'Nincs Kenyer' ( No Bread )
by George Ostroot, Jr. 759th BS, 459th BG
B-24 Navigator,459th Bomb Group,759th Bomb Squadron United States Army Air Corps
Feb. 20, 2001
Anti-aircraft fire, or flak, slammed into our B-24 Liberator very shortly after we had dropped our bombs on an oil refinery in the southeast side of Vienna, Austria on 459th Bomb Group`s Mission No.60,6/16/44 The flak knocked two of our four engines out of service, put a hole in a wing fuel tank, wiped out the plane`s intercom system and caused other damage.
We fell out of our bomber group formation and dived steeply down toward a thin, low cloud bank, hoping to evade the German ME-109 fighters that were beginning to attack our crippled plane. During the long dive three of our crew in the rear of the plane, Hunt, Agius, and McCord, were wounded by cannon or machine gun fire from the ME-109s. They and a fourth crew member, Lingobardo, thought that the plane was in a fatal crash dive. As they could not contact our pilots on the intercom, all four parachuted from the plane. Donald Hunt died from his wounds shortly after landing in his parachute.
We leveled out from the dive at a low altitude over Hungarian grain fields with a fighter still firing into us from the rear. His fire wounded engineer Broshears, ignited fuel at the wing tank and damaged another engine. We began to lose more altitude rapidly, so the rest of us began parachuting from the open bomb bay, first Broshears, followed by nose turret gunner Hovet, bombardier Harris and me. As I pulled the rip cord to open my parachute the ME-109 passed over just above me, still firing at our bomber. I learned later that co-pilot Tice had followed me out of the plane.
My parachute was open for only about fifteen to twenty seconds before I hit the ground hard, but not injured. When I rose to my feet I saw a thick, dark plume of smoke rising up from the ground about two miles away. Our plane had crashed and I hoped both pilots had been able to parachute.
I hid my parachute under a pile of straw and lay face down in the middle of an area of uncut grain stalks in an attempt to hide while I waited for nightfall. It was then about 11 o'clock in the morning. After about thirty minutes I heard people shouting in the distance. The voices drew closer and then I heard the rustling of footsteps. Then, nothing. I slowly raised my head to look into the barrel of a rifle being held by an obviously frightened young man in a uniform. I had no weapon, but he did not know that.
I very slowly rose to my feet with my hands far above my head. Other nearby armed soldiers surrounded me and searched me, finding my escape packet containing maps and some currency of several countries in this part of Europe. None of the soldiers could speak English, and I could not understand their speech. Soon, a truck drove up and I was put in it, to join Broshears, Hovet, Tice and Harris. George Tice told me that our pilot, Joe Young, apparently was going to attempt a crash-landing, as he was making no effort to leave his seat in the plane by the time Tice had jumped in his parachute.
The truck carried us to a nearby village where we were placed on benches, separated from each other, in the rear courtyard of a house. A young, English-speaking woman was brought in to attempt to interrogate us, but she received no cooperation. Each of us was given a bowl of noodles, but hunger was not among the sensations we were feeling as a result of our experiences of the past several hours. While in the courtyard, a German flying officer arrived to look us over. We assumed that he was the pilot of the ME-109 that shot down our plane.
We were put back into the truck. After about an hour we arrived at a large town where wounded Broshears was left at a hospital. The remaining four of us were taken to a prison and placed in separate rooms. The room I went into was occupied by about ten men, none of whom spoke English. I did, however, succeed in conveying to them the news that a successful invasion of France had taken place ten days earlier. This news delighted them. One of the men withdrew a piece of bread from under his blanket and gave it to me.
Early the next morning, June 17, 1944, the four of us were taken from the prison to a railroad station to board a train to Budapest. The information that fliers from an American bomber were on the train apparently was telegraphed along the rail line. At several station stops crowds of angry, shouting civilians gathered around our rail car. It appeared to us that they wanted our guards to release us to them. All prisoners and guards were relieved very much when the train would start moving again.
Budapest was reached after a four- to five-hour ride. We were trucked to a building where an inebriated, low-ranking officer spent an hour threatening and trying to interrogate us. It was a big relief to leave that irrational person and get back on the truck.
The truck then carried us to a very large prison in Budapest. It was located on the east side of the Danube, as I recall. We were placed into separate small rooms for solitary confinement. My room had a narrow bed, a straw mattress with bed bugs, a blanket, a chair and a small table. The toilet was a bucket.
Early the following morning a small access door at the bottom of the solid room door was opened and a small bowl of food (cereal, perhaps) was shoved in on the floor; also, a small piece of bread. At noon the empty bowl was removed and replaced with a small bowl of noodles, without bread. At night a bowl of noodles was shoved in, again without bread. Immediately I kneeled down and shouted, "brot, brot" through the access port. The guard outside the door shouted back, "nincs kenyér!" No bread, obviously. So that was my future - one piece of bread each day at breakfast.
I had a small, barred window high on the outside wall. When I stood on the chair to look outside I saw a courtyard with three or four levels of windows on all sides; also, a guard who aimed his rifle at me when he saw my face at my window. During several nights my itching, scratching sleep was interrupted by air-raid sirens and loud anti-aircraft fire from nearby gun batteries, with searchlight beams probing the sky.
After two weeks of solitary confinement my door finally was opened and I was led to another room where a German officer was seated at a table. In good English he said, "For you the war is over." He proceeded to try to quiz me about details of several American airplanes, including a new night fighter, the Black Widow. I professed ignorance and, to my relief, he terminated the interrogation. I then was taken to a large room where about a dozen American prisoners were being assembled to await transfers to prisoner-of-war camps in Germany. Among those in the room were George Tice and Martin Harris from our crew.
On the 5th or 6th of July we three plus several other prisoners were put on a train to Vienna, Austria, where we had to change stations. While we were marching along streets to the north station a number of bystanders asked our guards if we were American. Their reply was always, "Nein!" The following day we arrived in Sagan, Germany, and marched through the gates of prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III.
2nd Lt. George Ostroot Jr., 759th Bomb Squadron Navigator and 459 BGA Member No. 512, is shown in this photo of Joe Young`s crew in 1944. George is in front row - far right.