I Got Shot Down
Seven airmen talk about the event none wants to experience.
- By Phil Scott
- Air & Space magazine, May 2004
(Page 3 of 8)
The camp consisted of 517 POWs, and the majority were regular prisoners. They had a group of special prisoners in one building who got half rations. We were special, special prisoners: We got quarter rations. I went four months, 10 days without a bath, shave, or haircut. All of that was in solitary—that was the rough part. Beatings I could take.
I weighed 104 pounds when I got out of the cell and I weighed 150 normally. We got out August 15 and got put in with the rest of the prisoners. We knew something was going on. We heard rumors that the war was over. A few days later the [U.S.] Navy had carriers off the coast of Japan, and the fighter pilots would take up collections of cigarettes and candy bars and drop those on the camp. Later B-29s would come over and drop platforms with parachutes—food, clothing, and stuff like that. I got my first shave and haircut. On August 29 we were liberated. August 29 was another special day—the Japanese had orders to execute all prisoners on August 29.
NAME: Feldweibel (Flight Sergeant) Oscar Boesch (Luftwaffe)
AIRCRAFT: Focke Wulf 190A-8
CONFLICT: World War II
SHOT DOWN OVER: Garz, Germany
Our field was northeast of Berlin, near Garz, a little village about five kilometers west from the river Oder. Twenty-seven April . Russian aircraft were attacking the field, so three or four aircraft took off without any command and just tried to defend our airport. Everywhere you looked there were Russians but no formations; they were loose. Visibility was poor, clouds were all over. I noticed an aircraft coming head on, and I realized it was a Russian Yak 9. They were an excellent aircraft, like a Spitfire, and much lighter than the 190. The 190 had also excellent maneuverability, but the Yak could turn tighter because of the light weight.
At the same time we opened fire at a distance of maybe a mile or two miles, and of course at our speed it was a matter of seconds only. We wanted to bypass each other, but we brushed each other and our two craft disintegrated. Half a minute later I was standing on the ground with my parachute, looking up—it was so fast my brain couldn't fathom what happened. Debris [from both airplanes] was still raining down. I was injured; I lost my four front teeth bailing out. I fell into the tail section of my aircraft and injured my left knee—I tore a ligament.
I was just about half a mile from the fighting front. It was a very dangerous area. One minute later the Russians came from all sides. It was vicious; they tried to rip me from my flightsuit. I'm sure they would have killed me on the spot if [I didn't have] protection from a Russian officer, and I knew why he protected me, because for the next two days I was interrogated 10 times, every time by a different officer. Of course, the interrogation was understandable because they wanted to know where the defense of Berlin was. I didn't get a bite to eat and not a drink of water.
On the third day I was put in a horse-drawn wagon with two wounded [German] infantrymen and a guard and one driver. We must have lost our way because they unloaded us in a little meadow near a village. Just close by was a wooded area like a Christmas tree farm. We expected to be shot. The guard sitting with us was very tired and didn't pay any attention to us; he thought we cannot run away. I had the impression he was falling asleep and I backed away. I ran away—probably 100, 200 feet. It was a run for life or death. Lucky enough they did not search for me.
All over I heard the engines of the tanks and the Russian soldiers preparing for the Battle of Berlin. I knew of the railroad line to Berlin, and I [oriented myself] from the North Star so that I go south. I had to go through [an area along the railroad] about 400 kilometers from the Russian-occupied frontline [to get home to Austria].