Editors note: The following story is the third in a series about how Edward S. Wodicka survived getting shot down in his B-17 over German territory and his subsequent internment as a prisoner of war. The story is from an interview by Jerry Penry.
Howard Croner of Estherville received the information in the mail earlier this month from Carol Wilcox, cousin of 1st Lt. Charles C. Young, Jr., pilot of the B-17 who was killed in the crash.
Two older German men, who had witnessed the plane exploding and me falling, immediately ran toward me yelling "pistole", "pistole" while making the gesture with their thumb and index fingers resembling a gun. I had decided not to carry a pistol aboard the plane thinking I would be a faster runner than the Germans once I reached the ground, if it ever came to that.
Blood was pouring out of my leg and I motioned for the German men to make a tourniquet, which they did. My injuries consisted of a severe gash with a seven-inch segment of bone broken in my leg, a broken elbow, a broken knuckle on the index finger of my right hand, a broken little finger on my left hand, a twisted ankle and knee on my other leg and a "whack" on the head.
I believe that without the aid of the German workers, I would have soon bled to death. The workers put me aboard an old charcoal gas-operated truck and transported me to a first-aid station where a German man spoke English. The man treated me very well, and I was put aboard an ambulance and taken to a hospital, where a surgeon, his assistants and several nuns were waiting for me to arrive. A one and one-half pound piece of metal with threads on one end was removed from my leg. I later recognized this as part of a fragmentation bomb, proving the bombs had indeed exploded on the plane. Luckily the large piece of broken bone was still embedded in my leg muscle, so the German doctor was able to save my leg. I was continuously moved to other hospitals due to the lack of space at the previous ones.
At one hospital three other downed airmen mentioned the name of the engineer from my plane. They said that a Sergeant Koon had been brought to the hospital with a broken back and was screaming with pain. They said that he soon died there at the hospital. He was the only other crew member that I heard about immediately after the crash.
I learned later that Fred Buckingham had been thrown out the back part of the plane as it spiraled down. He also had his parachute on at the time of the explosion.
During one transfer from a hospital, a Polish guard working with the Germans was assigned to carry me to the train station and then to the POW camp since I couldn't walk on my own. The soldier was not the least concerned about my well-being and left me lay on a railroad station bench in Frankfort near an area filled with angry German workers. Upon seeing me lying on the bench, three incensed workers armed with a crowbar, wrench and a shovel came toward me, and I thought they were going to kill me.
I could not even move to flee my impending danger, so as the workers were about to get me, I politely said, "Guten Morgen Herr" which is "Good Morning Gentlemen". The men were surprised to have been greeted in their own language and their desire to kill me was quickly diminished. I then began to talk with them in what
German I knew. One man pulled out a newspaper article showing the city of New York in flames, with a story describing a submarine attack on the American city. Since I was familiar with photography I quickly realized it was a fake, and it was just German propaganda.
A German officer soon arrived and began to question me. Seeing the Polish soldier peeking around a corner, I then concocted a story about how my guard had left me there alone while he went to use the men's room. The German officer also noticed the Polish soldier and began to severely reprimand him for leaving a prisoner unattended. While this was taking place, a train had arrived at the station so my Polish guard and I boarded it, much to his relief to be getting away from the German officer.
Once inside the train, I noticed that it was a German troop train and several German soldiers were sitting nearby. A woman conductor, evidently taking pity on me, approached us and sternly told us to follow her. We were put inside a private room and the door was locked, safe from the
When the train had stopped. the Polish guard then carried me up to a building that resembled a castle and literally dropped me on the ground in front of the large wooden doors and left. I lay helpless in a cast from my hip to my foot on one side and also in a cast from my shoulder to my hand on the other side. To get someone's attention I began to scream and yell, which brought someone to the door.
To be continued . . .