the Medal of Honor for his command. He died in France 36 days later, holding the rank of Brigadier General.

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Five months before the allied landings in Normandy, Roosevelt was assigned to the U.S 4th Infantry Division (Ivy Division), and was stationed in England. Roosevelt had requested to lead the attack on Utah Beach with the first wave of soldiers; however, this request was repeatedly denied by Major General Barton. Barton eventually agreed, albeit reluctantly, and Barton made it very clear that he did not expect Roosevelt to live through the initial landings on Utah Beach.

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As a result of this agreement from Barton, Roosevelt would be the only General to land with the first wave of troops on any of the allied beaches on D-Day.

At the time of the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944, Roosevelt was a frail man, not in the best of health; needing the aid of a walking stick. His health had suffered as a result of the first World War. Despite his poor health, he proved to be a fine leader and as depicted in the film the longest day, he would famously state: “We’ll start the war from right here!”. He made this famous quote after discovering that the allied landings on Utah Beach were approximately 2 km off course.

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His decision to start the battle regardless of this error, worked in favour of the allies. As many of the German’s stationed in this area were redeployed to deal with the allied paratroopers dropping over Sainte Marie Du Mont, resistance from this part of the Atlantic Wall coastal defences was considerably weaker than expected.

Later in the day, once the beach head at Utah Beach was secured, General Barton came ashore and to his great surprise, Roosevelt was waiting to meet him. Barton never expected to see him alive and both men were filled with great emotion.

On July 12th 1944, after being involved in fierce fighting, Roosevelt died from a heart attack. He was buried at the Omaha Beach American Cemetery in Colleville Sur Mer, Normandy. He was buried next to his brother, Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed in the first World War.

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Theodore Roosevelt Jr. is buried in Plot: Plot D, Row 28, Grave 45.

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For his bravery, Theordore Roosevelt Jr was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Dear Sir, I salute you.

Honouring a fallen Father on Father s day

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To most of us,including me Joseph H. Hercker is just a random name. But to Joan Hercker it is the name of her Father. A man who sacrificed his future Father’s days so that others could celebrate theirs.

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He was born 2 July 1918,Philadelphia,Pennsylvania.

In February 1945 Joseph Hercker was stationed in France

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As a member of the Crusader Group, andflew 16 combat sorties between February 6 andApril 3, 1945, in the European Theater of Operations.

On April 3, after completing a”medium” bombing mission of marshalling yards
at Hameln and Holzmeinden in central Germany,his plane was separated from the rest of the formation in overcast weather.

It is not clear what happened, but when the formation broke cover there was no sign of his aircraft, and it never made it back to base. Joseph Hercker and the pilot, William Norlund, an only child from Vineland, were Killed in Action. Hercker was
buried first in Ittenbach No. 1, Germany,eventually his wife was asked if she wanted him brought back to the States or buried in the Netherlands.

Hercker parents thought she had been through enough already, so his final resting place is at the American war cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands.

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Dear Sir I thank you and salute you. Your sacrifice and bravery has bought my freedom. I pledge that I will use this freedom keeping your memory and the memories of your brothers in arms alive.

June Ravenhall- Forgotten Hero

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I often ask myself the question “Would I risk mu own life to save another?” and the honest answer is “I don’t know” I think I would but when it comes to it I don’t know.

However there are so many in History who asked themselves that same question. One of these brave souls was June Ravenhall.

Ravenhall was born Elsie June Stickley in 1901. She was a native of Kenilworth who moved to The Hague with her husband, Leslie Ravenhall, whom she married in 1925.The couple left Coventry for the Netherlands due to Les Ravenhall’s business, and started a business importing Coventry Eagle motorbikes.

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Their house and business were expropriated when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. As a British citizen, and since Britain was then in war with Germany, June’s husband was sent to a prison camp in Poland, and she relocated to Hilversum.

Mrs Ravenhall was approached by the Dutch Resistance and asked to hide a young Jewish journalist called Levi(Louis) Velleman. She agreed and he lived with the family for three years.

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When, in the summer of 1942, the first orders were issued for Jews of the Netherlands to report for “work in the East”, Levi Velleman, born in 1919 in Haarlem, was in a hospital in Hilversum (prov. North-Holland) with tuberculosis.
As not enough Jews did report, the Germans started to round up Jews. As Velleman was a well-known journalist and radio reporter in the Netherlands going by the less Jewish sounding name of Louis., he feared that he would be sought too. He thus turned to one of the physicians in the hospital who contacted the adjacent recuperation center asking if someone there could take him into hiding. June Ravenhall, who was living in the immediate vicinity of this center, came forward even though she had some initial hesitation to take in a person with a contagious disease. June had the lone responsibility for her three young teenage children after her husband Leslie had been arrested. Both originally from Britain, they had come to live in The Hague where Leslie had found a business opportunity importing motorbikes. Three days after the capitulation of the Netherlands in May 1940, Leslie was taken as a prisoner of war to a camp in Germany, where he remained until the liberation some five years later.

June gave Louis Velleman the room of her oldest daughter, where he stayed all the time. Since sunshine was considered favorable for healing, Louis sat in the garden when the weather was nice and June thought that there was no immediate danger. However, when the Germans learned that many Jews were in hiding in the town of Hilversum, many house searches were carried out, among them in the Ravenhall home. The Ravenhall children were well instructed to keep the Jew hunters delayed for awhile, so that Louis could get into his hiding area. Once he escaped by jumping out of a window at the back of the house. When the policeman found some men’s clothing and confronted June with it, she feared immediate arrest. It turned out that the policeman had only come to warn her of a pending house search.

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The winter of 1944-1945 was especially difficult in the western parts of the Netherlands, as food supplies from the rural eastern parts of the country were forcefully stopped by the occupier. Moreover, there was no electricity or gas. Many Dutch had to survive on flower bulbs and many more died of starvation. The Ravenhall family could not support an extra mouth, and thus Louis was taken to Wieger and Sijbrig Beks, living close-by, who were able to feed him. Once a week, Louis ate at the Beks: “I could eat in one day more than during the entire week with the Ravenhalls”.

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The Beks were heavily involved in a local resistance cell, among other things by delivering false identity papers to Jews in hiding in the area.
Louis Velleman survived the war thanks to June and the Beks. He stayed in touch with all until his passing in 2000.

 

Leo Lichten-WWII Hero,Killed in Action.

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Leo was born on May 31, 1925, in Manhattan to Max and Mollie Lichten. He grew up in Brooklyn, and was described by his best buddy Paul as a “very noble, intelligent and courageous person.” He even saved Paul from drowning once when they were kids. A best buddy indeed.

 

Pfc Leo Lichten entered the service in New York.City, New York on 11 August 1943.

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Leo’s company, Company A, is ordered on Nov. 20, 1944, to attack pillboxes (small bunkers) just outside Prummern to eliminate the enemy resistance in the small German town.

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The weather was cold and rainy, and the ground was muddy, making the battle even more difficult than it might otherwise have been. Leo storms one of the pillboxes, but is killed by machine gun fire early in the fighting.

He was laid to rest in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten, along with 8,300 fellow US soldiers and the names of 1,700 other who went missing in action.

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The Last Battle of John Hascall

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In the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten lie the graves of 8,301 Americans killed during World War II. In Plot H, Row 8, Grave 9 rests John Sherman Hascall. His story, like all the others, is far too short.

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John was a Husky, graduating from Michigan Tech in 1939 with degrees in mining engineering and geology. He was in ROTC, a member of Theta Tau, on the staff of The Lode, and a standout on the hockey team. It’s not surprising he chose Tech; his father Carleton Hascall graduated in 1911 with a degree in mining, and brother Carleton Jr. preceded him by two years, graduating in 1937 with a metallurgical degree.

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John moved west after graduation, working for the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company before enlisting in the United States Army Air Forces on April 7, 1942—like so many of that time, putting the freedom of others before his own.

A 2nd lieutenant in the 77th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, John flew P-38s on bomber escort missions. After 18 months of service, he would take his final flight. Accompanying B-17 bombers from Kings Cliffe, UK, to Bremen, Germany, he was shot down by German pilot Lt. Leopold Munster, November 29, 1943.

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An eyewitness, J. J. Van der Luur from Steenwijk, a fighter with the Dutch resistance cycling through the area, saw John’s damaged plane appear through the clouds and fall near Schutsloterwijde, a small lake near Belt-Schutsloot in north-central Holland. Bailing successfully, John landed in the middle of the lake, strong winds blowing him across its surface. Struggling but ultimately unable to remove his tangled parachute, John drowned. Local residents rushed to save him, and a doctor spent three hours trying to resuscitate him.

In a letter to John’s family, Van der Luur described those final moments.

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“He lied there, just quietly and not wounded or damaged at all. His face was calm and nothing of fright or something like that was in its expression. It was just as if he slept after a tiresome job.”

 

Mikhail Devyatayev-Heroic escapee from a Nazi Concentration camp-branded a Criminal.

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Born in 1917 at Torbeyevo, Mikhail was the thirteenth child born to the family of a Mordovian peasant. In 1938 he graduated from a School of River Navigation (Речной Техникум) and worked as the captain of a small ship on the Volga. That same year he was conscripted into the Red Army and began education at a Chkalov Flying School, graduating in 1940.

Devyataev was an early entrant of World War II, destroying his first Ju-87 on 24 June 1941 just two days after Germany attacked the Soviet Union.

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Soon he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. On 23 September he was seriously wounded (he was hit into his left leg). After a long stay in the hospital he was assigned to slow-speed aviation (Night bomber Po-2) and then to medical aviation. He resumed his duties as a fighter pilot after his meeting with the famous Soviet ace Aleksandr Ivanovich Pokryshkin in May 1944. Commander of an echelon with the 104th Guardian Fighter Pilot Regiment (9th Guardian Fighter Pilot Division, 2nd Airforce Army, 1st Ukrainian Front), Senior Lieutenant Devyatayev destroyed 9 enemy planes.

On 13 July 1944 Devyataev was downed near Lwów over German-held territory and became a prisoner of war, held in the Łódź concentration camp. He made an attempt to escape on 13 August but was caught and transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He soon realised his situation was perilous-as a Soviet pilot, he could expect extreme brutality; therefore, he managed to exchange identities with a dead Soviet infantryman.

With his new identity,  Devyataev was later transferred to a camp in Usedom to be a part of a forced labor crew working for the German missile program on the island of Peenemünde.

 

Under hellish conditions, the prisoners were forced to repair runways and clear un-exploded bombs by hand. Security was rigidly enforced with vicious guards and dogs, and there was little chance of escape. Even so, by February 1945, Devyataev concluded that, however remote, the chance of escape was preferable to certain death as a prisoner.

Devyataev managed to convince three other prisoners (Sokolov, Krivonogov and Nemchenko) that he could fly them to freedom. They decided to run away at dinnertime, when most of the guards were in the dining room. Sokolov and Nemchenko were able to create a work gang from Soviet citizens only.

At noon on 8 February 1945, as the ten Soviet POWs, including Devyataev, were at work on the runway, one of the work gang, Ivan Krivonogov, picked up a crowbar and killed their guard. Another prisoner, Peter Kutergin, quickly stripped off the guard’s uniform and slipped it on. The work gang, led by the “guard”, managed to unobtrusively take over the camp commandant’s He 111 H22 bomber and fly from the island. Devyataev piloted the aircraft.

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The Germans tried to intercept the bomber unsuccessfully. The aircraft was damaged by Soviet air defences but managed to land in Soviet-held territory. The escapees provided important information about the German missile program, especially about the V-1 and V-2.

The NKVD did not believe Devyataev’s story, arguing it was impossible for the prisoners to take over an airplane without cooperation from the Germans. Thus, Devyataev was suspected of being a German spy and sent to a penal military unit along with the other nine men. Of the escapees, five died in action over the following months. Devyataev himself spent the remainder of the war in prison.

Devyataev was discharged from the army in November 1945. However, his classification remained that of a “criminal” and was unable to secure long term employment.. Eventually, though, Devyataev found work as a manual laborer in Kazan. Soviet authorities cleared Devyataev only in 1957, after the head of the Soviet space program Sergey Korolyov personally presented his case, arguing that the information provided by Devyataev and the other escapees had been critical for the Soviet space program. On 15 August 1957, Devyataev became a Hero of the Soviet Union, and a subject of multiple books and newspaper articles. He continued to live in Kazan, working as a captain of first hydrofoil passenger ships on the Volga.

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In 1972, he published his memoirs.Devyataev was awarded the Order of Lenin, the Order of Red Banner twice, Order of the Patriotic War (first and second class), and many other awards.

He became an honoured citizen of Mordovia Republic, the cities of Kazan, Wolgast and Zinnowitz (Germany).

He died at Kazan in 2002, aged 85, and is buried in an old Arsk Field cemetery in Kazan near a World War II Memorial. There is a museum of Devyataev in his native Torbeyevo (opened 8 May 1975) and monuments in Usedom and Kazan.