Lady Jane II

Lady Jane II

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  • Jan, 10 , 23

Thousands of Allied airmen bailed out over Germany during the Second World War. Those who landed safely faced an uncertain fate on the ground. In addition to the daunting prospect of overcrowded POW camps, mistreatment from German civilians or government personnel in the interim between landing and entering captivity was not uncommon.

The B-17 Lady Jane II was shot down on the return journey from a bombing mission over Berlin on March 18, 1945. Most of the crew bailed out, several were murdered on the ground, and those who survived recalled erratic behavior from the locals:

 

“Shortly after breakfast, JJ was collected by an armed guard and marched to the local railway station, amassing a small crowd of curious onlookers. On the way there, they passed what was obviously a heavily bomb-damaged building. The guard smacked the copilot in the back of the head with the

butt of his rifle, angrily declaring, “Amerikaner bomb fraulein und kinder!” JJ wasn’t hurt when he was sent sprawling into the dirt by the sucker punch, but he was deeply embarrassed by the episode and quickly hopped to his feet. He was also afraid the curious civilians following the tiny entourage might become emboldened, work themselves into a frenzy, and attack the American bomber pilot. Fortunately, he and his guard made it to the train station in one piece, free of further incidents.

 

The destination of the train was Lüneburg, where JJ was conveyed to the local jail. After he had been there a day, something odd happened. A guard entered his cell and in broken English stated that the American had been shot down by an Me 262 jet. The guard then said, “Here is the pilot.” A Luftwaffe officer then walked into the small cell and extended his hand in greeting. JJ took the older man’s hand and they shook. The nineteen-year-old copilot thought the man looked “old,” but he was probably in his thirties. It could have been Theo Weissenberger, or any of his pilots; JJ didn’t recall the name. He was, however, impressed with the chivalry of the moment.”

 

 

The above account from copilot John J. Thompson is an excerpt from The Last Mission of Lady Jane II : The Life and Death of an 8th Air Force B-17 and Her Crew by Lisa A Vans. Preorders will be shipping in early 2023.

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