Happy Veterans Day. I spent this morning reading my grandpa's WWII papers and letters. My grandpa, Staff Sergeant Edward C. Kolbet was in the US Army Air Forces, 1942-1945.
Edward was a waist gunner on a B-24 during WWII. He was shot down on December 28, 1943 over Italy/Germany on his first combat mission and held as a prisoner of war for 17 months at German prisoner of war camp Stalag 17B.
His account of being shot down, according to Army records, "There were 17 bombers in our formation. We were hit by flak in the right wing - a hole big enough to drive a Jeep through. Then we were hit by fighters. About 130 of them. They stayed with us for over an hour. They would come in waves of seven or eight accross. We ran out of ammunition. The tail gunner was killed with a 20 mm. He had shot down four fighters. I shot down two - the other waist gunner and top turret, two. We tried to get under the rest of the formation but were hit by two 20 mm's in the waist, which started a fire. I was almost knocked out. We all bailed out. I bailed out with one strap of my chute hooked. My chute dumped me about two or three hundred feet from the ground. I was captured right away."
My grandmother saved all the letters they wrote to each other during his POW stint and the months after as he tried to get home. Its heartbreaking to read the notes they sent back and forth, never knowing if the letters were actually received by the other. Greatest Generation indeed.